Every summer, I am reminded of the gigantic crush I have on the Crush. You know, the fruit-juice-and-vodka-cocktail that's known as a Baltimore specialty.
You can find them all over city, usually in the Orange Crush variety. But Orange can be a little, well, boring. And so, like a lusty teenage girl might, I drop it quickly when a new, more interesting flavor comes along.
This year, my fling is with the Blueberry Acai Mojito Crush at Ryleigh's Oyster in Federal Hill.
Ryleigh's has become the gold standard of Crushes, though several city spots claim theirs to be its birthplace. Ryleigh's is well-schooled in the local lore of this legend and their place within it. Scotti Offutt, Ryleigh's marketing manager, credits Harborside Bar and Grill on the Eastern Shore as the true originator of Crush, in the 1980s. Ryleigh's has been paying homage to that recipe since 1997, throwing their own unique spin on the cocktail. How? They think outside the orange.
Ryleigh's uses a variety of fruits, juiced to order — or "crushed to order" as their bartenders like to say. Josh Foti, head bartender, designs the drink menu seasonally, including traditional favorites with more innovative concoctions to appeal to a wider audience. This summer, the Blueberry Acai Mojito Crush, not the standard citrus, has caught on as a favorite among Ryleigh's customers and bartenders.
How could I pass up that recommendation? "A more refined option", as Foti notes, the Blueberry Acai Mojito Crush has a sophisticated crushing process: the juicing comes from a fresh lime that's then muddled with ripe blueberries. Blueberry Acai vodka sharpens the flavor of the fruit, thanks to the crisp, bitter infusion of the acai; it tastes a bit like a chocolate-covered berry.
The drink had a clean, sparkling taste, the perfect quencher for a hot summer day. Offutt acknowledges this is Ryleigh's intent. "We want to show customers that we only use fresh, simple ingredients," she says. "Plus, we give them a show making each drink."
After a long day, it was cathartic watching Foti expertly crush, muddle then toss my cocktail into a delicious, fruity pulp. Entertaining, indeed. And a little sadistic, too.
How to Make a Blueberry Acai Mojito Crush
2 ounces Blueberry Acai Van Gogh Vodka
Fresh-squeezed lime juice
5-6 fresh mint Leaves and 10 fresh blueberries (muddled with splash of simple syrup)
Splash of soda
Shake and serve over crushed ice