It’s that time of year, when a cold, refreshing beverage comes in handy on a regular basis.
Adult beverages are no exceptions, and most local bars have recently introduced their summer cocktail menus. Unlike the heavy, dark cocktails of winter, summer cocktails are fresh, bright and icy cold. In many cases, they shine with seasonal fruit vegetables and herbs. Mint, basil, blueberries and cucumbers are just some of the summer produce likely to show up in your drink at local bars.
At Sir Winston Wine Loft and Restaurant, food and beverage co-manager Jordan Keiper combines blueberries with mezcal, agave syrup, lemon and lime juices and soda water. “I like Montelobos mezcal because of its sweetness,” Keiper said, citing his preferred brand for this cocktail. “But I like mezcal in general because of its smokiness. I think that smoky, earthy flavor goes really well with blueberries.”
At Sir Winston, Keiper is using the in-house smoker to smoke the blueberries and then puree them. But, he said, the mezcal makes the drink taste plenty smoky on its own, so people at home can skip the smoker and simply muddle fresh blueberries.
Keiper also suggested an adult lemonade for summer. He makes a strawberry basil lemonade with fresh strawberries and basil and Belvedere vodka. “I like to pour this over ice in any tall glass — I like my drinks with ice in summer — but you can do it without ice in a martini glass,” Keiper said.
At Sir Winston, Keiper is using frozen watermelon puree in place of plain ice cubes in the strawberry basil lemonade.
Alma Mexicana’s summer cocktail menu includes El Besso (the kiss), which mixes Tito’s vodka with lime, pomegranate syrup and San Pellegrino sparkling blood-orange soda. “This is probably in our top three drinks, behind margaritas and La Paloma (a tequila and grapefruit drink),” said bartender Jenn Jarnagin.
El Besso is fruity but not too sweet, and it’s easy to mix — after taking 10 minutes to make pomegranate syrup.
“This is a great for a party because it’s easy to make in a big batch in a pitcher,” Jarnagin said.
Willow’s Bistro’s new cocktail menu includes a blackberry smash and cucumber-rosemary gin gimlet.
Manager Ryan Oberle uses local blackberries in his smash. He said it can be made with bourbon, but he thinks the blackberries go even better with rye. “This was kind of inspired by the mint julep,” he said.
He said he chose a gimlet because it’s so refreshing. You can really taste the muddled rosemary and cucumber as it mingles with the gin. “And this is not a sweet drink,” Oberle said. “Summer drinks can be sweet, but a lot of people are into savory cocktails now.”
Tim Nolan, the creative mixologist at Fair Witness, came up with his own unusual idea of a summer cocktail. His version of a Provencal combines gin, lemon juice, tonic and pastis (Pernod or Ricard). The latter gives the drink a licorice/anise/fennel flavor, which nicely plays off the lemon. “A lot of anise or licorice drinks can be cloying, but the lemon cuts through that,” Nolan said.
He said he was inspired by a favorite summer salad. “I make this fennel and tangerine salad for my girlfriend all the time,” he said. “I like that it’s bright and light.”
Facebook friends also shared some summer cocktail ideas.
Jay Dillingdam likes to mix Jameson Irish Whiskey with blueberry syrup, muddled basil leaves and lemon zest with a splash of soda served over ice.
Jane Milner adds fresh raspberries to tequila, Triple Sec, ginger liquor and lime juice.
Luke Brittian likes a drink with tequila (preferably 1800 Silver tequila) and Saint Germain (an elderberry flower liqueur). He mixes those with a simple syrup — plain or berry-flavored — with muddled mint and lime juice. Strained over ice, the cocktail is topped with seltzer or Sprite. It’s likes a “summertime skinny margarita,” he said.
Salem Kirby likes to combine tequila with muddled jalapeño and cucumber, juiced watermelon, and lime. Another favorite of hers is vodka shaken with ice and Rumchata, a liqueur made with rum, cream, cinnamon and vanilla. “It’s likes a spiced creamsicle,” she said.