We may not be embarking on our dream summer vacations, but we can still craft cocktails with recipes that invoke the spirit of the heat-filled season, wherever that may be.
What time, exactly, does cocktail hour begin? That’s a question for fierce debate in these times of quarantinis and the pantry-staple meals that follow. Holed up inside for months, many of us are finding the inspiration to bring back the tradition of ending the day with a mindfully crafted drink. Rather than rushing to make it to happy hour, we’re settling into the art of the cocktail, something most of us rarely had the time or energy to do in our normal pre-Coronavirus lives.
As the weather gets warmer, we asked leaders in the food and wine world—who have become expert at-home bartenders in their own right—what they’re shaking and stirring to invoke the spirit of the summer months to come. Their answers took us from their kitchens to East Africa, Ho Chi Minh City, New York, and more than one stop in Mexico (what doesn’t scream summer like a refreshing cocktail on a beautiful Mexican beach?), and remind us what all have in common: a longing to taste the flavors of the world again.
1. The Perfect G&T for a Safari Sundowner
Kean Mcilvaine, Executive Sous Chef at Rose’s Luxury in Washington, D.C.:
My go-to cocktail is one of the simplest: a gin and tonic. As a kid, I lived in East Africa, and returned to spend some summers as a teenager with my aunt who still lives there. Large grocery stores were still very rare then so rather than buying beer or soda at the store, everyone would get milk crates filled with glass bottles of Coca Cola, Fanta, Sprite, and tonic water. I obviously wasn’t drinking gin then, but I loved the distinct taste of tonic water.
Leopold’s is the perfect gin for this G&T because Pomelo and Valencia Orange subtly add a brightness to the cocktail and makes it especially refreshing. It is so good that I make my G&T’s a little stronger when I use it, and sometimes you need it after a hard day.
The Perfect Gin & Tonic Recipe:
—2.5 oz Leopold’s American Small Batch Gin
—4 oz Fever Tree Citrus Tonic
—A squeeze of lime
Pour the gin over ice, top with tonic water and a squeeze of lime. Give it a swirl and enjoy!
2. The Sparkling White Negroni of Small Town Summers
Marty Winters, Winemaker/Co-Owner at Maître de Chai in Berkeley, California:
It might feel a little strange for someone born on the East Coast, now living and making wine in California, to be dreaming of Kansas City, but of all the places in the world that my travels for selling wine has taken me, Kansas City has been one of the most memorable. You really feel at home in this ‘big’ small town. I had the opportunity to visit The Campground KC in the Stockyards District, where I enjoyed a Sparkling Negroni they had on tap—they were actually batching the cocktail and carbonating it on site, where they would serve it fresh over a large ice cube.
Of course, we don’t have the carbonation capability at home, so I substituted with some of our Maître de Chai Sparkling Chenin Blanc. The key to this cocktail is the Salers aperitif, and of course all clear ingredients. Usually this time of year we’d be visiting our friends and colleagues in other cities to sell our wines across the country, but for now we’re enjoying moments at home that remind us of the small, independent restaurants we love.
Sparkling White Negroni Recipe:
—1oz Gin (Ford’s or St. George Spirits)
—1oz White Vermouth (Dolin or Cocchi)
—3/4oz Salers Aperitif
—Lemon Twist, for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a glass of your choice, over a large, single ice cube. Top with a dry sparkling white wine of your choice and refresh as needed. Garnish with a lemon twist.
3. The Mexico-cum-NYC Mezcal Cocktail if You Crave an Urban Escape
Joe and Katy Kindred, Owners of Kindred in Davidson, North Carolina:
We’re so missing our favorite travel destinations this summer, but especially New York City. Saxon + Parole’s “Bowery Fix” is always our first stop and first sip when in the city. It’s a robust cocktail, served up, with a subtle smokiness that is perfectly balanced with bright acidity and a little spice on the back end. We’ve taken a serious liking to the drink and spruced up something similar on our home turf.
—2oz Vida Del Maguey Mezcal
—¾oz Fresh Lemon juice
—¼oz Fresh Grapefruit juice
—½oz Pineapple Gum syrup
—¼oz Agave syrup (1:1)
—15-20 Drops of Calabrian Chile oil
Combine all ingredients except chile oil into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini or coupe glass. Add calabrian chile oil droplets (we use a small vial) to taste and serve!
4. The Vietnam-Inspired Cocktail for a Humid-Weather Refreshment
Jori Jayne Emde, Flavor Maven at Fish & Game in Hudson, New York:
A cocktail I’ve been craving a lot lately comes from the Temple Club, a great spot in central Ho Chi Minh City, that is in one of the last heritage buildings that used to be a guest house for the Hindu Temple across the street. I totally dug this place: awesome decor, the food was good, simple, and inspired by the different influences of old Saigon. The drinks were fantastic and simple, with few ingredients, but the ingredients were quality. We went back a few times despite the great distance to get there from our hotel, which required a boat, but it was worth it for me.
I don’t recall what this cocktail was named on their menu so I call it the Temple Club Cocktail. It was very hot and humid in Ho Chin Minh and this cocktail was a perfect afternoon refreshment.
Temple Club Cocktail Recipe:
—2-3 small ripe Calamansi limes or 3-4 kumquats cut in half
—½ to 1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
—3oz Nep Moi
—Pandan Leaf or sprig of mint
In a chilled Julep cup add 2-3 small ripe Calamansi limes or 3-4 kumquats that have been cut in 1/2. Add 1/2 Tablespoon (can do 1T if you like your drinks sweet) of dark brown sugar and with a wood bar pestle, muddle firmly to release the juice from the citrus as well as the oils from the rind without pulverizing the citrus (the grains of the sugar help release the oils). Muddle firmly until the sugar has dissolved and the citrus has softened… It takes a few minutes but it’s totally worth it. Add 3 ounces of Nep Moi and top with some flaked ice and stir to incorporate. Top with shaved ice. Garnish with pandan leaf or sprigs of mint.
It’s hard to find an alternative for Nep Moi, it’s so unique. It’s a rice distillate but has unique flavors of sticky rice and pandan with just the right amount of funkiness.
5. Baja California in a Cocktail
David Castro Hussong, Executive Chef at Fauna in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico:
The Tipai cocktail is going to be our summer drink at Fauna as soon as we’re able to open. This cocktail draws its inspiration from the salinity of the Pacific Ocean and the earthiness of the Valle de Guadalupe. I put this recipe together while writing my cookbook. For me this is truly Ensenada in a drink.
The Tipai Recipe:
—50 ml Tio Pepe Palomino Sherry
—20 ml Green Chartreuse
—20 ml Ancho Reyes Verde (Chile Poblano Liqueur)
—45 ml Aloe Vera Soda
—10 ml Lemon Juice
—2 dashes Salt
Stir together the Palomino Sherry, Green Chartreuse, and lemon juice. Strain over ice into a high ball glass. Top with Aloe Vera Soda. Serve on ice in a high ball glass. Garnish with lemon zest and salt.
6. The Next-Level Smoky-Spicy Margarita
Georgina Morante Galicia, Co-Owner of Miga in London, England:
My husband and I are both UK-based chefs and together we have a small catering business called Miga. We do private events and pop-up dinners, focusing on modern, farm-to-table Mexican food, drawing inspiration from my husband’s native Mexico City. Sadly, we don’t know when we will next be able to visit our family in Mexico City, but thankfully we always have tequila on hand to transport us there metaphorically. Honestly, life doesn’t get much better than a margarita for me, but I love the addition of Ancho Reyes if you can get your hands on it, which is a liqueur made in Mexico with ancho chilies. It’s a little smoky, a little spicy, and totally delicious.
Ancho Margarita Recipe:
—1 1/2 oz Tequila Blanco
—3/4 oz Ancho Reyes
—1 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
—1/2 oz light agave nectar or simple syrup
Add some ice to a rocks glass. Add some ice to a shaker, alongside all the ingredients. Shake well, about 20 seconds and the shaker is really cold. Strain into the glass & garnish with a lime wedge. Enjoy!
7. A Margarita for Your Beach Body
Syliva Osborne-Calierno, Co-Owner of FAVA in Berkeley, California
This summer I’ll be making a cocktail inspired by the green juice we serve at FAVA, the tiny little restaurant I own in Berkeley’s “gourmet ghetto.” At FAVA we focus on simplicity, using all organic ingredients and try to show off healthy, clean, and pure flavors with a rustic presentation. This is a spiked version of the green juice we serve, which was inspired by my travels and the flavors I experienced in the Yucatán in Mexico where we drank cold, hydrating, and intensely flavored aqua Frescas in the sun, and also from the fresh and deeply spiced flavors found in Middle Eastern markets.
FAVA’s Parsley, Lime, and Cucumber “Margarita” Recipe:
—1 1/2oz Fresh Lime
—1/2 oz Agave
—1/2 oz Mezcal
—1 1/2 oz Tequila
—2/3 Sprigs of Parsley
—4 Cucumber Chunks
—Chili and Sumac
Blend or muddle four chunks of cucumber with 2/3 sprigs of parsley (this drink should be bright green and in strained to preserve the nutritional value of its ingredients). Add agave, tequila, mezcal, lime, pinch of salt and blend. Pour over ice and serve in a chilled low-ball glass with spicy chili and sumac rim.
8. The Wish-We-Were-In-a-Cabin-Upstate Cocktail
Amir Nathan, Owner of Sami & Susu in Williamsburg, Brooklyn:
This cocktail is a road trip through New York and a reminder of better times in the state I’ve been proud to call home since moving here from Israel twelve years ago. All the ingredients come from New York. The aperitivo comes from Forthave Distillery in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the gin is made at Neversink Distillery in Port Chester, New York, where Noah Barunstein and Yoni Rabino make an amazing gin from distilled New York apples, juniper berries, and local botanics. The Pét-Nat (a natural sparkling wine) comes all the way from the Chepika Winery in the Finger Lakes, where a master sommelier and a wine maker joined forces and produce delicious natural sparkling wine made from the region’s indigenous grapes varietals (Catawba and Delaware). And I love to go to my local farmer’s market to get some Meyer lemons and jam.
Empire State of Mind Recipe:
—1 bar spoon of strawberry jam (or another jam you have at home)
—0.5oz of fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
—0.5oz of Forthave Red Aperitivo
—1.5oz Neversink Gin
—Top with Chepika’s Pét-Nat
In a metal cocktail shaker add jam, Meyer lemon juice and stir well using a bar spoon. Add the aperitivo and gin and fill the shaker with as much ice as possible. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds and strain over fresh ice (pebble ice or regular) in a Collins glass. Top with the Pét-Nat and garnish with a lemon peel.