You might call California farmers Jack Pandol and Jim Beagle the Willie Wonkas of the fruit beat. That’s because, after a decade of cross-pollinating different grape varietals, they’ve struck culinary gold. With names like Gum Drops, Flavor Pops, and Cotton Candy, Pandol and Beagle have turned ordinary table grapes into one of the biggest cult foods around. How do they taste? Exactly like their sugary namesakes. And that has consumers hunting them down like rabid McRib fans.
But this is still fruit. And with only one farm (The Grapery) owning the proprietary rights to the grapes, finding them can prove difficult during harvest time (typically August through September).
If you’re fortunate enough to find them in your grocery aisle, definitely pick some up. But don’t stop at snacking. Here are a couple killer cocktail ideas, created by Mark Driskill (we made them live on Facebook … watch the video here!) that play off the singular spun sugar characteristics of Cotton Candy grapes. Cheers!
Cotton Candy Grape Sangria
Active time: 15 minutes, Total time: 1 hour
Serves: 8-10, Serving size: 5 oz.
4 granny smith apples, quartered
4 green Bartlett pears, quartered
6 medium lemons, halved
½ bunch mint sprigs
1.5 cups St. Germaine liqueur
1 bottle prosecco, or dry white wine
1 cup grape simple syrup
Combine all the ingredients in a large punch bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. You can freeze whole grapes on a sheet tray or large plate to put in glasses before serving.
Cotton Candy Grape Margarita
Active time: 5 minutes
Serves: 1, Serving size: 5 oz.
1.5 oz. infused tequila
1 oz. agave nectar liqueur
1 oz. lemon juice
1 oz. grape simple syrup
1 ea. lemon wedge
Smoked Cumin Salt for rim
Place salt on a shallow, wide saucer and rub lemon wedge around the rim of a margarita glass. Carefully move the rim of the glass over the salt until it has a thin layer all the way around the rim. Fill cocktail shaker with ice and combine first four ingredients. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds and pour through strainer into glass and serve.
1 750 ml bottle gold tequila
1 cups cotton candy grapes halved (about 8 oz.)
Remove 1 cup of liquid from bottle of tequila and set aside. Place grapes in bottle, leave at room temperature in a shaded area at least one week before use. You can return the removed tequila once you use some of the infused, let sit a few days before using more.
Smoked Cumin Salt
In a small strainer, place ¼ cup of whole cumin seeds and then cover with ¼ cup kosher salt. In a deep, heavy bottom pot place 1 cup of hickory chips. Using a kitchen torch, light the chips until they begin to smoke. Carefully place strainer from one side of the pot to the other and cover the pot tightly with foil, securing the strainer. Place pot over low heat where chips are located and smoke for 20 minutes. Let cumin mixture cool if needed and grind until broken up.
Grape Simple Syrup
Place 4 cups of cotton candy grapes and 2 cups of water in a medium saucepot over medium heat. Cook until grapes are bursting and liquid is amber in color, about 10 minutes. Use a whisk or potato masher to break grapes up and cook for 5 more minutes. Strain into another container, pressing down on grapes to remove all the liquid. Let cool before use, can be stored in covered in a refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.