Farm to Highball
Five zesty summer cocktails get a refresh with locally-grown ingredients from the Visalia Farmer’s Market.
Do you remember the first time you had a tomato from the garden? It was a fruit so unfamiliar and delightful, you vowed to never again succumb to a grocery store tomato. Many of us enjoy farm-fresh additions to our meals, but now it’s time to give our drinks the same kind of love. In this feature, classic favorites like sangria, bloody mary, mimosa, whiskey ginger, and the mojito are given new personalities with just-picked ingredients that are in season where you live.
For those who enjoy a sweet and melodic drink, craft flavorful sangria, rich with fruit from the market. If you are up for a short field trip, visit Cacciatore Winery in Pixley to pick up a bottle or two of Terra Bella White Zinfandel. Then head to the farmer’s market to gather your citrus. Vendors currently have kumquats, blood oranges, tangelos, and lemons, so decide if you want to serve a tangy or softer libation. Strawberries add a beautiful red and a new texture. Cut berries in half and citrus into slices. In a pitcher or punch bowl, pour wine and add fruit. Prepare ahead of time and set in refrigerator to chill. When ready to serve, dramatically drizzle honey from Wells Apiary into glasses, pour sangria, top with soda water (if bubbles are desired), smile, and share.
For a non-alcoholic variation try substituting chilled Kombucha (fizzy, probiotic beverage available at many grocery/health food stores in a variety of flavors) in place of wine, but do not prepare ahead of time. You can also try using Ferry Farms Blood Orange juice instead of wine and then top off the sangria with a natural soda.
If sweet isn’t your thing, make a savory – even spicy – bloody mary like you’ve never had before. Are you ready for a challenge? You promised you wouldn’t eat grocery store tomatoes, so there is no sense in buying pre-made bloody mary mix. With our help, you are going to make your own tomato juice. If you have a juicer, you can simply juice the tomatoes (and add carrots, cucumbers, kale, peppers – whatever your heart desires). If you do not have a juicer, no need to fear. First, sauté chopped onions and garlic in a saucepot before adding in three or four chopped tomatoes (beefsteak tomatoes are often available at the farmers market). Simmer on low for about a half an hour, let cool, and blend in a blender. If guests are going to be picky about consistency, it might serve you well to put the blended juice through a sieve before chilling overnight.
When ready to indulge, mix the juice with your choice of vodka. Garnish with habanero, lemon peel, garlic-stuffed olives from Haas Olives, a cube of pepperjack from Dairy Goddess, or some smoked cheese from Fagundes Farmstead. Do not forget to add a pickle (cut in quarters, length-wise) from Pollen Ranch and an enthusiastic sprig or two of parsley from one of several vendors. Provide a selection of hot sauces for your guests to peruse and add to their drinks, if they dare.
Call it a chaser, call it a beer-back or a “snit.” Whatever you call it, from now on, serve your bloody mary with an 8-ounce glass of beer on the side. Rumor has it this is only tradition in the Midwest, but you deserve a little something extra for making your bloody mary from scratch, don’t you think? Check out the selection of small-batch beers from the Kaweah Brewing Co. at the farmers market.
For a non-alcoholic option, omit the vodka and you have yourself the most intense and wondrous smoothie ever served. Perhaps a wheatgrass shot could substitute the snit as well, just so no one feels left out.
For less-involved or last-minute ideas for which you can still use farmer’s market ingredients, try making a mimosa with mandarin juice from Ferry Farms, and top it with a cheerful cherry from Hamada Farms.
For a non-alcoholic option, make a half-and-half concoction of sparkling juice and soda water, and top with mandarin juice and a cherry.
MOJITO ME CRAZY
For a confetti-inspired mojito, simply treat yourself to your favorite rum and a beautiful bouquet from Whole Systems Agriculture. Choose a bouquet with calendula and lots of mint. Use the orange or yellow flower petals to brighten up a tray of ice cubes, and top with a cherry from Hamada Farms. Now your mojito will be ready to party. For a non-alcoholic option, add confetti-cubes, cherry, and mint to lemonade.
Do you enjoy whiskey gingers? Several vendors have fresh herbs and spices available all throughout the season. If you happen to have extra time on your hands, you could experiment making your own ginger ale for this, but for now, just squeeze fresh lemons and grate ginger root into soda water and your whiskey of choice. Garnish with twisted lemon peel. For a non- alcoholic option, simply omit whiskey; or have Joia all-natural soda on hand for a sweeter drink to which you can add grated ginger. Fitting flavors include Ginger, Apricot, and Allspice, or Blackberry, Pomegranate, and Ginger.