Summer Sipping: Try Raphael's Strawberry + Balsamic Cocktail

Photo courtesy Raphael

We're like you: We can't help but buy that entire flat of beautiful bright-red strawberries at the farmers' market, but when we get home, we can't find enough uses for them. So after you've made the shortcakes, pies and jam, consider tossing a few into that rocks glass with a little vodka and... balsamic vinegar. You'll be surprised at how delicious it is.

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The combination isn't new--it probably originates in Italy, home of true balsamic vinegar--but chefs all over the country have been putting balsamic-soaked strawberries on their summer menus for years. The richness of the vinegar adds a lovely acidic balance to the bright, sweet fruit. For dessert, it generally needs nothing more than a dollop of whipped cream or mascarpone cheese.

The two also make a stellar summer sipper. At Raphael in Studio City, bartender Chris Parke blends fresh strawberries, balsamic vinegar, lemon and vodka in a refreshing, seasonal cocktail. All of Parke's drinks accompany chef Adam Horton's menus perfectly. If you haven't been to Raphael in awhile--or ever--with Horton and Parke in place, plus the newly designed and expanded dining room and lounge, there's a breath of new life in the two-year-old space.

"The quality of the strawberries determines how good the drink will be," says Parke. Luckily we have some of the country's best growing right here (maybe splurge on Harry's Berries for this). He also uses fresh herbs growing on the living garden wall for his cocktails; a bit of basil or mint would add a nice savory touch to this one. Try it for yourself at home:

The Balsamic
Recipe adapted from Chris Parke at Raphael
Makes 1 cocktail

  • 3 strawberries, destemmed and quartered
  • 2 ounces Ketel One vodka
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 splashes balsamic vinegar

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the strawberries and add a few pieces of ice. Add the rest of the ingredients and shake well. Pour into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with lemon twist and fresh strawberry.

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