What are the stories behind Europe’s iconic summer drinks?
This summer has become depressing synonymous with scorching and unpleasant heat waves.
While one reaction to this year’s warm front is to curl up in a ball and fear the impending climate apocalypse, another is to get properly drunk.
Now, we cannot in good conscience recommend such action because we urge everything in moderation, but some of us in our corner of culture have reflected on some of the ways in which Europeans have historically quenched their thirst as the mercury was rising.
Summer drinks vary hugely across the continent, but the iconic feel of sipping a cocktail on a hot day is universal.
United Kingdom – Pimm’s Cup
Pimm’s is quintessentially British. But where does the legendary drink come from?
James Pimm invented the drink in 1823 as a digestive to accompany food at his oyster bar in London.
Served in a “cup”, the original drink was a mixture of gin, sweet vermouth, curçao, maraschino and bitters; all mixed with sparkling lemonade and topped with borage flowers. The original combination gave off “a cucumber aroma and palate,” say cocktail experts Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown.
“Seasonal fruits were chosen when borage was not available,” they add, giving rise to the drink’s traditional form today with strawberries, mint and orange often added to the glass.
The drink’s popularity in the late 1800s led to its commercialization as a bottled beverage in 1912.
How to do it:
- 1 game of Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
- 3 parts sparkling lemonade
- Borage leaves
- Mint leaves
- Slices of orange, lemon and strawberry
Pour the Pimm’s and lemonade into a tumbler filled with ice. Garnish with borage leaves, mint leaves, orange lemon, strawberry. (Note: Since borage leaves are not commonly available, a cucumber wedge is often substituted when served.)
Eat it: A summer pudding with berries and bread will provide a “contrast of flavor from the fruit and sweetness of Pimm’s,” suggests School of Booze founder Jane Peyton.
France – Kir Royale
French atmosphere and simple style. For some, the country is second to none when it comes to creating culinary delights and many consider France a champion in the beverage department as well. You can choose different delicacies ranging from rosé to pastis, but we have chosen a relatively new concoction, the Kir Royale.
The Kir Royale was invented after World War II by a priest named Félix Kir. When Kir became mayor of Dijon in 1945, he wanted to promote two of the region’s local libations: crème de cassis, a sweet blackcurrant liqueur, and the very acidic aligoté wine from Burgundy.
“Because Aligoté is not to everyone’s taste and it is not widely available outside the Dijon region, champagne has been adopted as a replacement,” says Miller.
The Kir Royal was born.
“We make our own crème de cassis at home thanks to the excessive amount of blackcurrants in our garden. And instead of using champagne, we prefer to give the drink a real Dijon flavor by pouring in Crémant de Bourgogne instead,” says Brown.
How to do it:
- 100 ml of Bourgogne Aligoté (or Crémant de Bourgogne)
- 15ml creme de cassis
- Serve in a flute
Eat with it: the classic French method is to consume it before a meal. Anyway for dinner, a Kir Royale will certainly do the trick as an appetizer.
Spain – Sangria
The word sangria literally means “to bleed” in Spanish and Portuguese. But don’t let the gory name put you off; it has been used since around 200 BC, when the Romans used the term to refer to red wine and wine punches from Spain.
“No one really knows for sure who invented the red wine punch known today as Sangria,” says Miller.
“What is known is that it dates back to many punch drinks, which were imported from Asia during the 1600s and 1700s. Spanish and Portuguese traders were the probable authors of combining their original riojas and douros with the fruits of the season – stone fruits, berries and citrus fruits – and brandy or rum.
“We prefer aged Spanish rum and a bit of sparkling water to give the drink a bit of lightness,” Brown suggests.
How to do it:
- 750 ml of rioja
- 350ml aged Spanish rum or brandy
- Slices of oranges, lemons, apples, blueberries, strawberries, pears, plums
- Infuse rum, wine and fruit in a jug for at least two hours before serving
Eat with it: Sangria goes perfectly with a tuna salad, suggests Peyton. “The tannins in the wine cut through the texture of the tuna.”
Italy – Spritz Veneziano
The Aperol Spritz is by far the most internationally popular version of this ubiquitous summer cocktail, but Aperol wasn’t the first drink to make waves in Italy.
That honor goes to the Italian bitter aperitif called Select.
Created in 1920 in Venice, Select was combined with Northern Italian sparkling wine from Prosecco and a touch of sparkling water to make the original Spritz Veneziano.
“This refreshing blend then went through a few variations. Campari is sometimes used, and more recently Aperol Spritz has become the most popular blend in the world,” says Miller.
If you can get Select, it’s definitely worth replacing it with Aperol.
How to master the mix:
- 60 ml Aperol
- 90ml prosecco
- Sparkling water splash
- Build in a tumbler filled with ice. Stir to lift the ingredients and add a slice of orange
Accompaniment: Smoked salmon. “The bitterness of the appetizer goes well with the fatness of the fish,” according to Peyton.