There’s never a time of year when cocktails are out of season, but it’s safe to say that summertime inspires even the most moderate cocktail drinkers to indulge more often. Instead of sipping on a cocktail to warm the spirit in the cold months, or to wash away the memories of a tough day at work, summertime sipping is more about enjoying the vibrancy of life.
Over the coming months there’s a healthy chance you’ll find yourself behind the bar, or in the kitchen, mixing up margs for your BBQ. Weekend soirees will undoubtedly call for refreshing mojitos and spiked lemonade!
The reasons to be shaking and stirring cocktails are abundant in the summer months, and for those of you who enjoy playing bartender, we’ve got the inside scoop for you from an inside source.
The Best Cocktail Recipes & Tools for a Refreshing Summer
Laura Magarian, the Bar Manager at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort & Spa, has kindly shared the five most important ingredients and tools to keep stocked in your bar all summer long. She happens to be quite the expert in this arena, and we think you’ll find her five items useful as well.
1. Fresh Lime Juice
“Margaritas are the #1 ordered drink in America so all bartenders must be prepared to be mixing up margs all day, every day during the summer months. Though it may be much easier and cost effective to use sour mix concentrate or lime juice concentrate, I simply will not allow this behind my bar! The flavor profile of concentrates is tainted with preservatives and other non-organic ingredients as well as high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, which completely mask the delicate taste of the tequila. So the #1 most important ingredient to have behind the bar for Summer is fresh lime juice. It’s the key to most deliciously balanced cocktails – especially margaritas!”
2. A Good, Strong Set of Cocktail Strainers
“Both Hawthorn and Juniper strainers are excellent tools to have behind the bar all year, but especially in the Summer months! Summer sunshine brings bounties of fresh berries and herbs, which I love to use, especially if they are local & seasonal. The muddled mess these ingredients produce causes many bartenders to avoid them completely. However, the end result of a perfectly mixed summer fresh cocktail is far too delectable to dismiss. Forget the mess and grab a tumbler with your favorite spirit and stuff it with ripe blueberries, luscious raspberries, basil leaves, or whatever else you desire. Muddle the cocktail and then strain the liquid into your cocktail glass over ice and discard the muddle-mess directly into the compost.”
3. An Assortment of Bitters
“Bitters can spruce up any cocktail and are an especially valuable ingredient for Summer season behind the bar! With an overabundance of berries and fruits used in summer cocktails, cocktail flavor profiles tend to be on the sweeter side of the palate. We all love a bit of sweetness, but the most important element of a cocktail is balance. Sweetness can be balanced by adding a source of bitter. There are plenty of fun and unique bitters on the market, and more are popping up all the time! An abundance of bitter flavors from citrus & maple to Rosemary & rhubarb provides bartenders the opportunity to experiment and mix up delicious, creative and balanced cocktails all summer long!”
“Mint tends to be a bartender’s worst enemy during summer months, it’s essential. The moment the weather begins to warm up, people begin salivating for the refreshing flavor of mint, and of course, some rum to go with it – Mojito anyone? Medium sized bushels of mint sprigs should be kept wrapped in wet paper towels in the fridge. If you’re hosting a party, it’s wise to wash the mint ahead of time and keep a few pre-picked leaves in your garnish tray for quick and easy access. (And don’t forget to use your strainer!)”
5. Infused Simple Syrups
“To a certain extent, the perfect cocktail must be balanced with a source of both bitter and sweet. Summertime cocktails tend to have many ingredients and preparation can become overwhelming and chaotic during busy times. One way to alleviate the chaos and save time is to create infused simple syrups. Most summer cocktails have simple syrup as an ingredient to balance the tartness of citrus and other fruits. For efficiency sake, make batches of simple syrup infused with berries or herbs to have on hand for your party or personal use. Utilizing infused simple syrups kills two birds with one stone – you have the sugar for sweetness and an infusion of berries or herbs to add tartness to the palate. Another great benefit of utilizing infused simple syrups is that it eliminates muddling fruits and/or herbs which saves time AND creates less mess.”
Laura has shared two of The Essex Summer “Chef Inspired” cocktail recipes for your enjoyment:
Muddle 5 Basil leaves in bar tumbler and add:
– 2 oz. Silver Tequila
– ¾ oz. Triple Sec
– 1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
– ¾ oz. Watermelon Infused Simple Syrup
Shake with ice, strain and pour into large rocks glass over ice. Garnish with a watermelon wedge & Basil leaf.
Summer Thyme Sipper
– 2 ½ oz. Green Mountain Organic Vodka (or vodka of your choice)
– Squeeze juice from half a lemon
– 1 oz. Thyme Infused Simple Syrup
– 2 oz. Freshly Brewed Raspberry Hibiscus Iced Tea
Shake with ice and strain into Collins glass over ice. Garnish with a lemon twist and sprig of fresh Thyme.
The abundance of fresh ingredients in the summer pairs well with festive cocktail creation. It’s ok to be playful with what you have available. Whatever you come up with be sure to tag us on social media. We can’t wait to see your creative libations!