Grilled Pineapple in Jasmine Tea

As the Skinny drink craze kicks into high gear, I thought I would add a few thoughts on the whole concept and some alternatives to the pre-bottled mess that is being offered to take advantage of people’s desires for lower calorie and less aggressive flavored drinks.

The problem is not with having lower calorie drinks or cocktails, but how you do them versus buying a pre-made drink or spirit. Just saying Skinny doesnt mean anything…If you drink a ton of them it adds up. And some of the Skinny offerings aren’t even very skinny to begin with if you read the fine print.

I’d like to offer a few easy alternatives that anyone can do at home or in any bar, anywhere.

There is the DIET/CLUB SODA OPTION, but that is obvious. The not so obvious ones that have been around forever are the use of club soda instead of sugared sodas or juices…or the use of club soda to cut your sugar soda in half. The later is what is generally called a “Presbyterian” or “press” when one has a spirit, and half club soda and half ginger ale or 7UP. This was originally done to cut the sweetness and syrupy taste of these drinks, especially if you are drinking many of them.

But this has the added benefit of cutting the calories of your mixer in half. Voila! Skinny and not even tryin!

The next alternative to make even greater savings on calories is to have a spirit and club soda and add a splash of something for a hint of flavor. Simply a “vodka soda and splash of cran” is a fairly well known cocktail already, but is a great way to skinnify your drink.

The LESS MIXER OPTION  If you enjoy drinks like Cosmos and Lemon Drops you can do the same thing to those style drinks by just using a splash of mixer, instead of the standard recipes. Like a vodka chilled and served up, with a splash of lime, cran and cointreau…or even just a splash of cran for taste and color.

Not only do these drinks have less calories and are easy to make…they tend to be much easier on the stomach and palate, are much more refreshing, and give you better value by upping the spirits a bit and diminishing the mixers. But upping the spirits ratio might beg for one to also use a smaller glass. Smaller glasses is such an obvious way to make your drink skinnier, it gets overlooked the most. It forces you to ration your drink naturally.

The last alternative is the homemade take on the “Vitamin Water” style of drink.

A month ago I recreated a drink I made for Vosges Haute Chocolate and St Germain for the Southern Wine and Spirits quarterly Late Night Event. This one featured Vodka.

Vodka is either very easy to mix with or very hard to mix with,  depending on your point of view. I take the view that it is difficult to mix with and maintain any semblance of the vodka in the drink.

Grilled Pineapple made into Heart Shaped Garnish

My take on mixing would be to use very subtle flavors and taste sensations. I decided to do a “Vitamin Water” style drink with vodka.

The base for this was a high quality Hand Rolled Jasmine Tea, (tea is a great base for the “water” style of drink since you can control the sugar etc yourself and brew it to be as subtle or strong as you want)

The tea itself is wonderful, but vodka and iced jasmine tea is 1 dimensional. To add some subtle flavors and a little bit of acid and sugar for the palate, I grilled fresh pineapple and infused the tea for 1 or two days in the fridge. I do not crush or puree the pineapple. I only want the juices and flavors of the sliced and grilled pineapple to enter the tea and be in that subtle equilibrium. If I mashed the pineapple, I would have far too much juice, sugar and acid going on for what I want…But that would be a good drink or base for another option, just not this one here.

This process now gives this tea a new dimension that has hints of tropical pineapple, the caramelization gives off subtle notes that work with the tea and the hints of clear pineapple juice that naturally move into the tea by osmosis, and the tea flows into the pineapple pieces (garnish or cool appetizer coming up!)

Heart Shaped Pineapple Skewers

Remove the pineapple and then strain any other particles or pieces that have fallen off into the tea.

Taste it for acidity and sweetness. You can add a touch of lemon juice or cane sugar( no lemon peel will overpower the tea and pineapple) if it is too subtle for your taste (I have done this)

This is really just a form of iced tea, but it lends itself nicely to a vodka drink.

Now to make this a refreshing, tall drink just chill some vodka strain into a tall glass full of ice, and top with the the chilled, grilled pineapple Jasmine tea. Add a piece of grilled pineapple for garnish…the pieces are delicious!

This will keep in the fridge, sealed, for a week or more. And you dont have to put any vodka in it!

This is both delicious and for the palate for the occasion. But it is also very low in calories. Skinny can be a beautiful bi-product and when things work in harmony, things are happy and real. This drink was made with taste and palate in mind, but that also naturally made it low in calories and wasn’t forced.. it isnt trying to be something it isnt…I think that is beautiful…

1 Whole Ripe Pineapple
Aprox 1/2 Gallon of Fresh brewed Hand rolled Jasmine Tea ( I use Emperor’s Jasmine Tea from Rare Tea Cellars in Chicago)
sugar and lemon to taste…but dont over do it!…optional
trim the pineapple and cut it into discs. Use a grill pan or clean gas grill. (We dont want the smoke, so this is one time I prefer the grill pan)
Grill pieces until grill marks appear and rotate. Do this again and then flip. Same process for both sides. This will give you crisscross grill marks and the proper caramelization.
When they are all done just add the pieces to the Jasmine Tea and keep in the fridge for at least 24 hours…48 ideally.
You can leave the pineapple in if you wish, no straining or anything for a more natural looking drink….Or remove and strain for a beautifully clear tea/water. That is mostly an esthetic issue.

En Plen Air was a cocktail I made for Valentines Day at Vosges Haute Chocolate Shop in Chicago in 2011.

In the original I used coconut water and a little fresh made pineapple juice, but I liked the Jasmine tea infused with pineapple so much I decided to use it as a mixer.

At Vosges with En Plen Air
EN PLEN AIR (variation)
1 Part St Germain
2 Part Bacardi Superior
3 Parts Jasmine Tea/Grilled Pineapple Water
Grilled Heart Shaped Pineapple Garnish
Chill and serve in a tulip glass, coupe or flute
All diet soda or club soda for mixer
Half club soda and half mixer of your choice (7up, ginger ale, Cranberry etc)
Use less mixer and in your mixed drinks…for example…lemon drop use less lemon sour mix and more vodka.
Use a smaller glass, especially with a higher spirit ratio like above. Also drink your cocktails on the rocks more often. They will last longer and stay cold longer and also dilute the higher spirit ratio drinks naturally as well.
You can actually use the super low cal and less aggressive commercial versions offered, or make your own natural versions at home.
The example I made above with grilled pineapple and Jasmine Tea, or just fresh lemonade made with double the water, or fresh orange juice that is mixed with water. Really delicious!!


I have long loved the Brandy Alexander and Grasshopper as ice cream dessert drinks. While these dessert drinks aren’t something you would have often or in quantity, they are an amazing taste experience for the correct moment and offer the opportunity for many creative riffs on a theme.

I did this Averna Ice for dessert at an English Gin sponsored cocktail dinner at SEPIA in Chicago two years ago with Lynn House. It was a hit!!

Drinks like these are usually made in a blender and more than one at a time. I will give the recipe for 1, so do the math for multiple drinks.

You want them to be smooth and frosty like a shake. Not runny and drippy…it is a trick to not over dilute the ice cream and to keep things frozen..and the trick is to keep things cold..

Averna is an amaro, but it is sweet like a liqueur so it works well in this drink. The gin adds some botanicals and a little more punch that work perfectly with the Averna and the ice cream.

1 oz Plymouth Gin
8 oz Quality Vanilla Ice Cream

Mix the spirits together and put in the freezer until chilled. With this drink you don’t want to chill your spirits with ice because you don’t want any water dilution.

In a blender add the ice cream and then the chilled spirits. Blend and serve in the appropriate chilled glassware. You can shave some chocolate or grate some cinnamon or nutmeg on top. Serve with a long spoon and or wide straw.

Other riffs…


1.5 oz Pierre Ferrand Ambre
1.5 oz Marie Brizard White Creme de Menthe or Giffard Menthe Pastille
8 oz Vanilla Ice Cream

Chill Spirits in Freezer


1.5 oz Bourbon Whiskey
1.5 oz Marie Brizard White Creme de Menthe or Giffard Menthe Pastille
8 oz Ice Cream

Chill Spirits in freezer

Add a good chocolate liqueur (Mozart) to either of these…Chocolate goes with mint and whiskey and cognac…hmm hmm


1 oz White Creme de Cacao
1 oz Fernet Branca
1 oz White Creme de Menthe (Marie Brizard or Menthe Pastille)
8 oz Vanilla Ice Cream