Bars around town (and their patrons) revise their drinking habits during the summer season -- and while many bartenders just make small changes to their favorite spirit bu adding freshly grown herbs or seasonal fruit, other bars are expanding their beverage program in unexpected ways. Trillium is a perfect example of how a bar innovates for the summer. Not only does it have an inventive cocktail list for these hot days, which includes libations made from its house-made, house-infused Akvavit (a traditional Scandinavian spirit), it also utilizes a method used throughout the winter months to create the ultimate summer drink: French-pressed punch.
The hot French-pressed warmers were welcomed with open arms last winter, and beverage director Parker Ramey decided to advance that program into the summer months, using two sizes of French presses to create a classic punch. "The inspiration for the French-pressed cocktails came from Table 6 and Aviary in Chicago," explains Ramey. "At Table 6, they made a dry-hopped cocktail by steeping fresh hops, and the Aviary is known for their cocktail innovation. The French-press method allows much better flavor extraction from ingredients like herbs and fruit."
And although the pressing process and steeping time is more important to the warm-pressed cocktails, the summer incarnation packs a punch, too -- especially the French-Pressed Punch. "The punch is a classic rum punch," explains Ramey. "Where our winter warmers were more heady and spicy, we wanted the summer version to be punchy and boozy. We use Banks 7 Golden Age Rum because it offers a level of complexity that you would usually only get from using a few different rums."
The punch calls for fresh seasonal berries (like raspberries, strawberries and blackberries). Then black tea syrup is added, as tea is a traditional ingredient in many classic punches. Cognac, aged rum, citrus and bitters finish off the traditional base, and are steeped with the rest of the ingredients in the French press. "When the plunger on the press is compressed, the infusion is complete, as the juices from the now-marinated berries are pressed into the cocktail. The resulting libation is tart and refreshing, with enough boozy kick to remind you that this is a sipping punch," Ramsey says. "The real goal is to start a party with these."
And they're built for a party: The summer punch comes in "for some" or "for more" sizes. "Some" serves two to three people while "more" is meant to be shared by a table of friends. "This technique is a really fun and interactive way for our guests to watch their cocktail be created in action," Ramey concludes, "and it's a great way for friends to enjoy a cocktail together." Keep reading for a recipe.
2 ounces V.S. Cognac 2 ounces Banks 7 Golden Age Rum 3/4 ounce black tea syrup 3/4 ounce lemon juice 1.5 ounces fresh berries (whatever is available -- strawberries, blackberries, raspberries) 1 large orange peel 1.5 ounces dried hibiscus flowers 4 dashes Peychaud's Bitters Soda water
Combine ingredients in a 12-ounce French press, top with soda, let steep for six minutes. Press and pour over ice in two cocktail glasses. Garnish with an orange wheel.
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If you're making it to share with more friends, double the above recipe and combine in a 20-ounce French press.