Courtesy of The Ritz Carlton Naples Grill
Cocktails are never far from the grill in summer. But now, bartenders are closing the gap, grilling fruit to incorporate rich, caramelized flavors into their drinks.
“It didn't take long to come to the conclusion that we should use the kitchen’s big, beautiful grill surface and caramelize some fruit,” says Marshall Altier, bar manager at New York’s Jbird. “Imagine eating a caramel candy versus a lump of sugar. Multiply that times the flavor of a ripe pineapple or peach and you start to see how caramelized fruits can change the entire flavor profile of a drink.” For experimenting at home, Altier suggests superripe, juicy and sweet fruits like peaches, nectarines and his current favorite, pineapple, which he’s now using in an off-the menu Grilled Pineapple Crush.
The components are inspired by what he hesitates to call “cocktail terroir” and include limes, vanilla bean and rum. “It makes sense that a bunch of stuff that grows naturally and harmoniously in the same place would mix well together,” Altier explains. The Denizen rum he likes for this drink is Caribbean, but actually blended in the Netherlands. Aged in American oak, Denizen's flavors echo the vanilla in the cocktail and its medium body can stand up to the fruit's rich sugars. A savory element counters the sweetness of grilled fruit drinks and Altier finishes his Crush with a touch of black pepper.
Toloache 50, New York City
At this upscale Mexican bistro, chef Julian Medina created the smoky-sweet Mezcalita de Pina cocktail. Bartenders muddle grilled pineapple with fresh jalapeño for heat and cilantro for freshness, then add Fidencio Mezcal, lime juice, agave syrup and a pinch of tajin, a Mexican spice blend with chile peppers, salt and dehydrated lime juice.
M.B. Post, Manhattan Beach, CA Chef David LeFevre is a Charlie Trotter alum and his new restaurant housed in a former post-office serves the unusual Southern Hospitality. A piece of charred white oak is used to infuse a mix of grilled peaches, orange juice, cranberry juice, cinnamon, honey, orange peels and vanilla beans with campfire-inspired smokiness. The punch is finished with bourbon and Peche de Vigne, a French peach liqueur.
Riffle NW, Portland, OR
At this just-opened global seafood restaurant, the bar and the kitchen collaborate on cocktails like the tiki-inspired Leya: Cachaça, grilled pineapple juice, house-made basil syrup, gin, lime juice and allspice.
Square Peg, Philadelphia
The diner-inspired restaurant’s brunch menu includes the Grilled Peach, an extra fruity, summery julep with peach puree and grilled peaches; also in the mix: Jim Beam Bourbon and fresh basil.
Ritz Carlton Naples Grill, Naples, FL
Bartender Steve Wilcoxson works with The Grill’s kitchen to prepare cocktails like the Grill-ed Pineapple, muddled with lightly smoky Mount Gay XO Barbados rum, brown sugar and vanilla and then topped off with juice from brandied Marasca cherries—a sour cherry traditionally used to make Maraschino cherries.