Hot summer nights mean cooling off and relaxing with family and friends, enjoying a dinner al fresco and long conversations over a really great drink. Knowing how to make a really good cocktail is becoming as rare as being able to drive a stick-shift but it doesn’t have to be! Getting out of the habit of using the poor quality substitutes for things like simple syrup, the sad imitation vanilla or stirring when you need to be shaking, can make all the difference.
Let’s start with the basics. Some staple bar elements that are foundation pieces include a shaker, a Hawthorne-style cocktail strainer, Long-handled bar spoon, Citrus juicer or reamer and the right glass for the right drink. Next, know what and how to blend. If the drink contains thick elements, mixers, syrups, dairy or the like, a good solid shaking is what is needed to properly blend. Now if your drink is a clear, with spirits, tonics, etc., then stirring is all that is needed.
Ice or no ice. This is, of course, personal preference. However when mixing with ice, the ice breaks up and begins to melt thus diluting your drink. Straining the ice out will keep that from progressing. If you do want it on the rocks, strain out the prep ice and pour over fresh ice to at least slow the process. Last – the garnish. Fresh, simple, elegant and complimentary to the drink is all that is required here. Just don’t skip it. If you are doing a slice of citrus, thin slices look beautiful but you can’t actually use them for anything other than eating. Consider doing a modified wedge so if we want to juice it, it’s actually possible. No different than our understanding that we eat first with our eyes, so it goes with our drinks. They are works of art, a masterpiece for the senses and that freshly peeled curl of lime zest will be noticed by multiple senses with that decadent Hemingway Special.
Below is a collection of classics and a few summer time takes on classics to get you back into practice of doing it well and enjoying what a really great drink can taste like. “Cheers!”
1/4 cup Tanqueray gin or other London dry gin
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons simple syrup*
1/2 cup soda water
One orange slice, for garnish
One maraschino or fresh cherry, for garnish
Shake the gin, lemon juice, syrup, and four or five ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Strain over ice into a Collins glass, top with the soda and stir. Garnish with the orange slice and cherry.
Vanilla and Fresh Cherry Bourbon
In the bottom of a glass, combine the cherries, vanilla extract, bourbon, sugar and lemon juice. Muddle together until cherries are broken and juices are released (you can use the back of a wooden spoon if you don’t have a muddler).
Top with ice cubes and a small splash of club soda.
Raspberry Limoncello Prosecco
3 cups prosecco, chilled
1 cup limoncello liqueur, chilled
1 cup frozen raspberries
6 sprigs fresh mint
In a large pitcher, whisk together prosecco and limoncello.
Serve over raspberries, garnished with mint, if desired.
2 tablespoons turbinado (“raw”) sugar
2 oz. white rum, preferably Havana Club Añejo 3 años
3/4 oz. (1-1/2 Tbsp.) fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. (1 Tbsp.) fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 oz. (1 Tbsp.) maraschino liqueur
1 maraschino cherry, for garnish
1 organic grapefruit zest curl, for garnish
Wet the rim of a cocktail glass in a little water and then dip the rim into a small dish containing the sugar. Place the glass in the freezer until ready to use.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the rum, lime and grapefruit juices, and maraschino liqueur. Put the lid on the shaker, making sure it has a good seal. Shake vigorously until frothy, at least 30 seconds. Strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with the cherry and zest.
1 1/2 oz gin (or 3 Tbsp)
4-6 cucumber slices
1/4 lime, sliced
4 oz tonic water
6 mint leaves
Optional: 1 Tablespoon sugar
Add mint, lime, gin, and sugar (if using) to shaker and muddle. Add cucumber slices to shaker and shake vigorously. Pour mixture in glass filled with ice and top with tonic water. Stir, let set for a few minutes for the flavors to enhance and enjoy.
1 pineapple wedge, plus 2 tablespoons diced pineapple
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/2 lime, plus a lime wheel for garnish
2 fl. oz. vodka, preferably Pau Maui or Ocean
4 fl. oz. ginger beer
Coat the pineapple wedge in the sugar. Using a kitchen torch or under a preheated broiler, heat the pineapple until the sugar is brown and caramelized. Set aside.
Put the diced pineapple and lime half in a highball glass. Muddle until the lime and pineapple juices are released. Fill the glass with ice. Add the vodka and ginger beer and stir to combine. Top with a shake or 2 of bitters and garnish with the lime wheel and pineapple wedge.
1 oz (2 tablespoons) dark rum
1 oz (2 tablespoons) amber rum
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 oz (1 tablespoon) Cointreau or triple sec
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon orgeat syrup* or 1 drop pure almond extract
1 teaspoon superfine granulated sugar
Dash of grenadine
Garnish with an orange slice
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with 1 cup ice cubes, then strain into a glass filled with ice cubes.
Elderflower Wine Cocktail
1 bottle Fumé Blanc (such as Robert Mondavi Private Selection)
4 oz. elderflower liqueur
4 oz. vodka
sprigs of fresh mint
In a large pitcher, combine first 3 ingredients and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. To serve, muddle a few mint leaves in each glass. Add ice, fill two-thirds with wine mixture, and top with club soda. Garnish with mint sprigs.
3 large fresh basil leaves; plus small sprigs for garnish, if you like
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 fl. oz. (2 Tbs.) peach liqueur
1-1/2 fl. oz. (3 Tbs.) silver tequila
1 slice ripe peach
Put the large basil leaves, lemon juice, and peach liqueur into a cocktail shaker or mixing glass; crush with a muddler or the end of a wooden spoon for about 10 seconds to release the flavor from the basil. Add the tequila and enough ice cubes to fill the shaker 3/4 full, then stir for about 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, and garnish with the peach slice and basil, if using.
Sweet Tea Sangria
6 cups sweet tea
1 bottle white wine
2 cups raspberries
2 cups sliced peaches
fresh mint, for garnishing (optional)
Mix sweet tea and wine together in a large pitcher. Add fruit and chill for at least 2-3 hours, preferably 8 or more.
Serve in pretty glasses and garnish with mint.
1 fl. oz. (2 Tbs.) best-quality dry gin, such as Plymouth
1 fl. oz. (2 Tbs.) Campari
1 fl. oz. (2 Tbs.) best-quality sweet (rosso) vermouth, such as Carpano Antica
1 small organic Valencia orange
Fill a cocktail shaker or large glass halfway with ice and add the gin, Campari, and vermouth. Using a long-handled spoon, stir for 20 to 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass over fresh ice (or a chilled martini glass if you prefer no ice).
Using a vegetable peeler, remove a 3-inch by one-half inch piece of peel from the orange, avoiding the white pith, to create a twist. Twist it over the drink to release a spray of citrus oil, run it around the rim of the glass, and then drop it into the drink. Serve.
4 oz Cucumber Vodka
4 (1-inch) cubes of seedless watermelon
2 limes, diced
2 oz simple syrup*
Lime Rim (equal amounts salt and sugar combined with some fresh grated lime)
2 Watermelon Slices
2 cucumber slices
2 small mint sprig
Combine vodka, watermelon and lime in a cocktail shaker. Muddle all ingredients well. Add simple syrup, fill with ice, cover and shake until ice cold.
Rim the glasses with a cut lime and dip in the lime rim mixture.
Fill the glasses with ice and pour the ingredients from the shaker into the glasses.
Garnish with a watermelon slice, a cucumber slice and a mint sprig.
Equal parts sugar to water (1 cup organic sugar to 1 cup water) In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.
We spend so much time rushing around and trying desperately to find shortcuts or replacements to things in the name of efficiency that we end up affecting the overall quality of most things. Dinner was once a nutritious home cooked meal but has turned into something handed in a sad paper bag through a window into a running car, thoughtful hand written notes have gone by the wayside and allowed for a simple text message to cover it, dare I go on?
The reward and privilege of a great cocktail should not be something that we allow to be altered for the sake of saving time or money. Create from scratch, including making your own homemade vanilla, while you pride yourself in the masterful process of creating. Especially when you are creating for others… you will taste the difference, we all will. Cheers to summer and you and yours!
Have ideas you’d like to add? Need more suggestions? Let me know!
Julie Koester is CEO of Life with Moxie, a Lifestyle Revolution Company www.lifewithmoxie.com, CEO of Moxie Creed www.moxiecreed.com and Host of Life with Moxie Radio, Saturday’s at 1pm on 98.9 WGUF in Southwest Florida. You can reach her at Julie@lifewithmoxie.com
Passionate Living by Design, That’s Life with Moxie
Photo credits, drinks: Pinterest
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