Grilled Rambutan Cocktail

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThings I use my grill for:

  1. grilling meat, duh
  2. cooking vegetables
  3. making pizza
  4. grilling up cocktails

Cocktails? Whaaaaa?!

Well, you’re outside on the grill anyways during the summer, might as well put it to some good use in the drink department. And if you’ve been on here before, every summer now I sort through the seasonal (and maybe not so seasonal) fruits and see what happens when you char them up. Like mangoes. And nectarines, limes and cherries. But especially cherries (so much so I made some for Kristin at DineXDesign too). Sometimes though, you run out of fruit to grill, and you unearth something from the depths of your pantry. And then the science experiments start and that’s where you can really have some fun.

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comSo, admittedly, I bought this can before I left my day job which was over a year and a half ago. How long I bought it before I left that job is a total mystery. But every so often I would open my pantry, stick my head in, notice this can of rambutans, squint at it like it’s going to tell me what to do with it, and then leave it there for another day. That is, until a few days ago.Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I had promised to make a pitcher of cocktails for some friends coming over but in my usual fashion of late, left it to the night before. And because the fruit from the farmer’s market has been so good lately, I had eaten all of it. With a sad, empty fruit bowl staring at me, wagging its imaginary banana finger, I suddenly realized now might be a good time to crack open those rambutans (which, for the record, I can’t help but sing as “bam-a-lam” from that Black Betty song).

I tasted one, a little crunchy with a sweet-tart taste similar to a grape; it could only get better with some grill time. And it did. The richer flavors that developed turned out to be a just the ingredient to pair with some tequila, grapefruit and lime juice. And smoked salt. Always with the smoked salt.

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIf you’re not in possession of a grill, no worries! You can make this on a grill pan or under the broiler too.

Makes 4 cocktails
12 rambutans, peeled and seed removed if fresh (canned rambutans come ready to eat and are available online here)
6 ounces blanco tequila
2 ounces fresh juice from 1 white grapefruit
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 limes
1 ounce simple syrup
Smoked sea salt and lime juice for rimming

  1. If using the grill: Soak 3 wooden skewers in water for at least 1 hour. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place 4 rambutans on each skewer, and grill over high heat until char lines appear and fruit has softened slightly but still holds its shape, about 1 minute per side. Let cool and remove from skewers until ready to use.
  2. If using the broiler: Adjust rack to 4 inches below broiler element and preheat broiler to high. Place rambutans on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Broil until softened and lightly charred in spots, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes total. Let cool and remove from skewers.
  3. In the bottom of a small pitcher, muddle the rambutans to release juices and break up the fruit. Add tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. Cover and chill for at least an hour up to overnight.
  4. To serve, add lime juice to a saucer and smoked salt to another. Dip the side of 4 rocks glasses in lime juice and then gently roll the outside edge in smoked salt. Add ice to each glass and strain the cocktail, dividing equally among the glasses.

The slightly nutty flavors pair wonderfully with tequila, while fresh lime and grapefruit juice highlight the floral and tart elements of the rambutan. A touch of simple syrup is not enough to make the whole concoction sweet; instead, it helps round out the flavor and brighten the mix.

***This recipe originally was written for Serious Eats.

Grilled Summer Fruit Cachaça Smash

Grilled Summer Fruit Cachaça Smash Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThere’s a lot going on in that title. I know. Forgive me. I’m trying to shove all the fruits I’ve been eating lately into something I can drink. And when I say eat I really mean grill. 

Oh yeah. I’ve been grilling fruit again.Grilled Summer Fruit Cachaça Smash Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

This time it was for the folks over at Serious Eats; they enjoy a good grilled fruit drink every once in awhile. One life altering aspect of this drink, besides telling people you own and have used a bottle of cachaça, is that you get to grill cherries. I’m sure you’re reading that sentence and going… and? No, but really, have you done this before? Have you experienced these awesome morsels that have somehow gotten transformed on the grill from just yum into the intoxicatingly rich, smoky, sweet bites? Do yourself a favor and grill a bunch of these, not just for the drink, and then while you’re sipping your cocktail, pop these in your mouth. By the handful. Also, I’m grilling lime wheels, which is sorta covering up the fact that I’m still finding sad, sad limes at the store.Grilled Summer Fruit Cachaça Smash Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Oh! So let’s talk about the cachaça for a second. Cachaça is the national spirit of Brazil and is a very close cousin of rum. In fact, we could just call them siblings. The only major difference, if we’re generalizing here, is that cachaça does not have to be aged, unlike rum which needs to be aged to some degree. It’s distilled from fresh sugarcane, like rhum agricole and has that funky aspect in the flavor profile. For this recipe we’re actually using aged cachaça, so if you just can’t get your hands on that, substitute a golden rum like Flor de Caña 12 Year (I tried both versions and quite frankly, am a fan of both for this drink).

So have I piqued your interests in grilling up some fruit? Let’s have at it…

Makes two drinks!
1 nectarine, halved
1 lime, cut into 4 wheels
4 cherries
1/2 ounce simple syrup
4 springs lemon thyme (or regular thyme with a pinch of fresh lemon zest)
2 cups crushed ice
3 ounces aged cachaça, such as Novo Fogo Barrel-Aged

  • Skewer halved nectarines, lime wheels, and cherries on three skewers (with one variety of fruit per skewer) and place on a hot, oiled grill. Cook until fruit begins to bubble and char lines are visible on all sides, rotating as necessary, about 4 minutes for cherries and 8 to 10 minutes total for nectarines and limes. Remove from grill and let cool for 10 minutes. Cut nectarines into quarters.
  • For each drink, muddle 2 cherries, 2 lime wheels, 2 nectarine quarters, one sprig thyme, and 1/4 ounce simple syrup in the bottom of a rocks glass until nectarine is broken up. Remove lime wheels from glass. Pack 1/2 cup crushed ice. Add 1 1/2 ounces cachaça and stir gently. Pack 1/2 cup more crushed ice into glass and garnish with second thyme sprig. Repeat for second drink. Serve immediately.

The nectarine flavor really sings in this drink, and the cherries add wonderful richness. One might think these fruits would be heading you toward the overly-sweet side. But the lime, once grilled, actually takes on a slightly savory essence that only gets more earthy with the addition of lemon thyme.

And one last mention here: the giveaway for the wine/ice bucket ends in just TWO DAYS! Enter now for a chance to win!