19 May 2010

Backyard Happy Hour

Last summer in Seattle was, perhaps, our greatest on record. At least to the knowledge of my three-decade memory.

The sun shone hot, warming my shoulders and my soul, for weeks on end. It beckoned me outside, away from my dayjob or post-work trips to the gym. A sultry temptress, she.

I frolicked at the park, plunged off the highdive into the cool waters of Lake Washington, and sat on the front stoop soaking in the warm late-night air til way past bedtime. I felt (hear comes the cliché) like a kid again.

I also spent a lot of time in the backyard, transitioning to after-work mode with a cool drink, a book, and a bowl of tortilla chips in hand.

I credit last summer's heat -- plus our limited budget due to my husband's layoff -- with the invention of Backyard Happy Hour at Chez Duchene. Instead of joining the masses at outdoor patio bars and wasting precious dough on highly marked up drinks, we made our own. My husband (a non-drinker) prefers a tall glass of lemonade or sleek bottle of Dry Soda. My choice is a perfect margarita, heavy on the salt, ice clinking as I grip the sweating glass for another sip.

This year, the yard is in much better shape (there are even flowers to look at). We'll be starting up our Happy Hours soon. Won't you join us?

Amy's Margarita
(Measurements are not precise; eyeball and taste to your preference)

Lots of ice
1.5 oz Sauza Gold tequila
.5 oz Grand Marnier
.5 oz Santa Cruz Organic Lime juice
2 T simple syrup*
Margarita salt
Fresh lime wedge

Load a shaker with ice and pour in the liquid ingredients. Tightly close the top and shake, shake, shake. Grab a serving glass (I prefer a stout highball) and run the lime wedge around the rim while gently squeezing, letting the juice rim the glass. Invert the glass over a bowl of margarita salt and twist; the salt granules should stick to the lime juice and form a salt rim. Open shaker and let the margarita -- ice and all -- tumble into your glass. Grab a side of chips and salsa and head outside.

You could double or triple or quadruple this recipe to make a pitcher for friends. In that case, I'd mix only the liquids -- no ice -- so it doesn't dilute. Keep a tub or bowl of ice nearby and let your guests fill their own glasses (again and again).

*Simple Syrup
Mix 2 parts water to 1 part Baker's sugar in a sauce pan. (I usually use 1 c. water to 1/2 c. sugar; this is about all I can work through in a month.) Bring to a gentle boil for 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves fully, then reduce heat to a simmer for approx 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Can be stored in a glass jar or squeeze bottle for about a month. You can infuse simple syrup with fresh herbs, too; add the herbs (perhaps cilantro or lavender or mint) after the initial boil. Leave in until cool, then remove the herbs before storing in a container.

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  1. I want to come to your Happy Hours! Love it :)

  2. Backyard Happy Hour - what a great idea! When you can make such tasty-sounding margaritas on your own, there really isn't much reason to spend lots of dough on crowds and alcohol. Great post!

  3. A margarita on a sunny day sounds perfect :) Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Mmm--I can't wait for summer! And to be able to drink a margarita again! I'll definitely try this recipe.