Sipping a cocktail on the patio is one of my favorite summer pastimes. After all, who doesn’t love an ice-cold gin & tonic on a hot summer’s day? Or, a Long Island iced tea, for that matter? When concocting summer cocktails, however, I usually try to keep things light: lower-alcohol drinks mean you won’t get too sloppy in the sun. Here are a few of my favorite summer sippers.
Mojito: Stripped down to its basics, the mojito is a cocktail made with white rum, lime, fresh mint, simple syrup and club soda. One variation I like is to use chocolate mint, which give the drink, not surprisingly, a slight chocolate flavor. In a tall cocktail glass muddle (squish and smash) together 10 to 12 fresh mint leaves with half a lime cut into four pieces. Cover with 2 tablespoons simple syrup and fill the glass with ice. Add 2 ounces white rum and top off with club soda. Stir. Garnish (optional) with a lime wedge and sprig of mint. Repeat often.
Left Bank Martini: France’s St-Germain liqueur is an artisanal liqueur made with elderflower blossoms handpicked in the foothills of the Alps. It’s an unusual liqueur, with pretty floral notes—somewhat viscous, but not cloying. The Left Bank Martini is simple to make, but so satisfying: In a cocktail shaker, shake together 1 1/2 shots of gin, 1 shot of St-Germain and 1 shot of Sauvignon Blanc wine with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with lime zest. Oui, oui!
Blueberry Mojito: Here’s a mojito of a different stripe. This one is award-winning Deer Valley Resort mixologist Bonnie Ulmer’s favorite cocktail, and also one of mine. You can find it at Deer Valley’s Royal Street Cafe or at the Deer Valley Grocery-Café. Or, make it yourself, using Bonnie’s recipe: In a tall, 16-ounce glass, add 1 handful mint leaves and 1 teaspoon sugar. Squeeze in the juice from 1/4 lime and drop the lime into the glass. Muddle the ingredients in the glass together, then fill the glass with ice. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup lemonade, until the glass is two-thirds full. Then add 1 splash soda, 1 ounce premium light rum (such as Bacardi Silver), 2 tablespoons fresh or frozen blueberries (smash 1 tablespoon to create some juice) and stir. Carefully and slowly pour 1/2 ounce of premium dark rum (like Myer’s) into the glass so it floats on top. Garnish with a lime wedge and sprig of mint.
Strawberry-Thyme Cocktail: All the cool-kid bartenders these days are using fresh herbs in their cocktails. Here is one that I especially like, which incorporates thyme. First, make some strawberry-thyme syrup. Place the following ingredients into a small saucepan: 1/2 cup chopped strawberries, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs, then puree the mixture in a blender. This makes enough syrup for two cocktails. To assemble one strawberry-thyme cocktail, put 3 ounces of strawberry-thyme syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice. Add 1 1/2 ounces of lemon vodka and 1 squeeze fresh lemon juice. Shake with ice until cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass.
Champagne Cocktail: Simple and elegant: Drop 3 drops of bitters onto 1 sugar cube and let the bitters soak in. Place the sugar cube in a Champagne flute. Add 1 ounce Cognac and top with 4 ounces of chilled Champagne. Voila!