Spring is in full swing. And along with the tempestuous weather and the blooms, this season brings plenty of outdoor activities. Last weekend, I attended a crawfish boil; the weekend before, a cookout in Overton Park. Both required bringing some kind of adult beverage. Instead of picking up the ubiquitous six pack or screw-top wine, I've been pre-mixing cocktails in Mason jars. I might be a few steps behind on the Pinterest trend, but short of pouring a quart of beer into a YETI tumbler, there's a reason why Mason jars are the go-cups du jour.
First, they're versatile. A Pimm's Cup, a margarita (frozen or on-the-rocks), a Bloody Mary, an adult lemonade, a daiquiri, or a simple gin and tonic — they all work in a Mason jar. Second, they can be somewhat healthy; the trick lies in finding recipes that rely on frozen fruit, which will help keep your drink cold longer and cause less dilution than ice. Third, when you add a layer of wax paper between the lid and the band, your drink won't spill while you're traveling with it. And fourth, they're eco-friendly.
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Now is the time to begin stockpiling Mason jar daiquiris, which will keep for a month in the freezer. For my go-to recipe, which I found on the blog "The Yummy Life," you'll need frozen concentrated lemonade or limeade, frozen fruit, and rum. Combine all the ingredients in the blender with ice, then pour the concoction into half-pint mason jars, leaving at least a half-inch of space at the top for expansion. Screw on the lids, and place your drinks in the freezer. Because of the alcohol in the rum, they'll never freeze completely — at most you'll need to thaw a daiquiri for five or 10 minutes to return it to that perfect slushy consistency.
Make-ahead frozen margaritas are just as easy. Blend frozen concentrated limeade, tequila, triple sec, and lime juice in a blender, add ice and blend again, then pour them into half-pint Mason jars, again leaving space at the top for expansion. When you're ready to serve (as soon as an hour or up to a few weeks later), have a plate of kosher salt and a cut lime handy so you can salt the rim of the Mason jars while your drinks are still frozen. Let thaw for a few minutes, and enjoy.
Making Pimm's Cups for a crowd involves just a bit more work. Line up six of those half-pint Mason jars, and add slices from two lemons, two oranges, and a cucumber to each jar. Top that with a few mint leaves and a couple of fresh cherries, then pour a quarter-cup of Pimm's No. 1 into each jar. Screw on the lids, and take a few bottles of ginger beer to the party with you. When you get to your destination, fill each jar with ice and top it with ginger beer.
It took a trip to visit friends in Portland, Oregon, one summer for me to discover the delicious blend of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka (which is distilled off the coast of South Carolina) and lemonade, another easily potable Mason jar cocktail. The recipe couldn't be simpler: equal parts booze and lemonade, over ice, with a lemon twist.
Admittedly, the blueberry-infused vodka lemonade recipe on the Washington, D.C.-based blog "KeepItSimpleFoods" makes for a showier cocktail. You'll need to do some advance prep work to make this drink, allowing at least 12 hours to infuse vodka with fresh blueberries, which will give you a gorgeous purple base for your cocktail. Strain the infusion, and save the berries for later. Once you're ready to make your cocktail, you'll want to thaw out some frozen berries and add sugar. Place them into the bottom of a Mason jar, and pack the jar with ice. Next, pour in one part blueberry vodka to two parts lemonade, and give the jar a shake. Add a thin slice of lemon, and serve.