Everything is Designed: Creating a Tropical Summer Cocktail

Cocktails have a sense of pageantry that I adore. Everything about them, from their ingredients to the glass in which they’re served, is truly designed. My goal when making a cocktail for someone is always to present a beautiful dream in liquid form. Spirits-only cocktails are especially elegant; I am drawn to them for most of the year. But long summer days bring sticky outdoor hangs, and all of a sudden Boulevardiers seem a little too intense. (At least until I locate the nearest air conditioner.)

I wanted to challenge myself to design a fruit-forward cocktail that showcases the fleeting joy of Minnesota outdoor markets. Even back in the dead of winter when planning this blog post, I knew where it would be taking me and what fruit I would be picking up. I’m of the opinion that all fruits have their place, but nothing inspires utter devotion in me more than lychee, bought fresh at HmongTown Marketplace in St. Paul. There are Asian markets and stores scattered all over the metro area if Frogtown isn’t convenient for you. Canned lychee will totally work in this recipe too.

Lychee has a delicate and subtle floral flavor, and I wanted to make a drink that leaned into that. I have also been wanting to do a riff of this incredible Thyme Tea Soda on Food52, which calls for a tea-infused simple syrup. For my take, I used jasmine green tea and dried rose petals. Make sure the petals you use are edible. If the petals are packaged loose, you will also need an extra empty tea bag.

For the cocktail:

1.5 ounces gin

3 tbsp lychee purée, recipe below 

2 tbsp jasmine syrup, recipe below


Lychee or mint for garnish

Stir the gin, purée, and syrup in a rocks glass. Gently add a large ice cube and garnish with a lychee or sprig of mint. Serve, preferably on a patio.

For the syrup:

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

6 bags jasmine green tea

2 tsp dried rose petals (in a reusable tea bag)

Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally. Boil for about a minute, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat. Add in the jasmine tea bags and the bag of dried rose petals. After the syrup has cooled down, use a rubber spatula to press the bags against the side of the saucepan and extract as much syrup as possible.

For the purée:

30 lychees

Peel the red bumpy skin off a lychee, dig the nut out of the flesh, then toss the flesh into a blender. Do this 29 more times. Blend until smooth.


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