August is the great divide. Fitting perfectly snug between the start of summer and fall, it’s the halfway point of a season slowly on the decline. Soon washed up on the memory banks of my mind. Blink and summer will pass you by, turning the page on bright skies and long, uncomfortable days. Or hold on tight for the last good weeks of the hottest summer I can remember. A handful of good weeks remaining on produce that has graced the nearby fields and trees and our plates and one last hurrah for the cravings that August brings; pears, peaches, nectarines, grapes, artichokes, leeks and watermelon. All local, all right now. But all fragile in it’s temporary standing.
Maybe it stems from moments in my childhood, harking back to times when the meat of summer holidays lasted from July through to the end of August, when that first week of September illustrates a changing of the guard. A new chapter and beginning of the grand entrance of fall. Back to school commences and the neighbourhood chatter of kids outside running barefoot and doing as they do comes to a close. The silence is deafening. But with that comes relaxed temperatures, cooler evenings, wardrobe additions and alterations and the end of summer as we know it. August 1 means we have lots of summer left. It also means we don’t.
As long as we’re presented with the characteristics of summer we’ll sit back and enjoy it. The signs like those hot drawn out days, sticky humidity and air conditioning units working all the time. For as long as they still prevail we find new ways to manage. And old reliable ways as well. Like a good cold beverage to cool us down. Adult beverage to ease some of that hot weather pain.
The other day we awoke to another hot morning. The heat could be seen rising off the ground out back and the air was thick and dense. We had a couple of pints of cherries that were recently dropped off by my mother. I stared at them hoping in a way that they’d turn themselves into a drink. Cherry cola. Cherry anything. I fired up the grill to get ready for dinner when it dawned on me. In some parts of North America grilling fruits and herbs for the daily cocktail specials has become a bit of the rage. So it made perfect sense to try something on my end.
In cooking we try to bring out as much flavour from our ingredients as possible. We brown butter, caramelize fruits and vegetables and raise the heat in order to bring out all those natural sugars. Sweeteners. So that’s exactly what I did. I pitted and grilled cherries and cut limes for about a minute or two, just enough time to get them bubbling and leaving pretty grill marks. I could smell the intense aroma lifting off the grill when I removed them. I let them cool and made a great cherry thyme simple syrup as my base sweetener. After that I just experiment until I got it right. This kind of right.
Within a few minutes I was muddling the grilled cherries and limes and fresh thyme. I was ready to pour that into a glass it smelled so good. I added my simple syrup and topped the glass with some sparking water. It was so hot out I probably drank that first glass in seconds. And then poured another. Easily the most flavour I’ve had in a cocktail. And over the last year I’ve made my share of them for the blog; drinks like The Antidote, Shucks Deluxe, Smashed Grape Cocktail and the Spiced Orange Crunk Punch. Yet this one was different.
August is the great divide. But as long as there is more summer on the horizon than in the rear mirror I’ll be armed and ready. Prepared. I’ll be holding on tight for the last it has to offer. And holding on to this drink. Many times over again.
From my kitchen to yours,
The Remedy or Grilled Cherry Sour
Cherry Thyme Simple Syrup:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 6 thyme sprigs
- 12 cherries, pitted
- 12 cherries, pitted, plus more for garnish
- 2 limes, cut in half
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 3 dashes of bitters
- 4 sprigs of thyme, plus more for garnish
- 2 cups of cherry thyme simple syrup
- 6 ounces of Gin
- Preheat grill to 450F degrees. Place cherry halves and lime halves on the grill. Close lid and leave for 2 minutes, or until charred. Remove from the grill and let cool.
- Muddle the cherries, limes, honey, bitters and thyme in a cocktail shaker. Add in the simple syrup and gin and divide among 4 rock glasses filled with ice.
- Garnish each with a cherry half and a thyme sprig. Serves 4.