The Art of Summer Drinking

June 13, 2012 1:54 pm

The sun makes a perfect excuse…

The last few months have given only a few insipid hints but tradition assures us that summer is planning an appearance and is languidly travelling over to our blustery little island to relieve the insistent rain. Without suspecting the worst, there may only be a few days and nights of heat to enjoy- so it’s best to meet them with a cheery grin and a white hot barbeque rather than slight bewilderment. Please, don’t update Facebook, we all know about the fiery orb in the sky. Go out and enjoy it.

Any lengthy, pleasant evenings are sure to inspire frivolity, from charcoal-flavoured picnics with friends to terse pleasantries between rotten uncles and fermenting in-laws. From ground to gazebo, something decent to drink puts a soft happy glow on the edges of a memory so a well stocked bar is near indispensable. But you already knew that.

If the worst happens and the sun is switched off, drinks are infallible against bad weather: a BBQ rushed inside by pestering rain is a health hazard, indoor cocktails mean the ice-tray is that much near.


The elixir of life exists and it’s within a cocktail somewhere, we’ve just forgotten the recipe.  As bartenders around the world try daily to mix that perfect drink, they’ve hit upon some magnificent creations and while none advertise guaranteed magical properties, the drinker may feel differently after a spending some time with them.

These cocktails deliberately avoid the bafflingly popular Vodka but it can be used as substitute for the main liquor where ‘V’ appears. If you do have a bottle spare, just add orange juice and a Screwdriver is born or use cranberry instead for a Cape Codder.

NB- all ‘oz’ are fluid ounces.

Southern Style Mint Julep (V– Kremlin Colonel)

Southern Style Mint Julep

For those days of heavy, pressing heat where afternoons should be lazy.

A proper Julep is as refreshing as it is intoxicating and should be fresh, clean and delicious.  Fresh, aromatic mint and a decent bourbon are key here- my favourites are Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark. Bulliet Bourbon is a bit hardier and the flavour stands out well against the sweetness. Generosity with ice will ensure well-refreshed guests but avoid too much sugar or it will end up sticky.

If a barman ever serves a Julep with fruit in, send it back. If there’s fruit, it’s not a Julep and if the ‘tender says it is, he’s lying.
6- 8 mint leaves
A little sugar- one or two cubes maximum
3 oz Bourbon whiskey.
Plenty of crushed ice, drained to avoid excess water.

Use a tall Collins glass or a traditional metal/silver cup if available. Prepare in chosen vestibule.

Into the glass, add the mint leaves and avoid the bitter stems. Next, add the sugar and use a bar spoon to muddle together the two until the moisture from the leaves is absorbed by the sugar. Fill the glass just below halfway with ice, pour in the Bourbon and stir thoroughly until the glass is chilled (if it is metal it will ‘frost’ – perfect!) Top to the rim with ice, add a little mint on top and serve.

Tip: Avoid a straw. Drinking without means the mint is closer to the nose, and the vibrant smell really helps make the drink.

Gin Sour/Gin Fizz/Tom Collins (V– Joe Collins)
These aren’t the same drink with a different name but they are brothers. Learning the essence of one will let you remember the other two and it is worth remembering the subtle differences which allow you to accommodate a greater breadth of taste.

Ingredients: (for Gin Sour)

1oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz sugar/simple syrup
1 1/2oz – 2oz Dry Gin
A small spoonful sugar
Stemmed Maraschino Cherry
To make plenty of sugar/simple syrup, add 8 table spoons of sugar to a pan and add 8 table spoons of water. Bring to the boil, simmer for a couple of minutes, stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Use when cool and store in a clean, covered jar the fridge. 

To make a Gin Sour, add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake well, strain into a Sour glass, add the cherry.

To make a Gin Fizz, add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake well, strain into a Collins glass filled with ice, top with soda water. No cherry in this one.

To make a Tom Collins, add the first three ingredients to a Collins glass filled with ice, stir well and then top with soda. Add the Maraschino cherry and a lemon slice.

All three provide an interesting alternative to the equally delicious Gin n’ Tonic. Martin Miller’s gin is truly excellent if you can grab a bottle and Tanqueray No. Ten is hard to top otherwise. Gordon’s is much better than the equivalent spirits in its price range and is ideal for mixing.

Hemmingway Daiquiri

Hemmingway Daiquiri
Enough to cool its tempestuous namesake as he lazed on a barstool in favoured Cuban haunt, La Floridita, this rum drink should be more than enough to contend with our summers. The writer used to drink as many as twelve of these in a sitting. Which was presumably followed by a falling.
2 oz white rum
¾ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz maraschino liqueur
½ oz (fresh) grapefruit juice

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice, add the ingredients and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a wedge of lime. For a particularly refreshing drink, have your glass half full of crushed ice.

If you don’t have a bottle of Maraschino liqueur to hand, use the liquid in the jar persevering the cherries. The taste will differ but it offers a reasonable compromise. It’s better than not trying one of these.

The Hemmingway Daiquiri is quite different from the original recipe of 1898. To make a pure Daiquiri, sometime called the Daiquiri Natural, add 3/4oz fresh lime juice, ¼ oz sugar syrup and 2 oz of rum all together in a shaker half full of ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and enjoy.

Amaretto Sours
A true favourite amongst my friends, this delicious concoction isn’t ideal for quenching your thirst; you’ll simply want another. Hot weather brings this on regardless of the drink though, so it’s an easy fault to forgive. Don’t mix this too sweetly and remember the cherry, which is vital in this cocktail.

3/4oz lemon juice
¾ oz orange juice
¾ oz Amaretto
Maraschino cherry

Mix the first three ingredients over in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a sours glass, or an Old-fashioned glass half full of crushed ice. Add the cherry, stir. Drink. Make another. Repeat until sunrise.


A decent bottle of fizz carries an assurance of a good time. It marks the idea that your get-together is one to remember, one that hasn’t simply been hastily thrown together at the sight of cloudless blue sky, even if that’s exactly what happened. If on a budget, it’s often better to buy English sparkling wine, Prosecco, Limoux (look it up) or Cava. Cheap Champagne often fares poorly against equivalent bubbles in the same price bracket.

If you’ve bought delicious Champagne, serve it chilled in flutes (a bucket of iced water will give you a spot on serving temperature) and enjoy. Champagne is a long way from soda water and it’s a shame to use it in the same way.

If you’ve something you don’t mind mixing, though, try these delicious cocktails and make like Scott Fitzgerald; one in each hand, never empty.

Classic Champagne Cocktail
1 sugar cube
Dash angostura bitters
1 oz Cognac (optional but preferred.)

Place the sugar at the bottom of the flute, add a few drops of bitters until the cube is lightly coloured. I add the Cognac here, before topping with Champagne. Some prefer to pour the champagne before floating the brandy. Without the Brandy, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a day lounging. With the brandy, fight the night chill and raise a toast to it already being tomorrow.

French 75  (V– French 76)

French 75

¼ oz lemon juice
Dash sugar syrup
3/4oz gin

The first three ingredients (with a splash of grenadine if handy) should be shaken in a cocktail shaker half full of ice, strained into a Champagne flute and topped with ice. A few blueberries can be added for a fruity lift. The one for an elegant soiree.

If playing host doesn’t suit, gather a group of willing barflies to mix up a few somethings; one or two experiments may make the day.

Have fun but drink responsibly.  Know your limits and stick by them.

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