When the sun stretches long into the evening and the temperature rises, making the most of what the summer fruit season brings becomes top priority, not just to eat but also to drink. With a little preparation, you can capture those summer flavours to last even longer into the cool reaches of autumn. That’s right, we’re talking syrups, purees, and even powders that you can make from your own stash of summer fruit.
First off, peaches are the pinnacle of summer flavours that deserve to be sipped more frequently! My first encounters were with sweet peach iced tea in the Southern USA –
cool and refreshing. Crisp black tea with a little honey for sweetness then infused with sliced peaches, so ripe, they almost fall apart in the jug. The great thing about peach is not only does it stand up to the boldness of tea, but it also matches tart tropical fruit, like pineapple and passionfruit, which also work great in syrups or fresh crushed pineapple juice. The soft sweetness and aromatics are a perfect pair for summer cocktails, whether you want to sip with tequila, rum, or lean into something non-alcoholic.
Berries also lend themselves to syrups and purees. Strawberries and raspberries both capture a slightly more earthy flavour alongside that intense bright sweetness when made from scratch. There’s really no need to rely on flavoured syrups when a little time will do all the work for you.
The principles of making a great syrup or your own liqueur is straightforward and forgiving, meaning even a first-timer can season to taste with confidence. Take a one to one ratio of plain white sugar and water, melting it gently over a medium heat. This is known as simple syrup and is the base of both treatments. Next, add your fruit, sliced into small pieces.
For firm fruit, roll gently first to ensure those juices and oils will make it into the syrup. Alternatively, you can process the fruit in a blender – this often works well with berries, blending them to a puree then mixing that with simple syrup. You can then strain and sieve the skins and seeds once the flavours have infused and settled. You can filter through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or if you have a paper filter coffee maker like a Chemex – that will also work well.
A syrup is an effective way of saving those summer flavours for both cocktails and non-alcoholic treatments. It will last for 8–12 weeks in the fridge but adding plain vodka will create a liqueur that will happily last for up to a year!
Once you have your syrups or liqueurs ready to go, it’s all about exploring drinks recipes.
The highball cocktail is perfect for easy-going summer. Traditionally made with 1 part whisky to 4 parts soda water and a garnish, a slight twist enables you to celebrate summer fruit and all its goodness. Using whisky, rum, or tequila for your 30ml spirit pour, add 30ml of your fruit syrup and 60ml of chilled soda water.
Tequila and white rum are my summer cocktail go-to’s, as both accentuate sweetness in different ways – tequila from agave, which is slightly vegetal and bright, and rum from sugarcane or molasses, which leans towards caramel sweetness.
BASIC SIMPLE SYRUP
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup water
Heat gently over medium heat until all sugar is dissolved and the syrup is crystal clear. Allow to cool gently.
Add 500g of your chosen fruit to a mason jar with a sealing lid, and then pour over your simple syrup. Mix well to ensure even distribution. Leave the syrup for 24–48 hours before tasting, turning or gently shaking regularly. When you’re happy with the ﬂavour infusion, strain the syrup and store upright in the fridge. You may want to add 2–3 dashes of food colouring if the natural colour loss over time bothers you.
HOMEMADE FRUIT LIQUEUR
Follow the method for simple syrup and add an additional 1½ cups of vodka. Stir to combine thoroughly. For stone fruit varieties of liqueur, like peach, you may also want to add a ½ cup of brandy for additional richness.
30ml whisky, rum, or tequila
30ml fruit syrup (strawberry or peach works great)
60ml soda water
Fill a highball glass with large ice. Add the spirit and syrup ﬁrst, then top with soda water and stir gently. For a non-alcoholic version, substitute the whisky/spirit for cold black tea.
30ml fruit liqueur
15ml lemon juice
Fill a shaker with ice, add ingredients, and shake for 15 seconds. Pour into a short glass over a large ice cube and garnish with a slice of fruit and sprig of mint.
Sangria’s moment is not over. I love a white wine sangria, using Pinot Gris. To this I add fresh fruit like sliced peaches, nectarines and raspberries. Or let me introduce you to the wonders of a frozen grape for a burst of freshness.
750ml crisp white wine
100ml of fruit liqueur of your choice
2 sliced peaches, a handful of raspberries, frozen grapes, and pineapple
750ml ginger ale
Add large ice cubes (these look great with frozen berries too!) to a large pitcher. Add your fruit, then white wine, liqueur, and ginger ale. Taste for balance and add more syrup if required.
SWEET PEACH TEA
1 litre of cold black tea 100ml of peach syrup 2 sliced peaches. Add your tea, syrup, and peaches to a pitcher. Infuse for 2 hours before serving ice cold from the fridge. No ice required.