Firing Up the Grill? Give Your Cocktail a Little Char

Grilled rambutans are amazing in a drink. . Elana Lepkowski

When I was growing up, my mother had somewhat bohemian ideas about what constituted snack food. In her eyes, a "snack" consisted of a piece of starfruit, or a kiwi, or any number of other fruits that none of the neighbors had ever heard of. When I started going to school, I began hiding them in the depths of my backpack until lunch, when I would eat them quickly to avoid comments about the weirdo food I had today. Cookies? Not in that lunchbox.

Of course, as time passes, I look back at those those weird snacks through the haze of nostalgia. Those unusual fruits were, after all, delicious, and these days, other people have caught on—it's fairly common to find kids snacking on kiwi now.


I don't carry a lunchbox these days, but I've tucked an unusual fruit—the rambutan—into today's cocktail. Rambutan has a delicate, slightly acidic flavor, similar to a lychee, though, notably, where the lychee has a colorful, bumpy rind, the rambutan's rind is covered with crazy red spines. In Vietnam, the feisty-looking fruit is called chôm chôm (meaning "messy hair"). You can find them fresh in Asian groceries, but for this drink, I happily use rambutan from a can—it has already been neatly peeled.


The fruit possesses a pleasant sweet-tartness that becomes much richer when you take it on a quick trip to the grill, where the sugars caramelize beautifully. The resulting slightly nutty flavors pair wonderfully with tequila, while fresh lime and grapefruit juice highlight the floral and tart elements of the rambutan. (If you're hosting a party this summer, chances are your grill's already on. If not, you can also get a little char on the rambutan using your broiler.)

Don't skip the simple syrup in this drink: it's not enough to make the whole concoction sweet; instead, it helps round out the flavor and brighten the mix. A little smoked salt on the rim of the drink circles back to grilled fruit, making for a beverage that tastes just like vacation.