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Summit's Shu Jam Fizz / Courtesy Pamela Vlahakis
Preserving sweet summer fruits in jams and marmalades is a tradition for many home cooks, but home mixologists should consider stocking up as well. Preserves are good for more than just spreading on toast; they add bright flavors and a silky texture to cocktails.
Greg Seider, co-owner of The Summit Bar in New York’s Alphabet City, created one of the bar’s signature drinks, the Shu Jam Fizz, when a friend passed along her grandmother’s homemade apricot jam. After experimenting with the jam and some fennel he had on hand, Seider created the final version of the cocktail: a refreshing, lightly sweet fizz made with gin from DH Krahn (an upstate New York microdistillery), apricot jam, fennel-infused agave syrup, peach bitters and fresh lemon juice; it's all shaken, poured over ice and topped with soda water. "Apricot jam adds a silkier, more concentrated flavor than fresh apricot would," says Seider. "The flavors also last longer." These days, bartenders at Summit make the fizz primarily with an apricot jam made in-house. “The grandmother couldn’t keep up with my production,” Seider says.
To make jam-based cocktails, follow Seider’s guidelines for a basic recipe: two ounces of spirit to one ounce of fresh citrus juice with a half-tablespoon of jam. Adjust the jam accordingly, depending on desired sweetness. If it becomes too thick, simply turn the cocktail into a fizz by adding a splash of soda. A few of his favorite combinations include peach jam paired with tarragon and gin, apple jam with basil and bourbon, spicy tomato jam with mezcal, and a nonalcoholic fizz made with blueberry jam, pineapple mint and sparkling lemonade. The most important thing, according to Seider, is that the jam be as pure as possible. “You want to make sure when you’re buying jam that it’s just fresh fruit, pectin and fresh lemon juice,” he says. “There shouldn’t be any other preservatives in there—no Smucker’s.”
Jam made from local Massachusetts blueberries stars in the Aviation-inspired Stratocruiser. Chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette make the jam from berries grown on their assistant general manager’s farm by macerating them in vinegar and cooking them down with sugar and spices. To make the cocktail, the jam is mixed with gin, maraschino liquor and lemon juice, then shaken with ice and served up.
Mandarin Bar, Las Vegas
The bar in Las Vegas’s Far East–inspired Mandarin Oriental Hotel serves the tropical 9th Island martini. Bar supervisor Michael LaPenna created the cocktail to taste similar to a popular Hawaiian snack, mangoes dusted in Li Hing powder (salty-sweet powder made from dried pickled plums). Coconut vodka, Lillet blanc, house-made falernum (a spiced lime syrup), lemongrass simple syrup and Hawaiian Sun Pineapple & Mango Jam are shaken together with ice, strained into a martini glass and dusted with Li Hing powder.
Madam Geneva, New York
Hidden behind the Double Crown restaurant, this gin-focused bar has a permanent slot on the menu for a gin and jam cocktail. Currently made with peach-lemongrass, blueberry-rosemary and raspberry-yuzu jams, the cocktail is simply gin, simple syrup, lemon juice and jam shaken and served on the rocks with an extra spoonful of jam for guests to mix in.
Vinnie’s, Asheville, NC
Designed to evoke the feeling of an old-school neighborhood Italian restaurant, Vinnie has recently retooled the cocktail menu, featuring an entire section dedicated to drinks made with seasonal homemade marmalade. Currently, they are mixing up four different cocktails with Valencia orange marmalade, including the Marmalito: Bacardi Select aged rum, mint, lime and marmalade topped with soda and served over ice.