An icewine cocktail for the dog days


Fancy cocktails with multiple ingredients are OK with me, as long as I don’t have to make them. I’m with Amy when it comes to obscure techniques like bone lugeing or fat-washing. If the booze is good, it shouldn’t need such interventions. When at home, I use up to four ingredients, make simple syrups, always include fresh juices, and add bitters if called for. Farther than that, I’m not likely to go.

My other thing with drinks is that although I’ll try something out of my comfort zone if I’m in the hands of a professional, when at home, I stick to stuff I know I love, like: 1. gin, 2. citrus, and 3. floral accents. That’s why I often use St. Germaine, which is made from elderflowers. You have to be careful not to make the drink too cloying, though, and that’s where the gin and citrus come in.

A wonderful combination of these elements came to me thanks to Ivy Knight, a Toronto food writer, who recommends mixologist Christina Kuyper’s icewine cocktail. Here’s the recipe:

Icewine Cocktail

1 oz gin Tanqueray, a clean, refreshing gin with some nice citrus notes, not too heavy on the juniper.
½ oz Chase Elderflower Liqueur
½ oz icewine
¾ oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 large basil leaves

Shaken, poured over ice in a Collins glass, garnished with champagne grapes, red currants to add acidity and texture to the drink, also add a few more basil leaves for aroma.

Needless to say there were adjustments: I had St. Germaine on hand (not Chase), and I used The Botanist rather than Tanqueray (which I rarely buy).  Unsurprisingly, there were no champagne grapes or red currents in my produce bin, so I made do with lemon slices, along with the called-for basil. It’s shown here both on the rocks and straight up. (I pour my cocktails into a nice big wine glass with ice, but that’s me.)

Icewine is a perfect cocktail ingredient. It has the floral elements, it has (if good) a bright acidity, and it lends sweetness, which is necessary to soften the alcoholic bite. Icewine is also a local ingredient here in Buffalo—our friends across the border have perfected the art of extracting concentrated juice from frozen grapes. I used a 2007 Henry of Pelham Riesling icewine, but there are dozens of great producers throughout Southern Ontario.

A perfectly-balanced summer drink for an out-of-whack hot summer—try it!

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


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