"A cocktail is only as good as the worst ingredient," says Ashley Vinci, bartender at Billy's in downtown Roanoke. Vinci was chosen as the featured Virginia bartender for the new book "A Field Guide to Drinking in America."
"I'm a big advocate for fresh everything," says Vinci. "It's important when making a craft cocktail to use fresh ingredients to get the correct flavor profile. The best ingredients to work with are the ones that are in season."
One of the most popular and refreshing summer drinks is sangria. "You can't go wrong with sangria," says Vinci. "You can put anything in it and it's good."
For her Sweet Heart Sangria, Vinci uses berries, apples and serrano pepper for a unique take on the classic cocktail.
Sweet Heart Sangria
Raspberry and Serrano Pepper Sangria
- 1 small carton of raspberries
- 1 small carton of strawberries
- 1 lime
- 2 apples, granny smith and a braeburn
- 1 serrano pepper (more if you dare)
- 1 bottle of Viognier
- 1/2 cup of white grape juice
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1 can of club soda
- Mint leaves for garnish
Finely dice both the apples and the strawberries. Cut the lime and the serrano pepper into thick slices.
Layer the fruits in a tall pitcher, adding a dash of sugar between each layer. (For an interesting twist, you could use honey or agave syrup instead of the sugar.)
On top, add the sliced serrano chile and the remaining sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Add the Viognier to the fruit and sugar mixture.
Add the white grape juice and top off with club soda. Place in the refrigerator to chill.
Once the sangria has chilled, it will be ready to serve. Make sure to get a good scoop of berries in your glass. (But watch out for those serrano peppers; they have a lot of heat for a small pepper!)
Garnish the drink with fresh mint and serve.