Fruits, veggies and herbs picked at the peak of freshness go into amazing summertime sips.
Have you perused the overflowing baskets and stalls of markets and roadside stands lately? We’re in the midst of what is arguably the best time of the entire year for produce. Freshly shucked corn, ruby red watermelon, and plump, sweet-tart blueberries are just a few of the finds you can load into your canvas bags. But these incredible ingredients aren’t just for the table. Bartenders are using them for seasonal beverages that really show off their vibrant flavors and colors. Drink it in – before you know it summer will be in our rear-view mirrors.
One Last Whiskey Rebellion
Recipe courtesy of Nick Farrell, Spirits Manager, Vermilion
Nick Farrell believes white whiskey made in Virginia is like the state’s mezcal, as it truly expresses terroir. He builds off the spirit’s flavors and agave-like nose by infusing locally made moonshine with corn on the cob grilled with the husks on. It’s mixed with a cordial made from a bumper crop of huckleberries, and the whole drink stems from a memory of a blueberry corn dessert Farrell had one time at Union Square Cafe in New York. The drink’s name is a nod to the Whiskey Rebellion that started in 1791 when American producers rallied against a sin tax on alcohol.
- 1 ½ oz. grilled corn-infused MurLarKey Justice Corn Whiskey (See Note)
- 1 oz. Huckleberry syrup (see Note)
- ½ oz. Lemon juice
- 1 sprig Thyme
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Double strain into a coupe glass.
For the corn-infused whiskey:
Farrell uses a vacuum machine to get a better extraction, but for his modified version take 1 ear of grilled corn (grill it first with the husks on and again with them removed, reserving the husks.) Strip the kernels off the ear, and add them and the reserved husks to a 750ml bottle of MurLarKey Justice Corn Whiskey in a gallon Ziploc bag with the air removed. Let macerate for 2 days, pressing on the kernels lightly to release some of their juice. Fine strain to remove solids.
For the huckleberry syrup:
Macerate a pint of huckleberries in 2 cups of sugar, muddling the berries. Let set in the refrigerator overnight in a nonreactive container. Add the mixture to a blender with two cups of water, blend on high for 30 seconds, and then fine strain.
Recipe courtesy of Valeria Balderas, Rare View Chelsea; Image: FEW Spirits
Earl Grey tea is one of the botanicals in this craft gin from Illinois, which gives it a distinctive bergamot flavor. Valeria Balderas mixes it with fresh watermelon puree and garnishes it with basil and blueberries. “I was inspired by the fun brightness and colors of the summer to represent all of them in a cocktail,” she says.
- 2 oz. FEW Breakfast Gin
- 1 oz. Watermelon puree
- ½ oz. Lemon juice
- ½ oz. Simple syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar to water)
- Basil leaf and blueberries, for garnish
Add all the ingredients except garnishes to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a slapped basil leaf and a few fresh blueberries.
Recipe courtesy of Norton Christopher, Bar Manager, Sac-a-Lait
Like the song “Watermelon Crawl” by Tracy Byrd, this drink is super fun. Familiar flavors like Tequila and lime stand out and are backed by the freshness of watermelon, the spice of cilantro and coriander, and a bitter orange tinge from the Aperol, Norton Christopher says. The garnish is attention-grabbing, too: vacuum-pressed watermelon rind with cane syrup, cilantro, lemon and jalapeno. “[Watermelon] adds an amazing freshness to a wide range of cocktails,” Christopher points out. “And alongside the other ingredients transforms something familiar and traditional like the Margarita into something new and intriguing.”
- 2 oz. El Jimador Tequila
- ½ oz. Aperol
- ½ oz. Coriander syrup (see Note)
- ¾ oz. Lime juice
- 3 1-inch cubes Watermelon
- Pinch fresh cilantro
- Citrus pickled watermelon rind, for garnish (see Note)
Muddle the cilantro and watermelon in a cocktail shaker. Add the remaining ingredients, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Double strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice and garnish with the citrus pickled watermelon rind.
For the coriander syrup:
Bring 14 oz. sugar and 14 oz. water to a low boil in a saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove it from the heat and stir in 1.5 oz. whole coriander leaves. Let the mixture cool, put it in a quart container, and store in the refrigerator for a day. Strain out solids, and store the syrup in the refrigerator.
For the citrus pickled watermelon rind
Take the rind from 1 watermelon (cut in desired shapes) and put it in a storage container. Mix ¾ cup lemon juice, ½ cup cane syrup, 1 cup cilantro leaves, ¼ cup whole black peppercorns and 1 tablespoon Kosher salt, then pour over rind until it’s fully covered. Store in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, removing the rinds from the liquid when the desired flavor and texture is reached.
Recipe courtesy of Bob Wagner, General Manager and Beverage Director, Rosario
Bob Wagner wanted to make a fun libation that tasted like a summer in a glass, so he created this drink with the endearing and somewhat irreverent nickname for the coastline that stretches from Alabama to parts of Florida on the Gulf Coast, where the sand is fine and powdery and the water is emerald green. “My favorite summer dish is a delicious watermelon salad with basil and honey, so I wanted to capture that in drink form,” he says.
- 1 ½ oz. Spring 44 Honey Vodka
- ½ oz. Lime juice
- ½ oz. Cocktail & Sons Watermelon Basil Syrup
- ½ oz. Ancho Reyes Verde Liqueur
- Watermelon ball and basil sprig, for garnish
Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, and garnish with the watermelon ball and basil sprig.
Recipe courtesy of Patricia Smith, Beverage Director, 5Church
Originally created as part of the restaurant’s Charleston Wine & Food Festival signature dinner, it was added to the regular menu when it became a staff and guest favorite. It uses fresh strawberries from Hickory Bluff Farm in Holly Hill, South Carolina, which Patricia Smith says “have a great sweetness and tartness that work as the perfect complement to bright and fresh cucumbers.”
- 1 ½ oz. Vodka
- 1 oz. Orgeat
- 1 oz. Lemon juice
- 2 Strawberries
- 3 slices Cucumber, 1 reserved for garnish
- 4 Mint leaves
- Soda water
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the strawberries, 2 cucumber slices, mint leaves and orgeat. Add the vodka and lemon juice, add ice, and shake vigorously until well chilled. Double strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, top with soda water, and garnish with a slice of cucumber.
Recipe courtesy of Adam Stearns, Mixologist, Terranea Resort
Adam Stearns wanted to incorporate a fruit-forward, low-ABV cocktail into the menu of the resort’s spa cafe using plump, juicy seasonal blueberries. “The other flavors of açaí and orange are used to add depth and additional fruit character, [while] the Prosecco adds effervescence and stretches the rich flavors to create a lighter and [crisper] summer cocktail.”
- 1 ½ Cedilla Açaí Liqueur
- 1 oz. Orange juice
- 6 Blueberries
- Prosecco, to top
- Orange slice and 3 blueberries, for garnish
Muddle the blueberries in a cocktail shaker. Add the liqueur and orange juice, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice, top with Prosecco, and garnish with the orange slice and blueberries.
Summer’s Rose Spritz
Recipe courtesy of Paradise Point Resort & Spa
“Spritzes are the ideal summer cocktail in my mind – they’re simple, refreshing, and easy to customize,” says Mike Perez, general manager of the property’s Tidal restaurant. “It’s the perfect cocktail to enjoy while watching the sunset and enjoying summer with your friends.” Heady lavender – which thrives in the summertime – makes a beautifully floral and earthy syrup that works well with rosé wine.
- 3 oz. Sparkling rosé
- 1 oz. Honey lavender syrup (see Note)
- ½ oz. Lemon juice
- Splash Club soda
- 2 dashes Orange bitters
- Orange peel, for garnish
Fill a large wine glass with ice. Add the sparkling rosé, syrup and lemon juice. Top with a splash of club soda and 2 dashes of orange bitters, and garnish with an orange peel.
For the honey lavender syrup:
Bring 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of fresh lavender flowers to a boil in a small saucepan. Add ½ cup sugar and ½ cup honey and stir until dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, remove from the heat, and allow to cool. Strain out solids, and store the syrup in the refrigerator.
Recipe courtesy of Christopher Wagner, Head Mixologist, P.S. Kitchen
Wagner grew tired of Bloody Marys that tasted like cocktail sauce. He had a ton of tomatillos on hand, so he started playing around with a tangier, green version. “The tomatillo had a nice tang to it and really can be brightened up with different produce. It's easily adapted to any season,” he explains. “The way I make cocktails is like the way I cook: keep adding flavors until it's perfect!”
- 2 oz. Vodka
- 1 oz. Worcestershire sauce
- ½ oz. Lime juice
- 4 Tomatillos
- 2 Radishes
- 1 tbsp. Freshly grated horseradish
- 1 tbsp. Sriracha
- 2 cloves Garlic
- Half a Cucumber
- Cracked black pepper and celery salt, to taste
- Roasted carrot, celery, radish and hot peppers, for garnish
Blend all ingredients except vodka and garnishes until smooth. Add the vodka and pour into a Collins glass over fresh ice. Garnish with the roasted carrot, celery, radish and hot peppers.
Out of a Hat
An ode to a horse of the same name that Ali Koppel was drawn to while growing up on her mom’s farm, this drink features freshly pressed juice from the equine’s favorite food: carrots. White whiskey “simply played beautifully between the earthy sweetness of the carrot juice and the pickled flavor of the dill syrup I created,” she says, adding that dill was a hot commodity in her mom’s garden.
- 2 oz. Wicked White Whiskey
- 1 oz. Carrot juice
- ½ oz. Lemon juice
- ½ oz. Orange juice
- ½ oz. Dill syrup (see Note)
- Dill sprig, for garnish
Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker, add ice, and shake until well chilled. Double strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a dill sprig.
For the dill syrup:
Add 2 cups sugar to a mixing container, stir in 1 cup hot water and 1 bunch dill. Steep for an hour, then strain out solids. Store the syrup in the refrigerator.
South by Southwest
Recipe courtesy of Sean Potter, Director of Eat and Drink, Stoke
This seasonal sipper is served tableside in a French press, which gives the imbiber the ability to play mad scientist and have full control over the flavors of the drink, Sean Potter points out. “And the habanero shrub really plays a cool part in the drink – it slowly becomes [spicier] as it sits, and why not, it is a cocktail from the Southwest!”
- 3 oz. Lunazul Reposado Tequila
- 2 oz. Lime juice
- 2 oz. Agave nectar
- 5-6 Blueberries
- 3-4 Basil leaves
- 4 dashes Grapefruit bitters
- 6 dashes Habanero shrub
- Basil leaf, for garnish
Add the blueberries and 3 to 4 basil leaves to a French press. Muddle them lightly, and then add the remaining ingredients except garnish. Fill to the brass lining with cold water (about 6 ounces). Press three times to infuse the flavor, and serve over ice in a tea mug with a basil leaf tucked inside.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.