In my previous life, I was known as The Wine Maven. I not only tasted wine for a living, but I sold wine as well. Not a bad gig, right? Part of my sensory education was to taste every known fruit, vegetable, herb and fungus possible in order to better understand these flavors and aromas in wine.
If you're a fan of spicy Asian food, such as Thai or Chinese, you've probably had Gewurztraminer wine, a fragrant white wine that is the perfect partner to the Asian spices. If you've had this wine, it tastes and smells like a liquid lychee fruit. The lychee is indigenous to China. You can often get them fresh in season at Chinese grocers, but you can get them canned year-round at most mainstream grocery stores, although the heavy syrup in the can makes them taste sweeter than they really are.
Lychee is a taste that's hard to describe if you haven't had it. A fresh lychee is about the size of a plum with a hard nut-like exterior and a white fleshy fruit on the inside that is similar in texture to a not-quite-ripe plum. When lychees are canned, they are similar in texture to a very firm pear and are about the size of a golf ball.
In Panama, lychee drinks are popular because the flavor is fruity without being overly sweet. Plus, it has an exotic flavor that says, "vacation in a glass" while still being food-friendly, much like the popular Gewurztraminer wine. This fruity tartness is what makes it appealing in a warm weather cocktail.
When I opened my two new liqueurs, I tried them each alone and then with various mixers. They were both good alone but not great. I then mixed them together, and my taste buds said WOW. I posted my recipe on Facebook and asked my Facebuds to help me name it. Even though it's lighter in alcohol than a traditional martini, my Facebuds overwhelmingly loved the name Maven's Martini... and thus one of my signature cocktails was born.
Maven's Martini is very refreshing on a hot day. It's not as sweet as a sangria and not as potent as a traditional martini, so you won't feel bad if you have two or three. I also use sugar-free cranberry juice and sugar-free soda to keep the calories down. Give it a try and tell me what you think.
Maven's Martini - A Panama Punch Drink Recipe
1 oz. Lychee liqueur
1 oz. Grapefruit liqueur
2 oz. Cranberry juice
2-3 oz. Fresca, or other lemon-lime soda
Pour into a martini shaker. Add ice. Shake, shake, shake and then pour the strained liquid into your glass of choice. Put your feet up in a hammock and enjoy.