TGIF Cocktail Hour :: Citrus & Mint Fizz

It's FRIDAY! Time to squeeze some fresh citrus, bust out the cocktail shaker and invite a few friends over to unwind. No need to make it a big project, or turn it into a long night, but with TGIF Cocktail Hour, I invite you to slow down, socialize and sip. I'm starting this series with………stopyellingatme……….a non alcoholic beverage. Of course, you can mix some vodka or gin in here if so inclined, but truly - this drink stands on it's own and feels every bit as decadent without the addition of booze.

© Esra Paola Crugnale | Dreamstime Stock PhotosAt any party, I like to offer a non-alcoholic drink that is every bit as festive as a fancy cocktail or wine. I’ve been making this one for years after seeing a version in the New York Times holiday section. For this fizz-filled drink, a heavily spiced syrup is added to fresh orange juice, along with a drop of peppermint oil, to make a perfect savory, refreshing drink. You can substitute half of the lime juice for lemon juice, or use all lemon juice if so desired. The syrup can be flavored with many other spice options--try allspice, fennel, or even a red chile for some heat. Make extra--most guests will choose this over Prosecco.

Citrus & Mint Fizz Makes 4 drinks

1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 cup water 2 tablespoons ground cloves 2 cinnamon sticks 2 whole star anise pods 3 thin slices fresh ginger 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract 2 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice

Fizzy water or Seltzer, for serving

In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the sugar, water, cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and ginger. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once all the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and set aside to infuse and cool completely. Once it’s cool, strain out the spices and stir in the peppermint extract.

In large pitcher, combine the orange juice, lime juice, and peppermint syrup. Stir vigorously until well incorporated. You will see little peppermint oil bubbles on the surface of the juice, so work to emulsify and whisk these in as best as you can.

In a highball glass filled with ice, add juice to the halfway-mark and then add fizzy water to fill. Serve immediately,  and stir well in between pourings.

PANTRY NOTE: Leftover syrup (as if!) can be stored in a small glass jar in the fridge for many weeks or even several months. You can use this syrup in place of sweet vermouth in a Manhattan, or try some with hot water and brandy for an updated version of a toddy.

Photo by: © Esra Paola Crugnale | Dreamstime Stock Photos Recipe excerpted from Fresh Pantry