Column by Dy Godsey
Photography by Jennifer Janviere
Outdoor drinking: you hear the phrase and your mind conjures sunshine, good company and cold ones. It’s practically in our DNA. Wisconsin’s Germanic ancestors had a powerful influence over our state’s drinking culture. The fine folks who flauted tradition to invent the brandy old-fashioned were additionally well-known for day drinking together under the trees, surrounded by friends and family. This season, that legacy is ours to celebrate. Tempus fugit, my friend.
The sweet warmth of the sun will not be ours forever. You must squeeze every drop of fun out of these dog days. Baseball games, paddleboarding, picnics, camping, biking… these are the times you’ll remember.
Dog Days of Drinking
Whether you are an accomplished summer drinker, a green neophyte or something in-between, the Wisconsin beckon to day drink is calling you. It goes without saying that moderation is required—but whether you’re sipping beer, wine or spirit, you can have your fun and drink it, too.
Put a call out to your friends and meet at any one of Southeast Wisconsin’s sunny patios to hydrate and soak up vitamin D without too much fuss. With a little planning, you can make your way to a Brewers game for some quality tailgating. If you just want to spend time with a lot of friends, drinking in city parks is legal with a permit, which costs just $85 for up to 50 people. Edible Milwaukee is all about local love and this really is Brew City, so let this be your year to leave the big factory beers on the shelf and impress your friends with something from one of our area’s award-winning craft breweries.
Tipples To Go
This is a great time to be a wine drinker. No longer must you lug around 750 mL glass bottles—today’s wines come in a variety of packaging for on-the-go oenophiles. The simplest picnic packaging is the tetra-pak, the small paper box with the reclosable lid. When you’re done enjoying the wine, the package can be folded up to a fraction of its original size, for ease of transportation, and recycled. Or, try Cedar Creek and Wollersheim Winery’s new “minis”—little plastic wine bottles of your favorite local libations.
If you love cocktails, follow a few guidelines and enjoy them under the sun. Unless you are literally drinking in your own backyard, it’s best to leave the overproof booze and short drinks at home and opt for sparkly low-ABV stunners. I’m talking about wine-based sangrias, light tonic drinks, or any cocktail that features more mixer than spirit. Make these in batches ahead of time for ease of service. In whatever type of container you’ll be transporting them, freeze some of the non-spirituous, uncarbonated ingredients in the bottom of the vessel, then pour the rest of your cocktail on top of that. This will help you keep it close to an optimal temperature without watering it down. Empty screw-cap bottles are perfect for transporting your drinks and generally can be recycled.
Boozy Berries and Other Fruit
By far my favorite way to bring booze to a picnic was inspired by the Legend of the Roman Catholic Nuns. When I was a small-town lass in a large family, there were surprisingly few house rules—but one of them was that we had to be confirmed Catholic before we could decide for ourselves whether to attend church on Sundays. Part of the process was that we had to go on a retreat with other aspiring confirmed Catholics, supervised by nuns. Legend had it that the nuns would inject vodka into oranges, making a portable screwdriver that could pass virtually any inspection. Given that they had to spend a weekend with about 30 teenagers, who could blame them?
My own variation on this tradition is this: Make a large batch of sangria about a week before your event by soaking berries and chopped fruit in your favorite blend of wine, spirit and liqueur. I soaked blackberries and pineapple in Door Peninsula’s Blackberry wine, a South American spirit called cachaça and a little pomegranate liqueur. The idea is to make your choices such that the sugar content of the additive is similar to the sugar in the fruit—in other words, the sweeter the fruit, the more liqueur you’ll use.
In the days that follow, osmosis will try to equalize the ingredients. Juice from the fruit will infuse the alcohol, which in turn will have passed through the cell walls of the fruit. The night before your party, strain off the liquid and store it in your refrigerator. You can bring this with you or leave it for future enjoyment. Bring the fruit to the party, because it has become a lovely low-ABV treat you can nibble on in the sunlit days ahead.
Wear a hat. Use sunscreen. Drink up!
Dy Godsey is a career bartender who blends classic formulations with freshingredients and a DIY philosophy. Learn more at www.dygodsey.com.