Fresh Fruit Cocktails

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Story by Dave Eckert   |   Photos by Tom Barnhart

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Kansas City’s cocktail scene is as hot as a firecracker these days. The metro is replete with talented mixologists plying their trade in cool and hip spots, each trying to outdo the other in crafting creative and delicious cocktails. As the dog days of summer have definitely arrived, I thought I’d look at the “fresh” side of KC’s cocktail cornucopia-cocktails with a fresh fruit component.

They are high on fresh fruit cocktails at The Dining Experience at the Kauffman Center. In fact, General Manager and main mixologist Phil Carey says he can’t wait to get his hands on fresh fruit for his cocktail creations. “Any time you can use anything fresh instead of a processed product, it dramatically increases the flavor quality. This applies to behind the bar just as it does in the kitchen,” Carey shared.

Carey says he looks for the highest quality products to create drinks that are both delicious and harmonious. “The most important thing is the balance between tart (acid) and sweet. If you can keep with vivid bright colors, it tends to be more appealing to the eye,” Carey stated.

Carey says he doesn’t play favorites when it comes to fresh fruit cocktails as his personal choices change with the season and his mood. “I’ve been on a huckleberry vodka kick, but now that it’s hot I’m really into fresh watermelon. My bartender made an incredible fresh watermelon granita out of thyme and the juice from a watermelon that is dropped into a glass of prosecco!” Carey exclaimed.

“I think our bartenders really enjoy coming up with cocktails using fresh fruit. It’s something different and it’s certainly seasonal,” Third Street Social’s General Manager Jeni Rooney told me. The popular Lee’s Summit eatery and watering hole recently added seven new drinks to its cocktail menu. I tried three: the Ave Maria, a vodka-based compilation that doesn’t feature fresh fruit but does use Rose Water simple syrup, the Raspberry Basil Splash, which sports fresh raspberries, basil, and lime, and the Roca Veracruz, which marries tequila with fresh pineapple. “The bartender who created that drink is from Veracruz, so we thought we’d name the cocktail after his hometown,” Rooney shared.

Of the three, I’d have to say the Raspberry Basil Splash was the “freshest,” but there was something about the Roca Veracruz that grabbed my attention. Maybe it was the recent memory of the pineapple margaritas with fresh pineapple I whipped up every night during a recent vacation in Mexico. I’m not sure, but of this I am POSITIVE – I will be back for more libations at Third Street Social sooner rather than later.

That sounds sumptuous. Looks like I’ll be heading downtown, as well as to Lee’s Summit for my fix of fresh fruit cocktails.

Blackberry Whiskey Smash

  • Tom’s Town Pendergast Gold Bourbon
  • 5-7 fresh blackberries
  • Mint
  • Simple Syrup
  • Clap 2 mint leaves to release the oils, and place into a shaker. Add 1/2 oz of simple and 5 to 7 blackberries (depending on how sweet it is). Lightly muddle (just enough to break the skin of of the berries). Add ice and 1 1/2 oz of whiskey. Shake vigorously and pour all into a glass. Garnish with mint.

Fresh Ginger Rosemary Margarita 

  • 2 limes
  • Ginger simple syrup
  • Rosemary infused Limoncello
  • Herradura Anejo Tequila
  • A rosemary sprig
  • A salted glass
  • Rosemary Infused Limoncello: Let several rosemary sit in limocello for several days until golden in color.
  • Ginger Simple Syrup: Boil 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water and one cup fresh chopped ginger and let cool.
  • In A Shaker With Ice: Juice the limes, add 1 oz of ginger simple, 1 rosemary twig, 1/2 oz of rosemary limoncello & 1 1/2 oz of tequila. Shake vigorously then pour into an iced glass with a salted rim and garish with a rosemary twig.

Roca Vera Cruz:

  • Muddle 3-4 fresh pineapple chunks and basil leaves
  • Add 3/4 oz of St Germain
  • 1/2 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 oz roca patron silver
  • Shake and strain into a coupe glass

Raspberry Basil Splash:

  • Muddle 4 raspberries and 2 basil leaves
  • Add 1 oz Svedka vodka
  • 1/2 oz triple sec
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • Shake and pour over ice into rocks glass

Ave Maria:

  • 2oz Titos vodka
  • 1oz rosewater simple syrup
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • Mix and strain into coupe
  • Garnish with edible flower or fresh lemon zest

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