I don’t know where you guys live, but I live in The Middle. I am in the middle of the country -> in the middle of the state->and in the middle of SUBURBIA. We live in neighborhoods with quaint names and cul-de-sacs and families and mature trees and winding streets which depending on the year your neighborhood was built, might or might not have sidewalks… (it’s like people didn’t go for walks in the late 70s…)
In my opinion, as a very social person, a huge benefit to living in such a place is the neighbors. We already knew a handful of great friends who lived in the neighborhood when we moved, and on top of that we were lucky to move to a cul-de-sec that just happened in the last year and a half to flip over 3 of the 4 houses from original owners who were downsizing to young families that fell right into our late-millennial demographic.
This all brings me to the term Driveway Drinks. It’s pretty self explanatory, but essentially on days that the weather is in our favor, around 4 or 5 o’ clock—especially on Fridays—an unofficial Happy Hour bell rings (at least it does in my head. It’s actually more like one of those cartoon whistles sounding the end of the work day at the factory) and everyone starts wandering outside. Texts are sent–camping chairs are set up in the driveway of choice, drinks are poured, snacks are shared, kids play and depending on just how many drinks were consumed, pizza usually gets ordered.
The joy of having great neighbors is the lack of planning it requires to just hang out. I have friends with whom it takes WEEKS sometimes months to find a night (A SINGLE NIGHT) that works for everyone’s schedules. There are no G-Cal invites sent for Driveway Drinks, no planning in advance, and if you have something else to do later that day or you were planning dinner, all you have to do is wrap up your conversation, fold your camping chair, turn around and go inside! No hurt feelings, nobody feels like you’re cutting precious time short. Nope, it’s casual. Like Friday should always be.
For the first ever edition of Driveway Drinks, I was struck with inspiration while meal planning for the week. I tried out a Panang Beef Curry from my latest Cook’s Illustrated, and it requires kaffir lime leaves as an ingredient. Of course I promptly Amazon Prime’d myself some freeze dried leaves and when I opened the bag I was struck by how floral and limey and tangy they smelled. Certainly unlike any other lime smell my nose had previously had the pleasure of sniffing.
Quick lesson on Kaffir Limes: Kaffir limes are wrinkly brain-looking limes that are native to tropical Asia, including India, Thailand and the Philippines (to name a few). The zest and limes are the treasured parts of the lime, not the juice—and their floral aromatic qualities add all kinds of complexities and flavor to curries (like my recipe called for) and stir fries.
This drink is a simple twist on a classic Gin & Tonic. I made a Kaffir Lime simple syrup with sugar, lime leaves, a little (regular grocery store Persian) lime zest, and a squirt of honey.
Grab your camping chair and text your neighbors. It’s time for Driveway Drinks.
Kaffir Lime Gin & Tonics
For the Cocktail:
Your favorite Gin
Your favorite Tonic
Keffir Lime Simple Syrup (recipe below)
Limes to garnish
For the Kaffir Lime Simple Syrup:
1 C superfine sugar
1 C water
1/4 C loosely packed kaffir lime leaves
zest of half a grocery store lime
1 Tbsp Honey
For the Syrup: In a small saucepan combine the sugar, water, lime leaves, zest, and honey. Let come to a boil and stir to ensure all sugar has dissolved. Take off heat and let steep for 20 min. Pour through cheesecloth lined fine mesh strainer into measuring cup and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, pour into container and refrigerate. The simple syrup should keep in the fridge for up to 1 month.
For the Cocktail: the love of gin varies from person to person, and the suggested ratio of a G&T ranges from 1:1 (gin to tonic) to a 1:3 ratio. I have created this recipe according to my own tastes, feel free to adjust as necessary!
Prepare your highball cocktail glasses by filling them to the top with beautiful clear ice.* With a shot-glass OR your eyeballs–depending on how your week has gone–in each glass pour 2 oz Gin, 1.5 oz simple syrup, and 2oz Tonic Water. Garnish with lime. Enjoy!
*for the love of Katy Perry when making a cocktail at home, go spend $1.99 and get some clear ice from the grocery store/gas station/bodega(?). It tastes better, it melts better, it looks better. It’s just BETTER.