Despite this week's cool snap, summer is about to kick into gear on the Grand Strand as are the days of hitting the beach by noon for many of us. Some of the best days, for me at least, include the morning activity of packing up the cooler and suntan lotion for a day on the sand.
It also seems that the phrase "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" creeps onto our lips around lunchtime. Or is that just me? While I know that we all say that we observe the laws about adult beverages on the beach, the pictures of red solo cups and koozies that litter Facebook and Twitter are not fooling anyone. So let's put something fun in those cups.
One of the first things to keep in mind, when making cocktails for the beach, is to transport the drink easily and in plastic containers. Glass on the beach is prohibited as a preventative measure to avoid serious injuries in the event of breakage. Cooler-friendly vessels such as empty plastic soda bottles or, for the green people, Tupperware pitchers or other reusable beverage containers are great vehicles to get your drinks to the beach safely.
Another consideration for beach cocktails is to keep it simple and as mess-free as possible. By riffing on classic drinks using pre-made concoctions, you can get the most out of your day at the beach.
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Infusing is one of my favorite flavor enhancers for the summer. We have so many fresh produce stands in Myrtle Beach that it makes perfect sense to utilize the products of our local farmers.
To make a Watering Melon, transfer a bottle of light rum into your plastic container. Slice a watermelon in small slivers or chunks so that they will slide into the container easily. It's also a great idea to remove the seeds. To the rum and watermelon, add a handful of mint leaves and let the mix infuse for 24 to 48 hours in the refrigerator. When you are ready to make the cocktail, simply add it to some lemon lime soda and plenty of ice. You've got a light and bubbly mojito-like drink. The fresh watermelon and mint flavors make the perfect summer refresher and, with only a few ingredients, you won't go nuts with the process. It will also keep in the refrigerator for a few days, so don't feel obligated to use it all on the first day. I'm also a fan of substituting fresh strawberries in the place of watermelon.
One of the best things about living in our area, aside from the beach, is that there is plenty of sweet tea vodka to go around. Other areas of our country have been unable to even get the stuff. There are plenty of flavored versions of vodka from the various distilleries, but I like to use local produce for my flavor. I know you've heard it before, but this is a twist on the drink that the Carolinas made famous called the John Daly, which is a blend of sweet tea vodka and lemonade. Kudos to whoever came up with that one.
In your container, pour a bottle of sweet tea vodka. Add fresh diced peaches to the vodka and let infuse for 24 hours. You want the peaches to be cut small so that you get chunks in each drink. Over ice, use one part of the infused sweet tea vodka to two parts lemonade. You can make your own lemonade if you like, but I generally just use the already-bottled stuff. Stir it well and you've got a near perfect summer sipper. If you don't have time to infuse, there is commercially-available peach sweet tea vodka that is the next best thing.
While these flavors remind me of summertime at the beach, sometimes an ice cold brew is simply the right thing to do. A great refreshing beer drink is the Chelada. While many versions exist, my favorite adds ice, fresh lime juice and salt to a nice light beer. The key for the Chelada is to use fresh lime juice and not the sweetened kind. I like to pre-squeeze about ten limes at home and bring the juice in a squeeze bottle so that I don't have to juice fruit in the sand. If you enjoy a cold beer, you will enjoy this style of Chelada. Other versions use Clamato or tomato juice and they taste great as well. I'm simply partial to the lime and salt flavors.
These are fun and somewhat different ways to enjoy a cocktail in the sun this summer. Always remember the moderation rule and never, ever swim after you've have had adult drinks. Our beaches are great fun for fellowship and cocktails, but can also hold some dangers. Err on the side of safety my friends. Be sure to bring plenty of fresh drinking water too. If you see me and my cooler on the beach this summer, stop by for a drink.
Kevin Hoover, a local food and beverage manager, is engaged in the endless pursuit of the perfect cocktail and dining experience. Check out his blog at lushlifeonline.com.