All summer long, I stalk my local farmers market for the week’s freshest offerings. I initially recce the aisles, recalling recipes, pairing ingredients in my head, and determining how much produce one person can realistically consume in one week. Some salivating may occur, but I try to restrain myself, lest I look too much like a crazed, hungry predator stalking stationary prey.
When I see a quart of berries or a bushel of peaches, I think of all sorts of delicious baked goods, of course. I love the grandeur of beautifully constructed pies and tarts, and the satisfaction of turning out crisp, flaky pastry from a handful of simple ingredients. But, when temperatures and humidity soar, that pastry is sometimes difficult to achieve. That’s when I throw in the tea towel, and dream up ways to work those lovely, fresh fruits into a crisp, refreshing porch cocktail.
Say hello to the Collins. It’s a perfectly simple cocktail family, each drink including a base liquor (vodka or gin), simple syrup, citrus juice, and soda water. The classic Tom Collins combination of gin, simple syrup and lemon juice is delicious, but those are only the bare bones. Soft, juicy fruits make a great addition when lightly muddled in the empty glass. Building even an ordinary Tom Collins on top of fruit is an indulgence. When you consider swapping the basics for infused simple syrups and other citrus, the possibilities are such stuff as dreams are made on.
Here is my template for crafting an inspired Collins:
handful of fruit
1 part simple syrup
1 part citrus juice
2 parts gin or vodka
herbs and fruit for garnish
Muddle fruit with simple syrup in the bottom of a highball glass. Add citrus juice and gin or vodka. Pack the glass with ice. Top with soda water and stir. Garnish with anything that takes your fancy.
Below are some of my favorite flavor combinations, featuring fruits that span the summer harvest season. From fleeting early summer black raspberries to succulent midsummer white peaches and luscious late summer blackberries, these combinations will keep you refreshed all summer long.
Black Raspberry Collins
10 black raspberries
3/4 oz mint simple syrup
3/4 oz lime juice
1 1/2 oz gin
mint sprig and raspberry garnish
Blueberry Peach Collins
6 thin slices white peach
1 1/2 oz elderflower cordial (takes the place of syrup and citrus)
1 1/2 oz vodka
mint sprig, peach slice and blueberry garnish
Mixed Berry Collins
5 red raspberries
3/4 oz lavender simple syrup
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 1/2 oz gin
candied lavender, blackberry and raspberry garnish