Crimson Cocktails

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Use strawberries to add color, sweetness and flair to springtime spirits

April manifests the promise of spring and marks a time in which farmers markets begin happyblooming with vibrant colors and ripe, hand-picked fruits. Among the season’s spoils, bright red festival strawberries stand out—proud symbols of Louisiana’s heritage in farming. Tangipahoa Parish produces about 6 million pounds of strawberries alone on a mere 400 acres in as few as six months. These luscious jewels are a member of the rose family and own the unique classification of being the only fruit that bears its seeds on the outside. Long thought to be an aphrodisiac, they were given to newlyweds on their wedding night in provincial France. Strawberries are also known as a symbol of Venus, the goddess of love, most likely due to their scarlet hue and heart shape.

Native Americans cultivated the berries as early as 1643, which they would smash to mix with meal for strawberry bread. By the 1800s, commercial cultivation of strawberries had begun in North America. These blushing beauties are farmed from Alaska to Florida, with major crops being grown in California (producing 80 percent of our country’s bounty year-round), Louisiana, Oregon, Michigan, Tennessee and Washington. Here in the South, the season runs from November to May, peaking in early April.

The strawberry is a “super fruit” that one would be wise to incorporate into their daily diet. Studies have shown that eating strawberries can lower oxidized LDL cholesterol, making them beneficial to heart health. Their levels of antioxidants soar high above other fruits, containing an array of phytonutrients, including flavonoids, anthocyanidins and ellagic acid, that help combat free radicals responsible for causing cancer and advanced aging. Strawberries are also an excellent source of vitamin C; one serving has more than twice as much as one medium orange. They are low in calories and sugar, a very good source of dietary fiber, iodine, potassium and folate, vitamins B2, B5 and B6, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, copper and vitamin K.

Looking for an easy way to fit these wonder berries into your nutritional regimen? Try marrying them to your favorite drink. Strawberries are naturally sweet and lend a bright cherry color to cocktails. Sample one of these seasonal suggestions at loa or create your own crimson concoction at home.

Spring’s Promise
Available at loa through April

1.5 oz. Chopin Vodka
.5 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.5 oz. cucumber simple syrup
2 Louisiana fresh ripe strawberries
Splash of White Star Champagne (or soda water)
Peel of cucumber for garnish

Muddle strawberries in a mixing glass and add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake well and strain with Hawthorne and Julep strainers into tall glass with ice. Top with a splash of Champagne and cucumber garnish.

To make cucumber simple syrup: Cut cucumber into ¼-inch wheels or slice longwise depending on your container shape and soak in 1 cup of filtered water for 24 to 48 hours.  Remove the cucumber pieces and add 2 cups of sugar. Close container tightly and shake well until sugar is dissolved. Will keep refrigerated up to one month.

Everlasting Pleasures

1.5 oz. Patrón XO Café Tequila
2 Louisiana fresh ripe strawberries
.5 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
.5 oz. Smith Creamery chocolate milk

Muddle strawberries in a mixing glass and add remaining ingredients and ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with sliced strawberries or shaved chocolate for extra flair!