Any time is a good time to indulge in a well-crafted cocktail, but summertime is simply ideal. Gardens and local farms burst forth with mint, thyme, sage, dill and basil, and while not every bit of every backyard’s bounty ought to end up in a cocktail shaker, there is much that can and should. Whether you go weak in the knees for any gin or hold out for only the best-tasting sangria, the weather is finally on your side.
If you customarily buy wine and liquor online, City Wine Cellar’s offerings will more than get you in the mood to roll up your sleeves, crush some ice and pour liberally, regardless of the type of cocktail that turns your head. From bourbon to vodka, here are seven exceptional summer cocktails.
Most likely developed by a British gardener, a Pimm’s Cup is the LIT of refined cocktails. The liquor at its core, Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, is a gin-based, lightly-spiced liqueur. Serve 1.5 ounces over ice, with lemonade or ginger ale, and garnish it liberally with sliced cucumber, lemon, mint, strawberries, apple and/or borage. If it’s fresh out of your garden, you can probably put it in a Pimm’s Cup. The liqueur really is suited for almost any summertime fruit, herb or vegetable.
A refreshing afternoon drink, the Lillet Sin starts with four fresh mint sprigs, a slice of fresh ginger and a heaping teaspoon of sugar. Muddle, and add two ounces of Lillet Blanc. Pour the whole thing over ice and garnish with mint. Lower in alcohol than most cocktails, you can day drink with this one and still last through the night.
Few summer vegetables are as light and cooling as the cucumber, and Adam Frank’s recipe for The Cuke is a recent cocktail classic that makes for some excellent summer drinking. To make a batch for six drinks (it’s perfect for a dinner party), thinly slice three limes and place them in the bottom of a pitcher. Pour the juice of three more limes into the pitcher. Add one cup of packed mint leaves, two sliced cucumbers and half a cup of sugar. Muddle thoroughly. Then, add two cups of Hendrick’s Gin. Chill for at least half an hour. Strain into ice-filled glasses, and top with a splash of sparkling water. Garnish each glass with mint and cucumber spears.
There are few cocktails as stately — and boozy — as the mint julep. A Southern classic that, according to Walker Percy, causes men to “fall facedown unconscious,” while “women wander in the woods disconsolate and amnesiac,” only a bourbon lover can truly enjoy a mint julep. Muddle a half cup of fresh mint leaves and a quarter cup of sugar until the sugar has mostly dissolved in the mint’s juices. Strain over a rocks glass of crushed ice, and then, fill with bourbon. The glass should fog up, and the drink will get sweeter as you sip.
Bourbon meets basil and balsamic vinegar in this cocktail created by Jerry Slater, and it all starts with balsamic syrup. Combine a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar with quarter cup of simple syrup over medium-high heat. Once it boils, reduce the heat and simmer for one minute, stirring now and again. Allow it to cool completely, then muddle one tablespoon of the balsamic syrup with four fresh basil leaves and one sugar cube. Add that, along with a jigger and a half of bourbon and ice to a shaker and shake hard. Strain over ice cubes, and top with about a quarter cup of ginger beer. Garnish with fresh basil, and enjoy!
Bright, spicy and refreshing, the Lowcountry is an ideal porch cocktail. The stars are Old Tom gin, which is sweeter than your average gin, and sage-peppercorn simple syrup. To make the syrup, bring two cups of water to a boil; stir in two cups of sugar, and reduce the heat to medium. Add one tablespoon of whole black peppercorns and six sage leaves. Remove from heat, and let the mixture steep for five minutes. Strain out the peppercorns and sage. Refrigerated syrup will keep up to one month. To make the drink, take a jigger and a half of Old Tom, a half ounce of Frenet, one ounce fresh lime juice and one tablespoon of the sage-peppercorn syrup and shake it with plenty of ice. Strain it into an ice-filled Mason jar and top with ginger beer.
This delightful drink starts with tomato water. Freeze eight large, ripe garden tomatoes. Once completely frozen, thaw them in a bowl. Liquid will form, and their skins will loosen. Remove each tomato skin and squeeze the meat between your hands. Reserve the pulp for a future sauce or throw it on the compost pile. Double strain the water so that all pulp is removed. From there, measure two ounces of tomato water, a quarter ounce simple syrup, a half ounce of lemon juice, a dash of bitters, five fresh basil leaves and two ounces of vodka. Shake heartily with ice. Stain into a martini glass and serve with a skewer of fresh mozzarella, basil and cherry tomatoes.
Whether you like it sweet or spicy, up or on the rocks, the best cocktail season of the year is here. With these seven recipes and their ripe aromas and flavors of summertime will find you laid back and frolicking long past autumn.