This season, frigid libations inspired by an outing to the Italian ice stand are super hot.
By Kelly A. Magyarics
In case you haven’t noticed, this weekend is Memorial Day — the official start of summer. Time for running under the sprinkler, kicking back by the pool, or taking the boat out for the day with friends (I wish…) Since Washington D.C. in the warmer months can get pretty sticky, you’ll need some refreshing beverages for all this recreation. Luckily, two local hotspots have just the antidote. But these frozen treats don’t come from a tinny music-spewing truck surrounded by a gaggle of kids. Casa Nonna and Estadio are ushering in summer with frozen libations kicked up with booze, herbs fruit juice and even tea. Stop in to try them for yourself, and try your hand at whipping up a batch.
Casa Nonna (casanonna.com, 202.629.2505) has just opened its 26-seat outdoor patio for the warm weather, giving guests a little taste of the Tuscan countryside in the heart of bustling Dupont Circle. And what’s more sublimely perfect to sip on the terrace than one of their new Granita Cocktails ($12.) Made from sweetened ice infused with fresh fruit, the Granitas are available with or without alcohol. Imbibers have their choice of the Cherry Blossom, a sweet mix of cherry Granita, vodka, St. German and soda water; the Vinchenzo Palmer with Limoncello Granita, Earl Grey-infused vodka and lemonade, and the Ginny Hendricks, a citrus-y concoction of lime Granita, Hendricks Gin, muddled limes and cucumbers and lemon juice. Adam Sanders, General Manager of Casa Nonna, says, “By marrying classic Sicilian shaved ice and American craft cocktails, we’ve created the perfect summer cocktail to cool off in a fun, Italian way.”
If you are making these for a group, mix the rest of the ingredients for the cocktail together in a pitcher. Set up a self serve bar with the frozen granita and pitcher of other cocktail ingredients in a cooler with plenty of ice, and display a note for guest with the right amount to add for each cocktail.
Cherry Blossom Granita
Courtesy of Casa Nonna, Washington, DC
3.5 oz. Sour Cherry Granita (see recipe below)
1 oz. Stoli Vodka
½ oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
¼ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
Splash club soda
Brandied cherry and lemon wheel, for garnish
Using an ice cream scoop, add Sour Cherry Granita to a small rocks glass or cocktail glass. Mix vodka, St. Germain, lemon and club soda in another glass, and gently pour over the granita. Garnish with a brandied cherry and a lemon wheel.
For the Sour Cherry Granita:
1 qt. frozen sour cherries
2 c. water
2 c. sugar
1 lemon, juiced
1 qt. hot water
Puree cherries with water in blender until completely smooth. Add cherry puree, sugar and lemon juice to a large bowl. Add hot water, and mix to combine. Pour Granita mix into preferred pan (metal loaf pans work the best.) Freeze for 1 hour, and then take the semi-frozen mixture out of the freezer and agitate with an ice cream scoop, fork, or a large sturdy metal spoon by scraping down the ice from the sides; crush and stir into a still liquid mixture. Refreeze and re-scrape 2-3 times until the mixture is completely frozen, which may take up to 6 hours. **Alternatively, use an electric ice cream maker and churn to desired consistency.
Ginny Hendricks Granita
Courtesy of Casa Nonna, Washington, DC
3.5 oz. Lime Granita (see recipe below)
1 oz. Hendricks Gin
1/2 oz. Domaine de Canton liqueur
1/4 oz. lemon juice
4 cubes cucumber
1 basil leaf
Lime wheel, for garnish
Using an ice cream scoop, add Lime Granita to a small rocks glass or cocktail glass. Muddle cucumber and basil in the bottom of cocktail shaker. Add Hendricks, Domaine de Canton and lemon juice. Strain into the glass with the granita. Garnish with the lime wheel.
For the Lime Granita:
2 c. lime juice
Zest from 1 lime
1 ¾ c. sugar
2 qt. HOT water
Add lime juice, zest and sugar to a large bowl. Add hot water, and mix to combine. Pour Granita mix into preferred pan (metal loaf pans work the best.) Freeze for 1 hour, and then take the semi-frozen mixture out of the freezer and agitate with an ice cream scoop, fork, or a large sturdy metal spoon by scraping down the ice from the sides; crush and stir into a still liquid mixture. Refreeze and rescrape 2-3 times until the mixture is completely frozen, which may take up to 6 hours. **Alternatively, use an electric ice cream maker and churn to desired consistency.
Over at Estadio (estadio-dc.com, 202.319.1404) the eclectic combinations of Beverage Manager Adam Bernbach’s Slushitos ($9) continue to prove that the slushie maker is NOT just for kids. Flavorful concoctions like Cranberry, Cava, Anise-Infused Gin and Lime; and Grapefruit, Sherry, Chamomile-Infused Bourbon and Lemon, are essentially frozen wine punches—just a whole lot more fun. “Their dilution and chilling is achieved not by shaking or stirring ice into a drink, but freezing the water within the drink,” he explains. Estadio’s versions are silky smooth because of the slushie machine, but you can get a similar effect by mixing and freezing a batch, and then churning/scraping it back to the desired consistency. Later this summer, Bernbach will be offering a Cava and coconut version…can’t wait for that one.
Bernbach shared one of his Slushito recipes with me, so if you are having a Memorial Day gathering this weekend (or going to one and need to take something to share,) consider whipping up a batch. It can be prepped in advance, and as long as the ride to your picnic isn’t too long, you’ll be fine putting the container of frozen cocktail goodness in a mini cooler with plenty of ice packs. If it does start to thaw too much, just stick it back in the freezer while you take a dip in the pool…
Grapefruit and Bourbon Slushito
Courtesy of Adam Bernbach, Beverage Manager, Estadio and Proof, Washington, DC
2 ½ c. grapefruit and cinnamon syrup (see Note)
1 ½ c. Amontillado Sherry
1 c. Chamomile-infused Four Roses Bourbon (see Note)
1 c. lemon juice
For the grapefruit and cinnamon syrup: Put 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, the zest of ½ grapefruit and a cinnamon stick into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and let steep overnight. Strain out solids, and store syrup in the refrigerator.
For the Chamomile-infused Bourbon: Add a scoop of Chamomile tea leaves to the Bourbon. Steep for a day or so, to taste, shaking bottle occasionally. Strain out solids.
To make the Slushitos, combine all ingredients in a shallow container. Freeze until hard, and then use a fork to scrape off the mixture into a slushy consistency. Serve in cocktail glasses.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on www.twitter.com/kmagyarics.