Celebratory concoctions to follow the pomp and circumstance

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Graduating from college is no small feat, but it’s the graduates’ parents who have the real reason to celebrate. Consider serving some of these summery edible cocktails or pitcher drinks at your graduation party and raise a glass, popsicle, or jiggly square to the end of tuition payments.

Watermelon cooler

I can feel myself getting smarterNow that finals are over, it’s safe to reveal the promising findings of a recent study by researchers at the University of Illinois. Men who’ve had two pints of beer or two medium glasses of wine are better and quicker at solving brain teasers than those who’ve abstained. (Sorry ladies, they’re not sure about you yet.) Alcohol impairs the analytical kind of thinking, but frees up the creative kind. So, if you plan to tie one on and need to figure out a creative way to get home safely, think it over after drink two and before drink three.

And, for the ultimate in free-thinking, fill your two glasses with some of the marijuana-laced wines that a handful of California producers are making (and drinking) for a high on the down-low.

Serves 6 to 8
3 pounds watermelon
2 Tbsp. fresh mint, plus more for garnish
1 Tbsp. superfine sugar
Ice cubes
1 1/4 cups ginger ale
1/4 cup vodka
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 or 4 splashes bitters
Purée watermelon in a food processor. Muddle (see Cocktailspeak 101) mint with sugar in a large pitcher filled with ice cubes. Stir in two cups purée, ginger ale, vodka, lemon juice, and bitters. Garnish with fresh mint.

Pimm’s pitcher

Serves 6 to 8
Ice cubes
2 cups lemonade
1 cup ginger ale
1/2 cup Pimm’s No. 1
1/2 cup gin
Lemon slices, for garnish
Cucumber slices, for garnish
Fill a large pitcher with ice cubes. Stir in lemonade, ginger ale, Pimm’s No. 1, and gin. Garnish with lemon and cucumber slices.

Strawberry splash

Serves 10
3 lbs. strawberries, hulled and coarsely
chopped
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons citrus vodka
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Ice
Soda water
In a bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar and let stand, stirring occasionally, until the strawberries release their juices, about 10 minutes. In a blender, combine the strawberries and their juices, the vodka, and lime juice with two cups of ice and purée. Pour into a pitcher. To serve, fill glasses halfway with ice, pour cocktail into glasses and top each with a splash of soda water.

White sangria

Serves 6 to 8
1 bottle Sauvignon Blanc, or other dry
but fruity white wine
1 1/2 cups St-Germain
1/4 cup Cointreau
6 strawberries, sliced
6 raspberries
2 peaches or nectarines, sliced
1 orange, thinly sliced crosswise
1 lb. green and red grapes
Ice
Combine all of the ingredients in a pitcher, cover, and refrigerate overnight or let stand at room temperature for three hours. Serve in wine glasses over ice.

Margarita popsicles

Serves 8
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
Kosher salt, for garnish
8 small paper cups
8 popsicle sticks
Combine sugar, lime juice, water, lemon juice, and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool, transfer to a blender, add tequila and Grand Marnier, and blend until smooth. Pour into the cups and cover the top of each tightly with foil. Poke the popsicle stick through the center of the foil. Freeze until hard, preferably overnight. Remove from freezer, run cup under warm water to loosen, and sprinkle with kosher salt.

French 75 Jell-O squares

Serves 18 to 24
1 1/4 cups plus 4 tablespoons champagne
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
3 envelopes gelatin
6 tablespoons cognac
Place 1¼ cups champagne, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan and then sprinkle gelatin on top. Allow the gelatin to soak in mixture for two minutes. Heat over low, stirring until gelatin has completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining champagne and cognac. Pour mixture into a loaf pan lightly wiped with non-stick spray and chill for 1-2 hours, or overnight. Cut into squares and garnish with raspberries and a lemon twist.

Paloma Jell-O squares

Serves 18 to 24
1 1/3 cups grapefruit soda (like Izzy’s)
2 tablespoons frozen limeade concentrate,
thawed
2 envelopes gelatin
2/3 cup tequila
Fresh grapefruit segments for garnish
Place soda and limeade concentrate into a small saucepan and sprinkle with the gelatin. Allow the gelatin to soak in mixture for two minutes. Heat over low, stirring until gelatin has completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the tequila. Pour mixture into a loaf pan lightly wiped with non-stick spray and chill for 1-2 hours, or overnight. Cut into squares and garnish with a small grapefruit segment.

COCKTAILSPEAK 101

Muddle (v.): To combine solid ingredients, usually in the bottom of a mixing glass or cocktail shaker, by firmly pressing them with a muddler (a long pestle traditionally made of wood) or a wooden spoon to release their flavors before adding the majority of the liquid ingredients.

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