Seasonal sipping

Whilst winter might have had us warming our cockles with hearty, fortifying potions, spring offers us a whole new spectrum of seasonal sipping options.

With the Spring Racing Carnival already underway, the wedding season approaching and workplace parties already in the planning stage, having an arsenal of tasty beverages up one's sleeve is a must.

Though spring has us thinking fresh and fruity, many of summer's best ingredients are yet to come into season. With a little mixing smarts, however, you'll be able navigate any seasonal produce shortfall with a tasty tipple to toast the lengthening days. 

A racing-inspired tipple

We have to hand it to the Yanks - of all the beverages associated with racing around the globe, the Mint Julep (the official drink of the Kentucky Derby) is one of the most inspired. Potent, refreshingly minty and brutally cold - a well-made julep is a beautiful thing.

As much as Australians might have a reputation for being a drinking nation, it must be said that we're not as accustomed to drinking hard liquor as those waving the star spangled banner. My little adaptation on the Mint Julep below offers a more approachable take (if still rather potent) on this Southern US classic.

Southern Belle Julep

50ml aged Barbados or Jamaican rum
10ml honey syrup (2 parts honey mixed with 1 part hot water)
20ml cloudy apple juice
A small handful of mint

Add mint, rum, apple juice and honey to the base of a julep cup, small pewter tankard or tumbler glass. Half fill with crushed-ice and stir till frosty. Stop with fresh crushed ice and garnish with a couple of fresh mint sprigs.

Still sublime without lime

Whilst spring has us reaching for more thirst-quenching mixes, unfortunately the barman's citrus of choice - lime - is currently out of season. Be prepared to pay up to $2.50 per lime at the supermarket or green grocer should Margaritas be on the home cocktail menu.

I recommend that you make the most of Australian oranges right now, including the last couple of weeks of blood oranges being available in store. Sanguine and more tart than their navel cousins, blood oranges are excellent in cocktails even if it's as simple as Snoop Dogg's favourite gin & juice.

For something a little more left of centre, try my twist on the classic Bronx cocktail.

Bloodbath in the Bronx

45ml London dry gin
15ml Rosso vermouth
30ml fresh blood orange juice
2 dashes angostura bitters

Build in a shaker, fill with ice and shake as if a mob boss has issued a hit on you. Garnish with an orange twist or a wheel of blood orange.

Fresh and foraged

I might be an urbanite, but even I can't ignore the abundance of growth sprouting all around town. One often overlooked treasure growing all around the central suburbs of Australian cities is mulberries.

Commercially grown mulberries can be purchased from good greengrocers or foraged from a neighbour's tree without too much effort. They have a deep purple juice that should avoid white clothing, but they can be whipped into a pretty special seasonal drink perfect for a spring garden wedding - despite the staining risk.

Mulberry Gin Smash

45ml London dry gin
3 wedges of lemon
2 tsp of castor sugar
1 small handful of mulberries
1 sprig of mint
Soda to top

Add gin and sugar into the base of a cocktail shaker. Stir to dissolve sugar, squeeze in lemon wedges and add other ingredients. Fill the shaker with ice and shake to the rhythm of a wedding waltz. Strain into a tall glass over ice and top with a splash of soda. Garnish with a mint sprig and a couple of mulberries.

What's your favourite spring time tipple?