This article was published in the July 2014 issue of the Irish American News under the “Guilty Pleasures” column.
Shandy—the sweet mix of lager and lemon Fanta—reminds me of summer in Ireland. One sip of the honey-colored brew and I am transported back to a stunning Saturday afternoon in June, 2006, when I found myself relaxing on the patio of Belfast’s Cutter’s Warf.
Friends and family had gathered to celebrate a birthday. Our skin was quickly converting from pale white to a bright red under the unrelenting rays, as we lifted glasses and knocked them together proclaiming “Slàinte!”
Just a few days ago, my fresh summer sunburn, acquired after an afternoon bike ride in Lincoln Park, reminded me of that particular sunny afternoon, and suddenly I was craving a Shandy – along with something summery and tasty, such as a BBQ.
Eating outside is one of the things I love most about summer in the Midwest. There’s something nostalgic about the experience, even as it’s happening in the moment. Lighting the coals for the grill, calling up some friends, and throwing together a wonderfully impromptu summer soiree feels like the world slows down just enough for you to catch your breath, sip on something iced and sink your teeth into a juicy hamburger.
Back when I lived in Ireland, what I missed the most, besides sunny days, were drink options beyond beer, cider and simple mixed drinks. A Chicago BBQ (and perhaps an Irish BBQ too) cannot go wrong with a special cocktail to accompany the array of summer salads, fruits, vegetable skewers, hotdogs, hamburgers, and brats.
This is where Revae Schneider of Femme Du Coupe comes in. She’s a Chicago-based entrepreneur who specializes in bar-styling, custom drink consulting, and cocktail crafting classes, among other boozy things.
For Schneider, when it comes to the art of cocktails, it’s all about creativity and accessibility. “A lot of people want to know how to make cocktails, but there are many obstacles because it’s very intimidating,” she says. “My goal is to take the intimidating factor out of mixology.”
To support her goal, Schneider is planning a book, one based on simple 3-step cocktails. And she’s working on expanding a product line of specially crafted cocktail syrups that have names like Ginger Zest and Winter Spice.
In the meantime, for your summer BBQ, she recommends a cocktail using her own Le Sirop Lavender Honey, which she whips up in her own kitchen and sells online. “The one that I’ve been doing lately that I’m hugely obsessed with is comprised of freshly squeezed lime juice, watermelon juice, lavender honey and tequila.”
You can follow Schneider’s recipe below or enroll in one of her classes, where she is an encouraging, hands-on presence.
“When I teach a class, I am able to see my student’s reactions to making their own drinks,” Schneider said. “Seeing the excitement on their faces and knowing that what they are making is cool to watch.”
Schneider teaches classes locally and, on occasion, nationally, but she would love to teach abroad and travel as much as possible. One of her inspirations is Paris, after all. It’s part of her business’ namesake.
She’s never traveled to Ireland, though. When I asked her which cocktail she’d introduce to the Emerald Isle, she stopped and thought for a minute. “I would do an old fashioned or some sort of gin cocktail.”
Her summer favorite—kumquat, thyme, ginger, scotch, and fresh-squeezed lime juice—will have to wait. “It’s just phenomenal, but who keeps Kumquats on-hand?”
Not me, but I would certainly love to try a cocktail that requires one. Maybe Ireland would too.
2.0oz Blanco Tequila (Olmeca Altos recommended)
2.0oz Watermelon Water
1.0oz Lime Juice
1.0oz Le Sirop Lavender Honey
Revae Schneider, Proprietress
Femme Du Coupe