Part of the problem is that I’m dating a wine guy. And when Charlie isn’t hauling cases of rose back to his apartment (and occasionally splitting his suit pants in the process), he’s casually challenging acquaintances to homemade Old Fashioned throwdowns and brainstorming creative contents for his copper Moscow Mule cups.
So needless to say, I’m in good hands when it comes to happy hour. But as a proud healthy hedonist and maker of kale margaritas, I should probably be playing around a bit more with bourbon, bitters and the like.
One motivational element is that as part of our inevitable cohabitation, I will be coming into an extreme wealth of cocktail swag. Charlie barely owns a serving platter, but he’s got 3 types of counter-top juicing apparatuses and enough stemware to host a 50-person cocktail party with real glasses (which has happened).
But what gets in the way of my attention to cocktail detail is practicality. For a date night, it just seems like a hassle to whip up 3 types of infused this and that to create something intricate and swoon-worthy. And let’s be real, mixing bespoke concoctions to order for more than ten people doesn’t exactly sound fun either.
I remember last summer when we had friends out to Charlie’s house in Rhode Island, he sent me an email with 5 cocktail recipes for the weekend that he and his equally enthusiastic friend had put together. I had to do everything in my power to not crush all of their dreams with the more pressing question: what are we going to eat for lunch?
Playing host to a house full of people for the weekend can be a stressful prospect. So it seemed silly to me to dedicate precious kitchen real estate to juicing 4 cups of fresh lime juice and macerating strawberries in vodka. But after I loosened up a little bit (i.e. a few Aperol Spritzes later), it occurred to me that perhaps I am getting a little too old and stuck in my simplistic happy hour ways. Perhaps there is something to be said for letting creativity flow freely through a martini shaker, even if it leaves your kitchen counter tops sticky and your guests’ stomachs dangerously absent of whole foods.
A few weeks ago I met up with my friend Kim to talk about making a career transition into the food industry. And as a thank you for the hand holding, she brought me a jam jar full of dried hibiscus petals from her recent trip to Mexico.
I’m embarrassed to say that for all the hibiscus kombucha I consume, I had never worked with it at home. Luckily, unlocking the floral, white-couch crushing power of these little petals turned out to be extremely easy and fun. I’ve been keeping a stash of fresh hibiscus tea in the fridge ever since. And on a night I was feeling particularly compelled to fight my old lady ways, I combined it with fresh lemon juice, a sensible amount of maple syrup, and VODKA for a boozy spin on the classic Arnold Palmer cocktail.
If you’re looking for a jazzy summer cocktail (especially one that can easily fuel a crowd of bespoke cocktail lovers), then these Arnold Palmers with hibiscus tea recipe is your ticket. Just pour a pitcher, take a sip, and let someone else worry about what’s for lunch.
Hibiscus Tea Arnold Palmers, Spiked or Sober
- 8 cups water divided
- ½ cup dried hibiscus petals
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup vodka optional
- Lemon zest and additional wedges for garnish
Bring 4 cups water to boil. Place the hibiscus and maple syrup in a carafe or heatproof bowl and pour the hot water over. Steep the hibiscus for 15 minutes.
Strain the tea mixture. Add the remaining cold water, lemon juice, and vodka (if using). Chill until ready to serve.
Pour the Arnold Palmers over ice and garnish with lemon zest and wedges.
If you're adding booze, you may want a little more maple syrup. I tried to make these healthier by keeping the sweetness to a minimum.