With strawberries in-volved, what can go wrong?

Growing up in Ventura County, it’s easy to take for granted just how fantastic strawberries are. That doesn’t change the fact that few concoctions are harmed by the addition of a few strawberries. So why not add the fruit to a Cosmopolitan?

When I received an email Dec. 3 touting the fruit as a “new twist on a favorite holiday cocktail” I wasn’t exactly doubtful of the possibilities, at least for my taste buds. I wasn’t so sure about the role strawberries play in the Christmas celebration (and at the onset of Hannukkah, I was at a loss identifying their place in the Hebraic tradition). I probably shouldn’t be surprised. As a newspaper editor, I slog through dozens of press releases each day that seemingly have no relevance to my publication.

Every now and then, though, even the irrelevant ones inspire a story. In this example, the California Strawberry Commission touted studies suggesting the antioxidant potential of strawberries is enhanced when combined with certain types of alcohol. Clearly, at a time when more and more farmers are transferring their land to high-value crops like strawberries, the commission wants to broaden their appeal, even when not in season. What better hook than suggesting that strawberries compliment the red and green tones of a lime-garnished Cosmo?

For me, though, the simple recipes in the commission’s email gave me an excuse to put off for yet another week a long-postponed Straight Up feature I have in the hopper in favor of an excuse to try something new. Knowing one of my best friends loves strawberries about as much as I do, I knew this was an excuse for us to indulge in one of our favorite treats.

Let it be said here and now: we intended to follow the recipe. Really we did. Before heading to the store to pick up our ingredients, I assured my companion that I had all the ingredients we needed except for fresh strawberries: a well-chilled bottle of vodka, orange liqueur and lime juice. After dinner, all we purchased was a pint of strawberries (and I must admit, I’m not a good Ventura County resident. The berries were grown in Salinas … but they were delectable).

If you’re following along at home, here’s what you want to do, according to the commission’s email. For each Cosmo, cut between two and four strawberries in half. Muddle them (save one) with a quarter-ounce of fresh lime juice and one ounce of the orange liqueur in a shaker. Add the vodka and ice, shake it, strain it, and garnish the drink with the last half-berry and a slice of lime.

Here’s what you do if you’re like us (read me) and you find you’re not all that well prepared. Rinse some strawberries and immediately slather them with whipped cream. Share. Cut a few more strawberries. Add some more whipped cream and eat them. Take the rest and realize you don’t have a muddler. Stick the strawberries in a blender. Add the last inch of Triple Sec and the last bit of Rose’s Lime Juice you’ve had sitting in your bar for months. Blend them just a touch.

Next, thank whoever, or whatever, you thank that you’ve kept your vodka in your freezer because you don’t have any ice ready, then kick yourself because you barely have enough vodka for each of you to have one drink. Add a little lemon juice because you had so little lime juice left over. Throw the whole mess in a shaker, do your thing, then forget the strainer and pour equal amounts of the concoction into each glass and enjoy. Finally, and this is absolutely essential, have more strawberries and whip cream as you do so.

Bartenders and strawberry commissioners across the state are probably recoiling in horror as they read these words, but I say improvisation proved to be the key to this situation. Not only was I able to clear out my bar in one fell swoop, but the end result was chilly strawberry goodness that proved a tasty start to the holiday season.