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Refreshment that fits the season

The end of summer brings the end of the cooling beverage season and, as of last week, I put my yen for my favorite summer drink on hold.

If I live to see another summer, I’ll wait for the sun, wait for the temp to top 70, mix up my favorite and drink it again.

What could that drink be?

A Tom Collins? Lemony, sugary, seltzery, cold?

Nope.

A Tequila Sunrise, with its tequila, orange juice and grenadine?

Nope. And, anyway, while soothing, it’s far too ’70s. Reminds me of too many dicey situations. The ones I can remember, anyway.

Juleps?

Nope. A lot of work but, of course, by the pedigree, certainly a summer treat, fit for heat and humidity.

Mojitos? Nope. Muddle your way out of this one. The trend is over. Give it a rest.

Daiquiris and margaritas? Nope. Rum and lime, tequila and lime. Fruity, but plebian. Puts me in mind of 3 a.m. at a cheap Vegas casino.

My fave has its roots in cocktail lore and it has a long history with me.

When I was a kid, come summer’s heat, my maternal grandmother, Minnie, would set the pace.

“Dearie,” she would say to me as she sat on the large patio outside her home in Central City, “Go get me a gin and Squirt.” I would hustle my short, wide frame to the house and pour three fingers of high-grade gin into a tall glass, pop in several ice cubes and top the mix off with Squirt. A bit of a stir and, voila, the heat was beat.

Minnie’s gin and Squirt was a variation on one of her other top summer picks— gin and tonic. Minnie was solidly English, a Brit to the core, and gin was a cultural necessity. Tonic? Well, the quinine helped a legion of colonialists as they labored to oppress native populations in tropical climes. What’s not to like?

Minnie’s gin and Squirt was merely G&T with a grapefruity edge. On more formal occasions, she and her crowd of Brit cronies would whip up a mess of G&Ts and make short work of them as they sat on the patio gazing down the steep hill from Second High Street to the core of that venerable mining town, that once-upon-a-time “Richest Square Mile on Earth.” My ancestral home.

I invariably managed to get a taste of the refreshments. I knew my way around and I hung out in all the right spots, places where a bit of the fixin’s remained on the prep table, or where a smidge of leftover beverage remained in a glass.

And, thus, the way was paved for me to navigate a path over the years to what has become my favorite summer cooler.

Gin and tonic?

Nope.

Rather, my version of a family member of gin and tonic — a Gin Rickey.

Mine is a hybrid: The Karl Rickey

Been pounding them down all summer long, despite Kathy’s best efforts to restrain me

I turned my pals GB and BFD on to the Karl Rickey and they, too, have been on the bandwagon the last few months.

This is good stuff.

A normal Rickey (originally made with bourbon and, once supplanted by the Gin Rickey, thereafter known as the “Joe Rickey”) includes the juice of lime, ice and a bit of club soda.

The Karl Rickey plays on this theme, but amps up the amount of lime juice and substitutes tonic for the soda.

For one drink (in a Collins glass) I juice two fresh limes. If I’m in a spicy mood, I juice two and a half of the green beauties. I cut the remains of one of those limes into quarters. Into the glass goes the juice and two of the quarters of exhausted lime. I add a serious amount of gin and a fistful of ice cubes, then top it off with tonic water.

I nurse this beauty, allowing the melting ice to transform the mix, then add a bit more gin and a bit more tonic as the level falls.

Refreshing.

And good with just about any food that might be served after the cocktail hour.

As an example: the final night of Karl Rickey season was marked by a dinner that featured chicken tonkatsu, a veggie fried rice and an Asian-like slaw.

The Rickey was the perfect intro, a tart palate cleanser that paved the way for the flavors that followed.

The chicken: boneless, skinless breasts were sliced in half horizontally and the pieces were pounded out into 1/4-inch thick cutlets. The cutlets were seasoned (Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper), dusted in seasoned flour, dipped in seasoned egg wash and coated with seasoned panko bread crumbs. The breaded cutlets were put on a wire rack and left to sit for a while, to lock on the breading.

The rice: my favorite Korean organic brown rice was cooked to toothsome perfection. Thinly sliced carrot and small pieces of broccoli were sautéed in neutral oil over medium high heat until slightly caramelized. The heat was turned down to medium and minced shallots and shredded ginger were added. The mix cooked for a few minutes and a couple cloves of minced and mashed garlic were tossed in, along with a cup or so of frozen green peas. And two or three drops of sesame oil (read carefully: two or three drops). Again the mix cooked, until the peas thawed. In went the rice; the mess was stirred to incorporate the ingredients and a splash of Yamasa shoyu was added.

For the slaw: purple cabbage, celery root, carrot and red onion were thinly sliced on the mandoline, sliced into strips on the cutting board and thrown in a bowl. In went a couple drops (read: drops) of sesame oil, a bit of rice vinegar, a bit of shoyu, some neutral oil (canola, in this case), some freshly ground black pepper and a bit of sugar. Ingredients were then adjusted as I tasted the blend.

I whipped up a wasabi dipping sauce with wasabi powder and mayonnaise. I filled a small bowl with Bulldog brand tonkatsu sauce (a Japanese sauce made with fruits and spices, similar in some ways to Worcestershire Sauce, but much thicker).

The cutlets went into a half-inch of hot oil (canola) over medium high heat. I watched them carefully to avoid burning the panko. When the cutlets were golden brown, out they came, and dinner was served.

The two sauces worked magic with not only the chicken but with the rice, as well.

And all cuddled up beautifully with a lovely Spanish albarino.

For dessert: fresh fruit.

And, when the evening was over, we called an official end to the Karl Rickey season.

Sic transit.

So, with fall fast on the way and winter lurking not far behind, a question looms: What’s it gonna be?

Just because the season turns is no reason to abandon the notion of liquid, pre-meal refreshment.

For Kathy: Pellegrino and an occasional sip of wine. Every once in a while, a venture into the world of big-people drinks.

For the rest of us — those in need of a real pre-meal bracer?

BFD and GB are touting the splendid powers of tequila.

I think there is something to be said for this: Tequila (or “quetila” as Kathy calls it after a sip or two) paired with citrus of some sort. Or, tequila, naked, two fingers at a time.

I can see this working through the early fall as an easy letdown from the Karl Rickeys.

But, in deep winter? Quetila?

Nope.

Winter calls for something hefty, something smoky.

Something single malt, if you know what I mean.

Something made by the barbarians north of the Lake Country, up in the highlands, where cousins marry.

Scotch.

Preferably with an unpronounceable name: Bruichladdoich Laphroaig Teaninich Strathisla, Allt-A-Bhainne, Caol Ila. (I have a real jones for Laphroaig. It’s a bit heavy-handed for some, but I love the peat, the smoke, the muscle.) On the rocks.

Barring that, perhaps some Irish whiskey.

Something with an unpronounceable name. Since my maternal grandmother is no longer with us, I can get away with drinking something made in Ireland.

Or. maybe, I’ll retreat again to my roots.

To Minnie. She knew her stuff.

Winter?

No question: How about an Old Fashioned, made with Scotch whisky?

Put a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry at the bottom of an Old Fashioned glass. Add a teaspoon of sugar and a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters. Take a muddler and annihilate the fruit, sugar and bitters. Blend the mixture together by pouring between two glasses, returning the mixture to the bottom of the original glass. Fill the glass with ice, add at least three ounces of scotch and finish it off with a splash of club soda.

In the tragic event there is no Scotch whiskey available, find a bottle of rye whiskey and make a Manhattan — Minnie’s fallback winter cocktail.

Shake a couple ounces rye whiskey and a couple dashes Angostura bitters together with a bunch of cracked ice. (Your refrigerator calls this “crushed ice.”) Strain it into a cocktail glass and give her a twist.

Ahhh

Let the winter winds howl, let the snow fly.

There’s a refresher at hand.

And, of course, if worse comes to worst… drag out the gin.

There’s always a martini,.

Especially good by candlelight … during a power outage.

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