Mix up some star-spangled cocktails

San Jose Mercury NewsJuly 2, 2014 

Red, white and blueberry-infused gin?

A fabulous Fourth of July party is always enhanced by equally fabulous libations, so we turned to some of the Bay Area’s most creative bartenders and mixology mavens for inspiration. The result is a patriotic panoply -- and not just of alliterative adjectives.

These star-spangled cocktails -- strawberry-rhubarb sparklers, tricolor spirits and even a gourmet take on Jell-O shots -- are sure to add pizzazz to any pyrotechnics.

Besides, how can you resist when the mixologist at Walnut Creek’s buzz-worthy hot spot, The Corners Tavern, gives you a cocktail that celebrates not just freedom of spirit, but a certain wantonness, too?

Jamal Robinson serves his cocktail, The Libertine, with a wink, as well as muddled watermelon, tequila, lime juice and St. Germain elderflower liqueur.

It’s enough to turn even the most rakish roue into a patriot -- or maybe it’s the other way round.

There are vodka quaffs, rum sips, beer cocktails and even a sherry-tinged drink in the mix.

Some evoke those signature Independence Day colors and seasonal flavors with fresh strawberries, watermelon, rhubarb and blueberries.

Others go for the indigo hue via blue curacao. And some take their reference points from events of the Revolutionary past.

Revolutionary rum

The 13 Guns cocktail from mixologist Justin Crawford, of San Francisco’s trendy Prospect restaurant, is a salute to the original 13 Colonies.

The drink gets its rosy hue from muddled strawberries and almond milk, and the rum offers another nod to the Revolutionary era.

Crawford says he chose to work with rum because of its storied past and the part it played in American history before and during the Revolution. Besides, he says, it’s a great summer drink.

At Emeryville’s hip speakeasy, Honor Bar, Grill & Cocktails, bar manager Alex Smith uses a riff on the classic Bee’s Knees, a gin, honey and lemon cocktail. But the gin in Smith’s Five Points Patriot is infused with blueberries.

“I wanted to go the all-natural, seasonal way,” he says. “This is a nice patriotic and seasonal hybrid of a few classic cocktails, among them the gin fizz, the gin and tonic and the Bees Knees.”

The cocktail gets added pizazz from some stencil action, too. Peynaud’s Bitters are sprayed over a layer of meringue to create a red star. It’s stunning.

Striped cocktails

For Christopher Moore, the mixologist at Menlo Park’s Left Bank Brasserie, a Fourth of July cocktail should not be just patriotic, but seasonal and fun -- despite his gourmet palate, Moore still has a soft spot for a certain retro libation.

His Patriot Pops are a new take on the old school Jell-O shot.

“Right off the bat, I was thinking of a way to upscale this classic party favor,” he says. “It’s all fresh produce. The top layer consists of wonderfully ripe California Bing cherries, followed by a coconut puree and a rum daiquiri on the bottom.”

There’s a dash of blue curacao in the daiquiri mixture, because whether you’re aiming for royal, navy, indigo or any other blue hue, that’s a difficult color to achieve in a drink.

Hence the popularity of the Valencia orange-flavored liqueur, despite its artificial coloring, with bartenders in even the swankiest restaurants.

For example, it’s used at Madera, the Michelin-starred restaurant at Menlo Park, Calif.’s Rosewood Sand Hill Hotel in its tricolor martini along with Pearl Pomegranate vodka.

Moore is OK with curacao, but he draws the line at putting gelatin, an animal byproduct, in his cocktails.

“I don’t want to put something out there that I can’t stand behind,” he says. “I use agar -- seaweed -- instead of gelatin. (The result is) firm enough to pick up with your hands, yet melts in your mouth, combining all of the flavors.”

Ravishing reds

Jay Crabb avoids the blue problem by going scarlet instead.

“Bright red and blue cocktails tend to be sweet and one-dimensional because of the ingredients you have to use to get them to be that color,” says Crabb, the mixologist at Walnut Creek Yacht Club, a seafood restaurant that doesn’t let its landlocked status get in the way of celebrating all things aquatic.

He won last year’s Best Martini in the East Bay contest with an Andalusia martini, its vodka tinged a vivid crimson with a red pepper syrup.

He suggests doing something similar with another summery drink, an India Pale Ale-based cocktail he designed for a beer-pairing dinner at the restaurant.

“That is totally summer and July in my eyes, combining beer -- summer by the barbecue -- with roasted red pepper and cucumber syrup, a cooling summer flavor,” he says.

Or, go the bubbly route, Crabb suggests, with a rosy-hued, Strawberry-Rhubarb Sparkler.

The blend of spiced strawberry-rhubarb syrup, fresh lemon juice and sparkling wine is easy to make and easy to sip while watching the sparklers in the sky.




1 ounce fresh lemon juice

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 1/2 ounces simple syrup (see below)

4 ounces water

3 rounded teaspoons powdered agar, divided (see note)

2 1/2 ounces white rum

1 ounce blue Curacao


11 ounces coconut milk (see below)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar


11 ounces Bing cherry puree (see below)

Combine lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup and water with 1 rounded teaspoon agar in a saucepan. Stir continuously and bring to a boil. Turn off heat, add rum and blue Curacao. Pour into a silicone ice cube tray, filling each mold 1/3 of the way up. Chill for 20 minutes to set.

Combine coconut milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 rounded teaspoon agar in a saucepan. Stirring, bring it to a boil. Pour the mixture into the molds, filling another third. Chill to set.

Combine cherry puree and 1 rounded teaspoon agar in a saucepan. Stirring, bring it to a boil. Pour the final layer into the molds. Chill until thoroughly set and cold.

To serve, pop the Patriot Pops out of the molds.

To make coconut milk: Split 1 whole coconut, reserving the water. Use a melon baller to remove the meat from half the coconut. Puree the coconut meat and water until smooth. Strain through cheesecloth or a very fine sieve.

To make Bing cherry puree: Puree 1 pound ripe Bing cherries with 1/2 cup water. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine sieve.

To make simple syrup: Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let cool.

Note: Find powdered agar at specialty shops and Amazon.com.


2 ounces blueberry-infused gin (see note)

3/4 ounce vanilla-scented honey

1 ounce lemon juice

3/4 ounce egg white

Tonic water

Hibiscus-enhanced Peychaud’s bitters

Serves one.

Combine the gin, honey, lemon and egg white in a martini shaker and give it a dry shake, i.e., without ice. Then shake it hard with ice. Double strain it into a cold glass, top with tonic water and spray the red bitters through a five-pointed star stencil.

Note: There’s a variety of blueberry-infused gin recipes online, if you’d like to make your own.


1 ounce chilled Spiced Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup (see recipe)

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

6 ounces chilled sparkling wine, Champagne or cava

Serves one.

Pour the syrup and lemon juice into your glass and give them a gentle stir, then slowly top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a slice of strawberry and a thin slice of lemon.

Spiced Strawberry Rhubarb Syrup

1/2 pound hulled strawberries, chopped

1/2 pound rhubarb stalks, chopped

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1 bay leaf

1 star anise

Juice of one lemon

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 allspice berries

Bring ingredients to a boil. Simmer 15 minutes. Chill for 30 minutes, then strain into a clean glass container and refrigerate until ready to use.


3 ounces chilled Sweet Red Pepper and Cucumber Puree (see recipe)

1 ounce lemon juice

1/2 ounce amontillado sherry

4 ounces chilled IPA (India Pale Ale-style) beer

Garnishes: Cucumber ribbon, cocktail onion, small cherry tomato

Serves one.

Put the pepper and cucumber puree, lemon juice and sherry in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and shake as for a martini. Strain into a chilled beer glass, and add the IPA.

Use a vegetable peeler to cut a cucumber ribbon. Wrap the ribbon around the cocktail onion and cherry tomato, skewer them on a toothpick, and place the garnish on the rim of your beer glass.

Sweet Red Pepper and Cucumber Puree

8 ounces peeled, roasted red peppers

1/2 pound peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Bring everything to a boil, then remove from heat and let stand 20 minutes. Blend until very smooth, then pour into a clean glass container and chill until ready to use.


3 cubes of watermelon

1 1/2 ounces Herradura Blanco tequila

1/4 ounce dry vermouth

3/4 ounce St. Germain elder flower liqueur

Juice of 1/2 a lime

Garnish: Black salt, pickled watermelon

Serves one.

Muddle watermelon in a cocktail shaker. Add the remaining ingredients to the muddled watermelon and shake vigorously. Double strain the cocktail into a rocks glass filled with ice and rimmed with black salt. Garnish with pickled watermelon.


3 to 5 strawberries (depending on size)

2 ounces aged rum

3/4 ounce lemon juice

3/4 ounce simple syrup

1/2 ounce Grand Marnier orange liqueur

3/4 ounce almond milk, best quality

Garnish: Fresh blueberries

Serves one.

Muddle strawberries in a cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients and shake vigorously over ice. Strain into a hurricane glass filled with ice, and garnish with fresh blueberries.


3 ounces Pearl Pomegranate Vodka

Dash of Sprite

Dash of blue curacao

Garnish: Red sugar

Serves one.

Rim a martini glass with red sugar. Shake the vodka and sprite with ice, then carefully pour into the martini glass. Gently the blue curacao down the side of the glass so it settles on the bottom.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service