Island bookshelf: Led astray by spirits … and beach plums

STOCK PHOTO Ms. Zavatto’s new book offers Island-themed cockail recipes.

STOCK PHOTO
Ms. Zavatto’s new book offers Island-themed cockail recipes.

Not ready to let go of summer yet? September on Shelter Island can sometimes be a sweet dessert after the multi-course menu of June, July and August. Step out on the porch and enjoy a soft breeze while the sun still sparkles on the water. Before you do, though, pick up Amy Zavatto’s book, “Prosecco Made Me Do It,” and fix yourself a refreshing cocktail.

Maybe a “Grand Avenue Frolic,” named in honor of “the old hotel called the Chequit that used to be the site of a great bar where lots and lots of merrymaking occurred on a nightly basis all summer long.” Based on the traditional Madras, the Frolic mixes lots of juices with vodka, then adds some fizz with a splash of Prosecco.

She also suggests trying a mixture of pineapple and basil — quite a departure from the herb’s traditional uses — with some of the bubbly as well. The resulting cocktail is called “Come On In,” in honor of the pineapple’s role as a symbol of welcome.

The book is a breezily written compendium of cocktail recipes, all drawing on the Italian sparkling wine, which, the author writes, “adds lift and life” when paired with juices and other beverages. “Like mustard, butter and milk,” her introduction states, “it really should be in your refrigerator at all times.”

Another of her recent books, “Forager’s Cocktails” suggests concocting a “Beach Plum Fizz” to savor one final toast to the season: “Beach plums ripen during the last gasps of summer,” she wrote.

Beach Plum Fizz

2 ounces Plymouth gin

1 ounce beach plum syrup

½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

3-4 ounces club soda

Fill a cocktail shaker half-full with ice cubes, pour in the gin, beach plum syrup and lemon juice. Shake for 20 to 35 seconds. Slowly strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with club soda and garnish with lemon peel.

Beach Plum Syrup

1 cup beach plums, washed and pitted

1 cup sugar

¼ cup water

Combine in a saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, stirring for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the plums start to break down and the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool. Transfer to a sealed jar and keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.

(The author adds, “Should you not live in the vicinity of beach plums, you may want to reconsider some life choices.”)

Ms. Zavatto said her Shelter Island roots were deeply entwined with her career development. “There were two big reasons I became a writer,” she said, “my Shelter Island teachers: Mrs. Clark, who I first met when she was a second grade substitute teacher, and Mrs. McNally who taught English at the Shelter Island High School. She was also our yearbook maven. I was the yearbook editor and we won awards from Columbia Journalism School. Shelter Island schools were absolutely pivotal to my becoming a writer.”

Still, like most people, she pursued a path that paid the bills. “I was working as a book editor and very unhappy with my job in 2000,” she said. “When I finally quit at my husband’s urging, I went to work as a full-time writer and I’m so glad I did.”

Since then, Ms. Zavatto has written several books, many about cocktails, wine pairings and entertaining. Several draw deeply on her experiences on the Island, or her Italian roots and Zavatto family traditions.

Currently, she’s working on a book of essays called, “Drinking With Your Family.” It grew out of an essay she wrote for Imbibe Magazine about Brandy Alexanders. “My family always made them at Christmas,” she said. “It’s the story of how we had stopped making them when my mom died, but then started making them again to keep the tradition alive.”

It will be something to look forward to, even as the seasons change.

“Forager’s Cocktails” is published by Sterling Epicure. Finley’s Fiction, which carries these books and several others by Shelter Island authors, will be open on weekends through September.

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