BY CHLOÉ ASTOR ST. CLAIR/UPDATED: MAY 21, 2022 10:55 PM EDT
Summertime conjures up images of fireflies, cooling off in the pool, shady trees strung with hammocks, building sandcastles, flower-filled gardens, and cocktails at backyard barbecues. Everyone loves to gather with friends and family around the grill master as they expertly cook everything from fresh lobster and oysters on the half shell to Wagyu burgers and kosher hot dogs. These days, grilling has become a way of life for everyday dining. Just about everything can and should be grilled.
A fiery hot grill adds beautiful smoky flavors to ripe fruits and crunchy vegetables, too. Grilling fruit and vegetables caramelizes their sugars, creating an internal creamy texture and adding a crispness and smoky char that is delectable on its own or as an accompaniment to other dishes or drinks. Grilling fruit adds depth to your summer cocktails, making them the perfect complement to everything on your summertime grilling menu.
According to The Washington Post, ultra-ripe, juicy fruits like peaches, nectarines, and pineapple lend themselves to the grilling technique. Citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, lemons, and grapefruit can be interesting on the grill, too, per The Manual, because as the firm peels cook, they soften, releasing the pungent aromatic oils, which add layers of complexity to your cocktails. New York City bartender Jill Dobias suggests that the warmth from the grilled fruit melts the ice further, blending the ingredients in your cocktail.
Summertime and grilled fruit cocktails are easy
Award-winning drinks writer and winemaker Jayme Henderson, co-founder of The Storm Cellar vineyards and winery and creator of the Holly & Flora lifestyle blog, is famous for using unique fresh ingredients sourced from her own garden and neighborhood to craft “botanically inspired” cocktails. She works with fresh flowers, herbs, spices, bitters, shrubs, tea, fruits, and vegetables, along with traditional, craft, and non-alcoholic spirits and wines, to construct some of the most delicious and gorgeous cocktails on the planet. One of her favorite fruits for cocktails is a juicy fresh peach. “I feel fortunate to live here in Colorado, where the peaches from Palisade are among the very best in the world,” said Henderson, a certified sommelier, in a contributing piece for Kitchn
Grilling fruit is easy as long as you watch it carefully so it doesn’t scorch or fall through the grill grates into the fire. Delicate berries work best in a small cast-iron skillet or on a skewer, whereas slices of honeydew melon, cantaloupe, bananas, and pineapple work best when laid directly on a clean, piping hot grill grate that has been lightly spritzed with oil. Your fruit will have beautiful grill marks on the outside and the fleshy inside will be oozing with fully developed sugars and flavors.
Grilled fruits make flavors pop
Using grilled fruits for your summer cocktails is a way to really make the flavors pop. The Washington Post explains grilling fruit causes new flavors to develop, including intensely smoky umami notes that play differently with the spirits in your cocktails. The outlet goes on to advise that you always look for the ripest fruits for grilling and don’t be afraid to complement and contrast flavors in your cocktails for maximum satisfaction in every sip. Spicy, herbal, and smoky spirits like craft vermouth, small-batch gin, and mezcal are beautiful choices for lushly complex blends while austere wines and vodka work as a clean foundation to highlight the fruit.
Most cocktail recipes that call for fruit and fruit garnishes can be adapted to feature grilled fruits. The fruit can be muddled and blended into most fruity cocktail recipes bringing succulent and smoky flavors to the mix, per Saveur. Grilled fruit with blackened char marks makes for a gorgeous garnish along with a sprig or two of fresh herbs or edible flowers and blossoms. Get creative with your summer cocktails and craft your own signature drink using grilled fruit. You won’t be sorry you did.