Photo by Kelsey Hansen / Food Styling by Lauren McAnelly / Prop Styling by Sue Mitchell
One week: That's how long it takes for my sour cherry tree to expend her energy. This year, when I'm done with the pies and the clafoutis, I'll be roasting my fruit at 400°F until soft. A quick pulse in the food processor and a pass through a sieve yields the silkiest, most luscious reminder of stone-fruit season that ever was.
Behold the roasted fruit puree, the perfect way to extend stone-fruit season—and a fantastic addition to a summer cocktail. Muddled fruit may appear on every menu from coast to coast, but the quick flame of the oven delivers something that the blunt end of a muddler cannot. "The idea of roasting is great because it really caramelizes all the sugars and brings that to the forefront," says Jena Ellenwood, a bartender and cocktail educator based in Astoria, New York. "It gives you more of that richness."
The perfect cocktail should be a delicate balance between bright and sweet, says Jarhn Blutstein, beverage consultant at Mavericks Montauk. "A good drink is simple," she says, and it should drive home the best qualities of the ingredients used. In this case, a good drink is the kind that puts fruit first.
Use this roast-and-puree technique for summer's stone fruits, and enjoy a slideshow of vibrantly colored drinks that concentrate and extend their flavor. My Sour-Cherry Mezcal Margarita combines smoky mezcal, citrusy Cointreau, and sweet-tart cherry puree to make a vibrant red drink perfect for late-summer sipping. In a Plum Gin Fizz, a frothy classic cocktail topped with egg white foam gets a boost from a black plum puree, while in the Apricot-Nectarine Julep, the edges of a julep soften into summer around apricot and nectarine.
Although stone-fruit season is maddeningly short, these drinks give us a means to savor every last drop.
Sour-Cherry Mezcal Margarita
This fruity spin on a margarita combines smoky mezcal, citrusy Cointreau, and sweet-tart cherry puree in a vibrant red drink perfect for late-summer sipping. Bright, pleasantly tart sour cherries are in season for a limited window, so this simple roasted puree is an easy way to preserve their flavor. Try it on ice cream, too.
A puree of roasted apricots and nectarines brings out bourbon's notes of vanilla and nutmeg, making for the ultimate late-summer cocktail. Pour some of the reserved puree on top of the crushed ice for a cocktail that almost resembles a Hawaiian shave ice.
Plum Gin Fizz
This fruity gin fizz isn't overly sweet, allowing the flavor of the pureed caramelized plums to shine. A botanical gin works well with the fruit in this cocktail, adding herbaceous and fruity notes. To play up the deep color of the plums, try Empress 1908, a royal purple–hued, botanical-style spirit. For a vegan version, in place of the egg white, substitute 3 tablespoons unsalted or low-sodium aquafaba. (Note that you won't get quite as much foam.)