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Minnesota's First Vermouth
By: | Posted: 04/28/2012
Our Summer Spirits Sale is going on now (through August 18th), and I’m taking this opportunity to stock up on my boozy favorites, because, let’s face it, during the summer months my home bar sees a little more action than say in snowy mid-January, and most of my favorite bottles are getting low at this point in the season. So I happily stock up on my “home pours” like the other Spirits Sale shoppers.
So you have a cart full of your favorite spirits, so let me turn your attention to another gem of a department that I’m feeling more and more in love with—the non-alcoholic aisle. Yup, mixers, sodas—the stuff you swirl in your spirit. I’ve learned that using the right splash of soda is just as important as the spirits themselves. Our mix aisle is brimming with items unique, artisanal, all-natural, local, and hand-made. (All good things, yes?) The best part is, with such delicious mix options, just a couple quick pours, and a handful of ice, and you are back in the sun.
Local darling Joia Soda has taken the Twin Cities by storm, and for good reason. All-natural with unique flavor combinations, these sodas stand tall on their own as a beverage, but they also make a perfect companion to spirits. These four-pack bottles, in their colorful, Pinterest-ready packaging, make fantastic cocktails mixers in as little as two steps (that would be: pour spirits, pour Joia) that are complex in flavor and very delicious. The Joia Lime, Hibiscus and Clove soda, plus a few mint leaves from the herb garden, and a splash of vodka has become a summer standby drink at my house. Each time I mix one up, I marvel at how refreshing it is! You’ve gotta love the complexit—fess up, even the best bartender isn’t going home to make a gin, grapefruit, chamomile, and cardamom infusion on a Tuesday night. It takes the guesswork out of making a cocktail, so I love Joia for hosting a happy hour with your friends. Just set out a selection of the four varieties of their soda, cut up fruit and herb garnishes, fill up the ice bucket, set out a few choice spirits, and voila, DIY Bartending! Everyone easily makes their own combination while you actually enjoy your party.
Our newest addition to the mix aisle is quickly becoming my latest favorite. Kensington Marmalade started as a local, handmade marmalade and jam company in California, so they know their way around fruit. Thankfully, they branched out into making drink mixers from fresh whole fruit, water and minimal amounts of pure cane sugar. These mixers are concentrated, so you dilute them with a bit of club soda or sparkling water, and of course, your favorite spirit. The Strawberry and Eureka Lemon mixer actually tastes like real strawberry from the farmer’s market. I don’t say that lightly. It is sweet like a strawberry and balanced out with tartness from the lemon. I love it because it is not sweet like a chewy strawberry candy, which is what most strawberry mixes tend to taste like. Its real flavor would lend itself well to more than half of the possible spirits in my cabinet—vodka, gin, or rum with sparkling water and ice. I’m even thinking of adding a dash to Liftbridge Farm Girl and making a shandy of sorts. Their Bearss Lime mixer is made with strong, super fragrant limes that grow with great success in San Francisco, and the juice looks like, well, juice. It is a goldish-yellow color, not the bright, artificial “lime” green that you might be expecting. The spicy, citrus flavor is intense with tartness and acidity. If you are buying tequila, use this to make a stepped-up margarita, or blend some with ginger beer and dark rum for an intensely limey Dark and Stormy.
So when you stop in to stock up on your Summer Sale cocktail spirit of choice, don’t forget that trip through aisle eight, so you can mix up something special.
Cheers! - Lindsey Coleman @surdyksliquor
Andrew Zimmern is a columnist for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and the host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.See bio
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