Seasonal drinking is most exciting in the summer. From afternoon ice-cold thirst quenchers to sundowners during golden sunsets and boozy refreshers on heady summer nights, the world is your bibulous oyster.
So what should the perfect host in summer 2021 serve their guests? It’s safe to assume that the majority of our socialising will take place outdoors this summer. And while the key to hosting any drinks party is to prep as much as you can beforehand, this is especially important if you’re having to serve everything out in the garden.
All the cocktails here are either simple to make on the spot, or can be made in a batch before the event. Then you merely need to pour them out, perhaps adding a mixer and/or garnish, and stir. No faffing about with cocktail shakers and strainers here – just an incredibly organised host, cool as a cucumber, pouring, stirring and handing over drinks like a pro.
As well as pre-batching most of your offering, a few other tricks will ensure your drinks are the talk of your tribe. Ensure all you’re serving is suitably chilled – keep bottles either in a fridge or an ice bucket filled with a mixture of water and ice. And speaking of ice, when filling glasses use the best-quality ice that you can. The bigger the cubes, the less they will melt and dilute your drink. And keep it somewhere it will stay properly frozen, not in bags dumped on the side that end up filled with puddles and watery, depressing half-cubes.
Finally, when a drink requires ice, make sure you fill the glass up to the brim with said cubes. It will help keep your drink crisp and fresh, and once again prevent it from becoming a diluted, drab concoction.
So now it’s time to get mixing. From sparkling Champagne cocktails to spritzy non-alcoholic numbers, there’s something for everyone on the following pages. Enjoy!
Mexican Dry Spritz
Offer anyone abstaining from alcohol a seriously mixed, non-sweet drink, and they will think you’re the best host since sliced bread. Because why should those who drink alcohol have all the fun? After resignedly asking for a herbal tea on a recent visit, my friend’s eyes lit up when I offered her a grown-up and complex non-alcoholic cocktail instead, served in a wine glass with a big slice of orange. She described it as a ‘proper treat’.
The Aecorn range is a trio of grape-based non-alcoholic aperitifs, with the Bitter being a great non-alcoholic alternative to bitter aperitifs such as Campari or Aperol; Aromatic a decent substitute for sweet vermouth; and Dry a stand-in for… well, dry vermouth.
They all boast decent mouthfeel and complexity, a remarkable achievement considering that a lot of non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ simply taste like washed-out flavoured water.
Aecorn Dry has grippy tannins, and a bitter herbaceousness that works well with Fever-Tree Mexican Lime Soda – perfect for roasting hot afternoons when you need something serious to slake your thirst.
- Ingredients 50ml Aecorn Dry, Fever-Tree Mexican Lime soda to top
- Glass Wine
- Garnish Slice of lime
- Method Fill the glass with ice and add Aecorn Dry. Top with the soda, stir and add the garnish.
Summer Berry Tequila
I’ve made this cocktail for numerous parties, and it’s always a hit. Taken from Ryan Chetiyawardana’s excellent book Good Things to Drink (Frances Lincoln, 2015), the full juiciness of the berry mix in this drink is offset by the vegetal, vanilla notes of the reposado tequila and the acidity of the cider vinegar. The ginger ale mixer is simply the invigorating, sparkly cherry on top.
- Ingredients 50ml tequila berry infusion*, ginger ale to top
- Glass Highball
- Garnish Rosemary sprig
- Method Fill the glass with ice and add the tequila berry infusion. Top with ginger ale, stir and garnish.
*To make the infusion, take one thumb of peeled and chopped ginger, one punnet of hulled strawberries, one punnet each of raspberries and blackberries, 100ml water, 100ml cider vinegar and 100g sugar all together in a pan and bring to the boil. Once the berries have started to break down, simmer for five minutes and stir. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. In a large jar, add one bottle of reposado tequila and the berry mixture. Infuse for a few hours, strain through a sieve, bottle and store in the fridge.
Lemon & Cardamom Gimlet
Created by bar operator brothers Max and Noel Venning, and included in their wonderful cocktail book Batched & Bottled (Quadrille, May 2018), this drink is a little fiddly to make, but once it’s done you can store it in a bottle in your freezer and simply pour out a measure when required. A twist on the Gimlet, which mixes gin with lime cordial, the use of lemon and cardamom in this version adds beautiful complexity to the gin’s botanicals. I used Star of Bombay gin to make this, which has a higher abv (47.5%) and boasts beguiling citrussy and earthy notes.
- Ingredients 350ml gin, 200ml lemon & cardamom cordial*, 200ml water
- Glass Cocktail
- Garnish None
- Method Mix the gin, lemon and cardamom cordial with the water, and pour into a sterilised 750ml bottle – keep it in the freezer for up to six months. Then you can simply pour the chilled Gimlet into a glass and serve.
*To make the cordial, zest 10 lemons in a mixing bowl. Take five cardamom pods, split them and crush the enclosed seeds. Add these and 400g caster sugar to the bowl. Stir and lightly press the mixture for five minutes. Cover and leave for an hour. Juice the zested lemons and add the juice to the bowl, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Strain through cheesecloth, bottle and keep in the fridge for up to six weeks.
Created by internationally renowned bartender Monica Berg, Muyu Jasmine Verte liqueur boasts a delicate yet intense floral bouquet thanks to the extraction of the jasmine’s notes through enfleurage (a process where the flowers are steeped in fat, then removed, and the fat is mixed with alcohol and distilled).
The lifted florality of this liqueur works wonderfully with Champagne, either as a royale, as per this recipe, or as a highball – in a tall glass filled with ice, with 40ml of the liqueur and the Champagne to top. Nothing screams decadence more than a long Champagne drink served over ice!
Berg’s Champagne of choice for this cocktail is Pierre Gerbais, a grower Champagne based in the Aube that boasts 4ha of Pinot Blanc as part of its domaine. Pretty much any Champagne will work however, although Berg recommends fresh and citrussy styles to get the best result.
- Ingredients 15ml Muyu Jasmine Verte liqueur, Champagne to top
- Glass Champagne flute
- Garnish None
- Method Pour the liqueur into the glass and top with Champagne. Stir gently.
There’s something incredibly pleasing about an Americano. It’s wonderfully refreshing, easy to make and the perfect balance of bitter and sweetness. The orange garnish helps to bring out the fruit flavours of the Campari. Add to all this the fact that it’s low-abv, and it ticks practically every box for a perfect summer drink. I’m hankering after one just writing this.
Originally called a Milano-Torino, thanks to Campari hailing from Milan and sweet vermouth from Turin, the drink was renamed Americano when the Italian bartenders noticed how much Americans enjoyed it.To save time during a party, you can pre-mix the Campari and sweet vermouth, and then simply pour out a 90ml measure of the mix and add the soda water. Serve at sundown with a selection of antipasti and pretend you’re sitting in a piazza in Italy.
- Ingredients 45ml Campari, 45ml sweet vermouth, soda water to top
- Glass Highball
- Garnish Orange slice
- Method Fill the glass with ice. Add Campari, vermouth and soda, gently stir and garnish.