Stirring Up Summer Cocktails
The days are longer, the evenings warmer and the moods brighter—summer is fully upon us and what better way to celebrate long afternoons with friends and sunsets on the beach than to raise a glass and hear the music of tinkling ice cubes? While cocktails are a year-round pleasure, the scorching days of August demand a particular approach to mixology. The ingredients should be fresher, the portions larger and the effect more bracing to counteract the heat, the haze and the lazy days. So stock up the bar and celebrate the season of summer cocktails—get mixing.
In a recent video installment of food writer Mark Bittman’s updates for The New York Times, he addressed the task of making a great cocktail. “I have a theory,” he begins, before suggesting that every cocktail he’s ever made has shared the same basic setup. First the booze, then something sweet, then something sour to balance it out. Well, a Manhattan bartender agreed and they went on to make some simple, stunning cocktails from a variety of different trios. However, what Bittman’s theory seems to ignore is the transition cocktails undergo when the sun begins to rise high into the sky, followed shortly thereafter by the temperature. While winter drinks usually adhere to the “sweet, sour, sip” philosophy, summer cocktails take on a life of their own with the addition of fruits, syrups and myriad other bells and whistles.
The biggest difference between summer cocktails and their cool winter brethren seems to come down to ingredients—the hotter the temperature, the more ingredients bartenders try to pack into the glass. Sometimes this can come down to nothing but garnish, the odd fruit slice or umbrella. However, sometimes the mix can get maxed out with fresh produce, muddled herbs and various syrups to add a bit of sweetness, and, if you’re creative, a whole new taste sensation. While an equal parts sugar-to-water boiled syrup will give some needed zest to any mix, adding a dash of cinnamon, ginger or mint can help cocktails take on a new life. These can work wonders with white or red sangria—using ginger and cinnamon, respectively. More often than not, when it comes to summer cocktails, most turn to the classics—margaritas, daiquiris and mojitos—all of which can gain some zip with a dash of simple syrup.
Syrups and booze aside, experts also point to some rather simple logistics when it comes to making the perfect drink for a late afternoon or early evening happy hour. From the size and shape of the glass to the temperature of the ice, mixologists and scientists agree that when the mercury starts to climb, changes need to be made. Thanks to faster melting times and alternative liquors, taller glasses and the coldest ice you can find are key for keeping things balanced and, more importantly, making sure everyone stays hydrated.
Emerging in the ’50s and ’60s, tiki culture brought the notion of Pacific-island living into the national consciousness, with themed restaurants and bars to evoke fantasies of long, lei-encrusted afternoons on the beaches of Oahu. While most of these restaurants and bars have vanished outside of Honolulu, a coterie of hopefuls remain to support and spread tiki culture and everything it has to offer; not least its variety of fruity and snazzy drinks.
Addressing all things tiki, tropical and cocktail, Beachbum Berry provides a one-stop shop for recipes, tips and news on his site. The author of two books on tropical drinks and tiki culture, Berry’s got an updated blog with drink ideas, snacks to keep you sated and the best classic beach bum movies to pair with them. Check out the classic “Bad Booze” section for a laugh while you’re there.
A stellar tool from a classic rag, Esquire’s drink database allows visitors to search their extensive collection of recipes and featured cocktails by one or more alcohols, mixers, fruits, juices or ingredients. While their flash menu of featured cocktails focuses on the classic gentlemen’s drinks, their overall selection appears to address every cocktail need under the sun.
CraveOnline features another all-around help guide—an ideal bookmark to keep around for parties or just a quiet night in. A searchable database, featured recipes and a quick list of 100 popular cocktails, not to mention a wealth of general bartending resources are sure to keep you pleasantly anesthetized.