According to The New York Times, virtual happy hours are now very much a thing. Bars and restaurants have been ordered to shut down, people are stuck at home, and we all crave companionship—and the occasional cocktail. We decided to weigh in on the trend by serving up non-alcoholic drinks that everyone can imbibe.
I (Elisa) am not a wine drinker, but I live with wine aficionados. And our extended stay at home—or I should say, speaking positively, the increased opportunity to have dinner with those in our family hunkering down together—is bringing out their love of the beverage.
Rob collects wine, and with friends, makes his own. Our son, Ari, managed a craft brewery, and after seriously studying wine, consults on both wine and beer. (Important to add: All wine tasting at dinner is within very reasonable limits.)
Cocktails with a Twist—Skip the Spirits
But it occurs to me (and to Rob as well) that you may want—just for a change—to offer something non-alcoholic at your virtual happy hours, or at dinner. May we suggest two refreshing drinks, one inspired by a farmer, the other by a chef, each profiled in our forthcoming book, The Berkshires Farm Table Cookbook, out May 19th.
Rob’s Maple Lemonade is the creation of Rob Leab of Ioka Valley Farm, a third-generation family farm in Hancock, MA. He is a master producer of maple syrup—and along with his wife Missy revamped the maple sugaring operation in 1993. At that time there were only 13 maple syrup taps and a simple stove; now the farm has more than 14,000 taps and two modern boilers in the custom-built sugar house that’s (normally) open to the public. We thought the lemonade was an excellent way to herald the last yield of the maple sugaring season.
Our second quaff is a Ginger Syrup Spritzer that’s adapted from a recipe by Chef Dan Smith, owner of the famed John Andrews Farmhouse Restaurant, in South Egremont, MA—the gateway to the Berkshires for people coming from New York City and parts south (like Columbia County and the Hudson Valley). Dan is among the earliest promoters of farm-to-table dining in the area.
He is also profiled in our cookbook (where you will find more of his tasty recipes) as are many of the farms and purveyors he has partnered with—including Indian Line Farm, also in South Egremont (and featured in a previous post). The others include (in alpha order): The Berry Patch, Stephentown, NY; Cricket Creek Farm, Williamstown, MA; High Lawn Farm, Lee, MA; Hosta Hill, West Stockbridge, MA; Rawson Brook Farm, Monterey, MA; Wolfe Spring Farm, Sheffield, MA.
Supporting Farms During Social Distancing
While you are mixing drinks at home, please consider ordering maple syrup (and other products, like house-made maple pancake mix and granola as well as natural beef) from Ioka Valley Farm’s online store—or you can phone in your order (413.441.5147) and pick it up at the farm on Saturdays.
John Andrews Restaurant is also open for take-out (click here for this week’s menu). Chef Dan told us this via e-mail: “The take-out has been successful and we’ll be continuing that through April and even beyond that time. We will be offering curbside (parking lot) pickup from 5 pm to 7 pm on Thursday to Monday. Starting this week (March 30) we have online ordering available too.”
Stay safe, and cheers!
Rob’s Maple Lemonade
Check out the Ioka Valley Farm website, which features this sweet drink. Be sure to experiment with different grades of syrup to get your desired maple flavor. Or, try using soda water instead of plain water for a bright and lively spritzer. On colder days, try using warm water for a comforting, old-fashioned cold remedy.
1 cup amber maple syrup
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 5 lemons)
6 cups water
In a half-gallon pitcher or Mason jar, combine the maple syrup and lemon juice. Add the water, stirring until the syrup is fully dissolved. Serve chilled over ice in a glass, or warmed in a tea cup, depending on the season.
Ginger Syrup Spritzers
Makes 4 cups syrup, enough for 16 drinks
Ginger syrup makes beverages pop with flavor. If you can’t find raw sugar, light brown sugar (firmly packed) or even a second cup of granulated sugar can be used. Besides using in a bracing non-alcoholic ginger spritzer, as here, the syrup could be added to cocktails, or drizzled over ice cream or pound cake—or both!—for dessert.
3 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped peeled fresh ginger root
2 limes, zested and juiced
Club soda or seltzer, for serving
Ice, for serving
1. Combine the water and both sugars in a medium saucepan over medium heat and allow the sugar to dissolve completely, stirring frequently.
2. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the chopped ginger and lime zest and juice. Bring the syrup to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature in the saucepan. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing gently on the solids with a wooden spoon to extract maximum flavor. Discard the solids.
3. For each spritzer, pour between 3 to 4 tablespoons of the syrup into a glass and top with 3/4 cup club soda or seltzer. Mix gently with a spoon and add ice before serving.