Now that the weather is finally warming up, handcrafted cocktails are trending hard. Whereas cold summer drinks once followed strict formulas that were only ever modified (e.g., blackberry and Meyer lemon gin and tonic) but not improved upon now mixologists in metro areas across the country are creating hand-crafted libations that are unlike anything you might find in the traditional bartender’s bible.
These are innovators using farm fresh ingredients and locally sourced or even homemade mixers combined with craft vodka and other spirits to create something more than an afternoon pick-me-up. Fresh and flavorful, these forward-thinking drinks put unusual ingredients, obscure glassware and cool new mixing techniques on the map.
Here are six must-try summer cocktails that will refresh and impress even the most jaded guests.
Served at the Clock Bar in San Francisco, the Chartreuse Swizzle features falernum, a classic rum based cordial from Barbados that has notes of ginger, lime, almonds and clove. Velvet falernum is stirred together with green chartreuse, fresh lime juice and fresh pineapple juice (plus crushed ice) and then garnished with grated nutmeg and a sprig of mint.
The Last Tango in Modena
Created by mixologists Matthew Bianciello, The Last Tango in Modena is a unique (and fun) after dinner cocktail deserving of a unique name. Part of what makes it so special is its use of 25-year-old aged Balsamic vinegar and N2O-charged St. Germain foam. The vinegar is combined with gin and muddled strawberries, which are shaken with ice and then strained. The St. Germain foam is a simple mix of the liqueur and egg whites that tops it off wonderfully.
The Rhubarb Mojito
Mixologists at Las Vegas’ Press have captured summer in this cocktail that makes perfect use of a classic ingredient that has lately become modish. And why not? The particular sweet/tart profile of this garden staple brightens the classic mojito and the pretty pop of pink is just right for summer get-togethers. The exact quantities that make the Press version so drinkable are hush hush, but you can devise your own take on it with homemade rhubarb syrup.
Mixologist (and philosopher) Jeremy Strawn devised this picture perfect summer cocktail that will give you a reason to dust off your coupe glasses. The Volstead is simple to make thanks to equal proportions of simple syrup, St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur, vodka (try Ketel One) and fresh lemon juice. Muddle four strawberries, add ¾ ounces of everything listed, shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Easy.
This is a summer cocktail based on a South American brandy with a rich history is made uber modern thanks to the addition of lychee syrup. The syrup, Pisco, St. Germain, the juice of one orange and two pitted lychee fruits come together over crushed ice in the Pisco Nuevo – a staple of the now shuttered Sra. Martinez in Miami. It’s sweet and bold, but (as is important in summertime) not so sweet it feels like you’re drinking dessert.
What makes a summer cocktail perfect? The five concoctions above are the embodiment of cool, but they’re also bright and fresh and fun. Summer mixing is also about highlighting vibrant colors and flavors – especially local flavors or even berries grown right in your own back yard. So while all of the above drinks are crowd pleasers don’t feel like you need to wait for a crowd. Test them solo on a summer afternoon or give them your own twist – sip and enjoy!