A few days in a very hot place reminds me that there are few things as disappointing as a bar program that doesn’t go beyond the obvious when thinking about the joys of summer drinking. So, here are four ideas I think are worth exploring:
The Goblet. In Spain, and in a very few places in the US, gin and tonic drinking gets a proper, almost ceremonial presentation, and it all comes back to the goblet. Filled with ice and plenty of lemon or lime slices lightly pressed, topped with a healthy portion of gin, whether New American citrusy or London dry junipery or one of the unique French styles, and filled with quality tonic, this drink is a swimming pool worth diving into. Its size and freshness makes it outstanding and a remarkable bar statement.
The Short Beer. When it gets hot, not everyone wants a pint of beer. For some, even a 12-ounce portion is too much, whether because they simply want a short cold belt or because they need a moment to adjust their eyes and appetites after time spent in the sweltering sun. But few places offer this option. Think of it as the bar equivalent of a pony bottle. Functionally, it gives the customer time to make an informed decision about what to drink (beyond water), they needn’t worry about the effects of a sudden jolt of alcohol, and they can be sure they can finish the drink cold. Sipped, savored while cold, accompanied by a plate of salty snacks, the short beer is a true refreshment and when applied properly opens the door to more serious drinking.
The Port Cooler. Fortified wines have finally gained a foothold in many craft cocktail bars as modifying or secondary ingredients, especially sherries, but also some tawny and ruby ports. Now it’s time for white port to get its due. I see white sangrias on many menus; why not a white port sangria in a short cold pitcher? Or the classic white port and tonic with a slice of lemon? Its freshness and moderated sweetness makes it a great ingredient, and there are even some synergies available with mixing a white port and sherry long drink. WPLJ, anyone?
The Cordial: I brought a bottle of locally-made Morello cherry cordial while in Portugal and on tasting it, the immediate thought was how well it would go with sparkling water or wine. Earlier this month, Rob Cooper of St.-Germain pointed out his favorite elderflower cocktail was the one served at a luncheon, made with pink champagne, sparkling water and lots of ice. Many cordials go out of favor on summer cocktail menus, but if you carry quality cordials and good crisp white wines and less expensive Cavas or Proseccos, you’ve got the makings for a series of plays on the Kir, Kir Royale and adult sodas. A an operational issue, you don’t want your cordials sitting on the shelf through the summer – inventory unused is a liability for lots of reasons, so if you’ve got a dusty bottle in sight, start playing with it as a summer ingredient.