I feel like the last six or seven weeks has been conspicuously rainy here in Baltimore, and on the East Coast in general. Every week seems to have at least one cloudburst, and more recently it’s a matter of when, not if, a rainstorm is going to converge over us. When we were in PA to celebrate summer birthdays during a particularly nasty bout of storms we were delayed from leaving my in-laws’ because their street had completely flooded up to the curb in a matter of an hour, which was a new and unsettling experience for me. (The consequences of over-development, live in front of your window.)
The one upside to all of this gloominess is that it a.) encourages you to play board games because it feels decidedly appropriate to do so while it rains away outside, and b.) all but begs for a cocktail or two to sip on while you do so. When our friend T came over a few weeks ago, he introduced us to Ilimat, a game inspired by The Decemberists, and I introduced T to the Rhubarb Bridge, which was all too easy to drink as we grew accustomed to the very specific rules and quickly were enraptured by it. Michael loved the game so much that he got his own version for his birthday, so now we can play it whenever the mood strikes.
The next time we play it (which obviously will be very soon), I want to do so while sipping on The Gail, because even if the weather is kind of miserable right now, at least we have drinks that remind us of all of the goodness summer brings in food form. This drink comes from Gail Simmons’ Bringing It Home and was originally made for her at Eleven Madison Park; she subsequently asked for one more cocktail as well as the recipe, because admit it—you and I would totally do the same. (I have, actually, but that’s another post for another day.)
What’s neat about this recipe is that it features these little lovely green gems called cucamelons, which are essentially baby melons that resemble cucumbers rather than melons in taste. While trying to figure out ideas for dinner one recent weekend morning, I found myself paging through Gail’s whole book and saw the drink. I’ll admit that I was intrigued, but I had little hope of finding the cucamelons in the store. You can imagine my surprise when the next day while perusing the produce section at Whole Foods there was a row of dry pints right in front of me, and so I saw it as a sign that we had to make these immediately, if not sooner.
What’s great about this drink is that there isn’t that much to it: the cucamelons (or slices of English cucumber if you can’t get the former) get muddled in a shaker, and then you add some lemon juice, simple syrup, mint leaves, and gin and gently stir them together in a shaker until very cold. The one twist here is that they have you add crushed ice to your glass before pouring over the drink, so it absolutely encourages easy sipping even if your impulse is to drink it all at once because it is that tasty.
I busted out my great-great aunt’s crystal rocks glasses to serve this cocktail in, because sometimes you need something fun and fancy to drink out of, especially if you find yourself playing board games. I’d like to think that Great-Great Aunt Catherine and my grandmother would both heartily approve of this.
The Gail, as adapted from Bringing it Home
Makes 2 cocktails
- 10 cucamelons or 10 slices of English cucumber
- 4 oz gin
- Juice of a large lemon
- 10 mint leaves plus 2 sprigs of mint for serving
- Four ice cubes
- Two cups of crushed ice
Muddles the cucamelons or cucumber slices in the bottom of a shaker, and then add the gin and lemon juice. Take the mint leaves and slap them a few times to release the oils before adding them to the shaker, and then add the four ice cubes into the shaker and stir vigorously until the shaker is cold, about 30 seconds.
Add the crushed ice into rocks glasses of your choice; if using larger glasses, increase the amount to about 4 cups total (two per glass). Strain the cocktail over both glasses, and serve with an additional cucamelon or cucumber slice as well as a sprig of mint in each glass and serve immediately.