On a lazy Sunday, I peeled an orange while listening to the sounds of grass being mowed through the open window. The syrup boiled, and I picked mint from the herb planters in my backyard. As I rinsed the leaves off with the garden hose, I heard my little next door neighbors attempts to woo passing cars with 25-cent cups of lemonade. I muddled mint and orange and added gin, and then I drank this cocktail on my porch in the warm July sun. I drank two more, and then I fell asleep. Sounds just terrible, doesn’t it?
In case you were wondering, orange simple syrup is pretty much how I imagine rays of summer sunlight would taste if you melted them into a glass. Considering the temperature outside is currently 41° F, I could really use the reminder of the cocktail hour that once was. I bet you could too. Syrup recipe comes from Bon Appetit. —Rebecca Firkser
Test Kitchen Notes
Even before I gathered the makings of this cocktail, I knew it would sing to me. It's a snap to put together. I decided to add orange rind slivers in place of zest in the syrup. Vodka, lime, mint, and orange is a marriage made in heaven -- and now in a shaker filled with ice. A glass with smushed oranges and mint, a vigorous twist of the wrist, a splash of soda, and a mint leaf garnish make the perfect sundowner. This drink gets better as you reach the bottom of your glass! —nykavi
To make the simple syrup: Using a vegetable peeler to remove large strips, zest the orange. Add zest, sugar, and 1/2 cup water to a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Strain the syrup into a small jar or bowl. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge, tightly covered, for several weeks.
For the cocktail: Make the orange simple syrup and let it cool completely. In the bottom of a glass, muddle sliced orange and mint. In a cocktail shaker, combine the syrup, lime juice, vodka, and ice. Shake well and pour into the glass with muddled orange and mint and fresh ice. Top with a splash of seltzer.
Rebecca Firkser is a freelance food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, among them Food52, TASTE, Edible Manhattan, Extra Crispy, The Strategist, and Bon Appetit's Healthyish. She contributed recipes and words to the book "Breakfast: The Most Important Book About the Best Meal of the Day." Once upon a time, she studied theatre design and art history at Smith College, so if you need a last-minute avocado costume or want to talk about Wayne Thiebaud's cakes, she's your girl.