’Tis the season for summer entertaining. Do you need inspiration for something fresh and fun? Explore the following three clever suggestions that don’t require you to be a mixologist, barista or chef.
The Low-Proof Happy Hour
In Jules Aron’s “The Low-Proof Happy Hour,” you’ll learn how easy it can be to create beautiful, clever cocktails with only a few ingredients that are low in alcohol by volume (ABV). Aron is both a wellness practitioner and an experienced bartender. Both of her talents come to the fore here.
To make a great cocktail, you need top-quality ingredients, the right glassware, the best ice for the drink and the best method of creating (shaken or stirred). Aron lays out the basics and an extensive list of pantry items before diving into the recipes. These concoctions range from classic low-ABV cocktails such as spritzers and Pimm’s Cups to riffs on more high-volume drinks such as a lower alcohol take on the classic margarita using sherry and celery syrup. Some drinks, such as a watermelon frosé, sound easily delicious. Others have more challenging ingredients (think beets or yogurt). Aron includes an extensive list of homemade syrup recipes and websites for sourcing less commonly available items.
Two of Baltimore’s best cocktail bars, Dutch Courage and Fadensonnen, have regular low-ABV cocktails on the menu.
Boba Cookbook: Delicious, Easy Recipes for Amazing Bubble Tea
Since bubble tea chains have been popping up in the region, I’ve become a convert. Even if I didn’t want to try to make my own, this book serves as a primer to help you decode the menu of these sweet, creamy fun drinks.
If you want to try to make your own, the process is fairly simple. Brew some tea, add the tapioca balls or fruit, stir in some cream and sip. You can use black teas, fruit teas or some herbal teas as a base. Then add sugar. All you need to make the balls is water and tapioca powder, easily found at supermarkets or Asian markets. Do you want to add milk or cheese foam, made by whipping cream cheese into the milk foam? The process is just like making any type of whipped cream.
Wendy Leung fills this book with enthusiasm. As the owner of a New York City boba shop, she gives you basic recipes with the knowledge to experiment with flavors.
Stuff Every Cheese Lover Should Know
Bringing fancy cheese to a potluck has long been my life hack. Make a beautiful cheese tray with no cooking involved. With this small book (about the size of a wedge of cheese), you’ll learn why a cheese tray is ideal for late summer entertaining. Like a piece of pungent cheese, this book packs a punch in a tiny volume.
While you likely won’t make your own cheese (although a simple recipe for paneer is included), you’ll discover the art and science of how cheese varieties are made and their history. For practical purposes, you’ll also learn how to create the best cheeseboards for one, two or a party. You’ll understand how to match cheese with wine or beer, plus other foods that make good complements on the tray. But this book isn’t for cheese snobs only. Alexandra Jones, a food journalist and cheese expert, tells us what we’ve known since we were kids: Nothing melts on a cheeseburger like an old-fashioned slice of processed American cheese.
Many of our local grocery stores have cheese sections that would be the envy of consumers only a few decades ago. Also try the new DiPasquale’s Italian Marketplace for Italian cheeses, Prima Foods for Greek cheeses and Firefly Farms at Whitehall Mill for delicious goat cheeses.
Jamie L. Watson is a collection development manager with Baltimore County Public Library.