Labor Day weekend reminds me of going back to school and the inevitable assignment of writing an essay about how I spent my summer. If I were writing about our first two summers in South Jersey, I’d be telling you about lots of great beaches and beach towns with different vibes, from the Victorian charm of Cape May, to the 1950s nostalgia of Wildwood, to the family-friendly Ocean City boardwalk and a calendar filled with live music, outdoor concerts, restaurants, happy hours, wineries, breweries, amusement parks, the zoo, birdwatching, free exercise classes at the rec center, and sunsets at (where else) Sunset Beach.
This year “How I Spent My Summer” begins in mid-March just before the COVID shut down, when we undertook the onerous journey to Long Island to visit family. I refer to this trip as onerous not due to the 360-mile round trip, but because to get from South Jersey to Long Island, NY, you need to drive through a major obstacle known as New York City. I digress. Little did we realize that our visit was the last weekend of “normal”. We came home to the news that NYC and its suburbs had become virus hot spots, and we worried that we had exposed ourselves to coronavirus. We nervously waited out the next week or two in quarantine.
The pandemic had stretched into May, and with Memorial Day fast approaching, we feared the whole summer would be a bust. What to do with a summer spent at home? How about getting a Jacuzzi! Actually, we have been thinking about buying a hot tub for the last 20 years. It was part of the plan for the house we bought in 2001, but it never came to fruition. We had the deck for our new house built with enough room for a hot tub, but we were still having a hard time going for it. You’re probably wondering why so much indecision, especially if you love your hot tub, even in winter. We’d been poisoned by opinions from a few family and friends who used it for only a year or two until the novelty wore off. Will our hot tub relationship be long-term, stable, and satisfying? Or sizzling hot and then sour, resulting in a languishing piece of junk to be cut into pieces and carted away to the dump?
Still harboring a fear of commitment, we come across a Portable, Inflatable Hot Tub Spa with Bubble Jets and Heater Pump on Amazon. I would have thought that blow-up pools were just for kids, but this version has jets, a heater, a cover, and filters, and uses the same pool chemicals as a Jacuzzi to keep it sanitary. By June we have our budget-friendly spa up and running and introduce it to the neighbors as our Hillbilly Hot Tub.
Eager to make the Hillbilly Hot Tub our new happy hour location we attach the 2-drink holder accessory onto the side. But I realize that our nice collection of glassware for wine and cocktails isn’t very useful for the spa. Enclosed plastic drink bottles work best for preventing broken glass on the deck or in the pool, and for keeping out the bubbling spa water. Not one to drink wine from a plastic bottle, we shift to cocktails for Hillbilly Hot Tub Happy Hour. It’s usually a no-no for me to add ice to a finished cocktail, but it was necessary outdoors in the heat. We saved wine and our premium cocktails like the Don Julio Margarita or the Courvoisier Side Car as something to look forward to on a rainy day.
2021 Update: The hot tub was deflated and stowed away for the winter but set up again in June. Even though outdoor concerts and restaurants were back on our entertainment agenda, we still got plenty of use out of the spa. For our cocktails in large plastic reusable water bottles, I bought an ice ball tray on Amazon. We melted them down in water just a wee bit to fit in the mouth of the bottle. They chill the drink very well and don’t melt as fast as small cubes that end up watering down your cocktail.
Cocktail Recipes for the Pool and Spa
Margaritas are a year-round favorite, but here’s the recipe we used for hot tub cocktail hour. I use a home-made lemon mixer made with 1-part lemon juice and 1-part simple syrup that we mix by the quart.
El Presidente Margarita (makes 2 drinks)
- 3 oz. Espolon tequila
- 1 oz. Grand Marnier
- 1 oz. triple sec
- 1 oz. lemon mixer
- Splash of lime juice
Shake over ice, pour into reusable water bottles, and add more ice for drinking in the hot tub.
Several years ago we were on a kick of going to Sandal’s Resorts with friends and always came home with a few bottles of Appleton rum. In honor of finishing off the last one, I bought a bottle of strawberry daiquiri mix and dug the blender out of the back of the kitchen cabinet. Frozen strawberry daiquiris are very refreshing in the spa.
Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri (makes 2 drinks)
- 5 oz. Master of Mixes Strawberry Mixer
- 4 oz. Appleton rum
- 2 cups of ice
Ignore the recipe on the mixer bottle; it’s a real lightweight. This makes a good amount for 2 people – enough booze, yet not too filling. Blend to your liking. Some like it chunky and some like it smooth.
I came up with this Orange Creamsicle cocktail recipe when whipped cream flavored vodka first came out. It tastes just like the orange creamsicle bars that we used to get from the ice cream truck. It was fun to bring back this nostalgic drink from the Boozy Lifestyle archives.
Orange Creamsicle (makes 2 drinks)
- 3 oz. Smirnoff Whipped Vodka
- 3 oz. triple sec
- 3 oz. orange juice
Shake over ice, pour into reusable water bottles, and add more ice for drinking in the hot tub. We find that we need to tweak the recipe if using a different brand of vodka since the level of whipped flavoring varies.
And lastly, another one from the cocktail archive.
Mai Tai (makes 2 drinks)
- 2 oz. Bacardi Gold rum
- 2 oz. triple sec
- 1 oz. orange juice
- 1 oz. pineapple juice
- Splash of Myers’ rum
Shake the first four ingredients over ice and pour into reusable water bottles. Add ice and pour the splash of Myers’ over the top.
Have a happy and safe Labor Day everyone!