I’m not kidding you when I say this super simple cocktail is three years in the making. Really! It took me three years to get out of my head, and finally simplify one of my favorite cocktails in the world : the spa day cocktail with grapefruit + cucumber.
Here’s the story. When we lived in Chicago, there was a really cool restaurant / bar down the street. It was swanky, with the dark wood and industrial interior. Definitely our style. You would enter into a small room that housed the host stand, and you were surrounded by towering windows that went up two stories to a private event space. To your left was an expansive, gorgeous patio with fireplaces, cozy couch seating, and a private bar. To your right was the chic, industrial, I-need-to-be-sitting-at-that-bar, bar.
The cocktail list was great. Being in the prime of the craft cocktail movement, there were ample obscure ingredients and house made bitters, tinctures, syrups, etc. I will readily admit that I’m a fan of house made ingredients. I think it’s impressive that bartenders want to put genuine time and effort into the components of a cocktail. The quality is indisputably better, and it paves the way for unique cocktails at each bar.
After work sometimes, I would sit at this chic, industrial bar as I waited for Mark to join me. He took the blue line home everyday, and got off at the Grand stop. This bar just happened to be right off of that stop. While I would sit at the bar and wait for him to get there, I started to realize that I was living a reality that I had always envisioned for myself, and for us as a couple. We were both very successful at our jobs, we had a gorgeous apartment in downtown Chicago, and we were meeting for fancy cocktails after work.
It was literally what we had both been working towards. Being the successful couple that met for cocktails at a beautiful bar after work. This meeting was our chance to discuss our the ups and downs of the day, our plans for tomorrow, and to give us both the general sense that we were working towards a brighter future.
There was a cocktail on the menu called the spa day cocktail, and it just seemed appropriate. It was like treating myself to a relaxing, refreshing beverage after a long day. I would take a long, slow sip as soon as it was set in front of me, and I fell in love with it over and over again.
It’s not often that I think about cocktails for three years after I’ve had them. And there’s a good chance that the memories and feelings associated with this drink are what made it so memorable for me. But regardless of the reasoning, this was still a damn good cocktail.
It was light, it was incredibly refreshing, and it was exactly what I had envisioned a drink with the name “spa day cocktail” to taste like. Since that first sip, I knew I would need to make it at home someday.
Finally, three years later, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. It may be safe to assume that my version of a spa day cocktail isn’t anywhere close to what I drank three years ago. But these flavors are in my head, and my cocktail is exactly what I wanted. Creating this drink presents a new sense of accomplishment for me, too. We are no longer in a big city, I am no longer killing myself for 70 hours a week managing events, and I’m no longer waiting for Mark to join me at fancy bars. But that doesn’t mean I can’t reminisce and fully enjoy what my days currently entail. Having a couple of these drinks on my new balcony, surrounded by pine trees and quietness, just make my slower days that much sweeter.
Cheers to you and all of your accomplishments, regardless of what they may be. You have them, and you deserve to celebrate them. I hope you love this drink as much as I do!
spa day cocktail with grapefruit + cucumber
- 2 ounces fresh cucumber juice strained
- 1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice strained
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 3 ounces vodka
- 4 fresh mint leaves large
- 1 ounce ginger beer
- Peel the cucumber, then cut off the ends. Cut the peeled cucumber into 1/2" thick slices. Muddle two at a time in a pint glass, producing 1/2 ounce of fresh juice per two slices. Strain juice through a fine mesh sieve into a glass measuring cup, then pour into a cocktail shaker.ALTERNATIVELY // Peel skin, cut off ends. Slice the cucumber, then roughly chop it. Add chunks to a blender, blend until fully liquified; 1 minute. Double strain into a measuring cup, then pour into a cocktail shaker.
- Strain grapefruit juice to remove pulp. Add to the cocktail shaker with the cucumber juice. Then add lime juice, mint leaves, vodka, and a handful of ice to the shaker.
- Cap the shaker and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds to break up the ice and chill the shaker down considerably.
- Strain the shaker contents over fresh crushed ice into two old fashioned glasses. Top each cocktail with ginger beer, give a quick stir, and serve with mint leaves as garnish.