Alcohol sales have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic: According to the most recent figures, sales of spirits were up 75% compared to last year, with beer (42%) and wine (66%) not far behind. Imbibing is clearly an essential part of sheltering in place.
Coincidentally, Drinking with Chickens: Free-Range Cocktails for the Happiest Hour (Running Press) was released on March 24, just as the lockdowns were taking effect around the country. To clear up a few things at the outset: 1) No, you don’t need to own chickens (author Kate Richards advises that “dogs, alpacas, parakeets, actual human people will do,” although obviously you won’t have the benefit of an egg supply); 2) Richards does not condone giving alcohol to chickens or any other animals; 3) She freely admits that chickens are unsanitary creatures that should not be allowed near your drinks or food, and that you should always wash your hands after contact with them (but of course, you’re doing that already).
Drinking with Chickens turns out to be an interesting and attractive cocktail book, written by someone with an extensive outdoor garden as well as quite a few chickens. The first part is a no-nonsense manual about bar equipment, glassware, ice and garnishes. There’s a nice section on infusions (orange peel whiskey, salted radish vodka, pine needle-infused gin, etc.). The bulk of the volume is devoted to seasonal drinks for spring, summer, autumn and winter, with a separate chapter for mocktails. The clever and inventive recipes are based on ingredients from Richards’ garden, and those chickens are everywhere—peeking around corners, clamoring for attention and hogging the moment.
The only drawback to the recipes is that many are complex, first requiring the preparation of a syrup, shrub or purée. Sometimes there are commercial substitutes you can purchase online; otherwise, you might want to invest some time in these cocktails (since you probably have time on your hands). Here’s a good example:
Summer Bourbon Smash
1 oz. nectarine-blueberry purée
½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ oz. honey syrup
2 oz. bourbon
2 oz. club soda
In the bottom of a rocks glass or julep cup, combine the nectarine-blueberry purée, lemon juice and honey syrup. Give mixture a quick stir, then fill glass with crushed ice. Add bourbon and stir again; garnish with nectarine slices, blueberries and basil sprig.
For the purée: Combine ½ cup nectarines (pitted and chopped into chunks, skins on), 12 blueberries, ½ oz. fresh lemon juice and ½ oz. honey in a blender or food processor. Blend until liquified and smooth.
For the honey syrup: Combine ½ cup honey and ½ cup water and bring to a boil until the honey dissolves; allow to cool.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture. His first two novels, Friend of the Devil and The American Crusade, are available on Amazon; his third novel, Impeachment, will be released this fall.