With summer comes the promise of great weather, long evenings and a few months of outdoor leisure. Barbecues, parties and informal get-togethers in the garden or on the beach are all happening. Finding the right drinks to serve your guests or selecting something original to take along as a guest can be a bit of a problem. It helps to think of summertime drinks in groups: beers, wines, spirits and cocktails.
For example it isn’t so easy to mix cocktails at a gathering on a beach but they may be just the thing at home where all the necessary ingredients and equipment are to hand. And if the event is a good old simple BBQ beer and wine are usually the preferred drinks rather than cocktails or spirits.
A cold or chilled beer is a classic summer drink. Lager is always popular and you can bet you’ll find it in large amounts at most gatherings. But it’s always nice to offer your guests or take something a little different. So-called “Craft Beer” is very popular and something like Goose Island Honkers Ale makes a good choice. It has a great colour and a good fruity hop nose and plenty of malt. It brings the English country pub to any event. Anchor Steam Beer is another craft beer that is becoming popular in England. It was first brewed in the United States a hundred years ago and is closer to an English stout than other beers, making it a good alternative to more traditional English ales.
Wine is a staple drink at any social gathering. Red, white, rosé or sparkling, it is hard to think of an event where it won’t be welcome. It’s easy to choose a wine that suits you and that you know well, and this is a good tactic. But sometimes it’s nice to bring something a little adventurous or out of the ordinary. Rosé wine used to be poorly represented on the shelves of supermarkets and off licenses but it has grown in popularity and there are a number of great roses to sample. Rose has the taste and blush of summer. Still available is an old favourite, Mateus Rosé from Portugal. It has a reputation and if you’ve been around for a little longer than some of your younger friends you’re likely to know its name. It’s light, goes well with BBQ food and comes in a distinctive bottle. Best served cold as either an aperitif or just easy drinking wine. Always impressive at any event is a bottle of fizzy fruity fun. Lanson Brut Rose Champagne combines the zest and dryness of champagne with the summer blush of a rose. It also has historical relevance as it was a favourite of Queen Victoria’s; as a consequence it was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1860!
Spirits often make a welcome contribution to a gathering and if you are the host you may want to consider which spirits you want to get, either to serve one their own, with mixers, or use as the bases of cocktails. Please see the cocktails section below for some recipes. The old favourites are still fashionable, especially those that go with ice. Gin is no exception; there are many new additions but traditional still does it for most. Brighton Gin is one of the more recent additions to what has become known as Craft Gin. The traditional flavour of juniper mixed with citrus and spice hints make this a good gin to suit all tastes. Another twist on the traditional flavours of gin is Fentimans and Bloom Gin and Rose Lemonade. Pre-mixed it makes a good contribution to a social gathering and is right on for the summer. The lemonade element is made from lemons of course and Rose Otto oil from Bulgaria. Rum is still a summer drink, associated as it is with hot climates. Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum is good over ice and filled with the usual vanilla flavour touched by spices. Based on gin, Pimm’s No 1 has been the drink of summer for so long it’s a part of the English heritage. Herbs, spices and caramelised orange mix perfectly with the gin base to form this traditional English summer drink. You can but it ready mixed with lemonade.
There’s a seemingly endless list of cocktail recipes around with more being added regularly. Perhaps two of the most common spirits used to make cocktails during the summer months are vodka and tequila with rum also up there as a popular cocktails base.
The base for this little lovely is tequila, always associated with the sun and hot weather. You’re best advised to make this in a large amount to save time for you and your guests. Try making this with Patron Silver Mexican Blanco Tequila. There are many types of tequila available in both white and gold varieties but the clarity and hint of pineapple in this one work well with the other ingredients. The ingredients for a jug are:
• a quart of fresh blood orange juice (from 12 blood oranges)
• one and a half cups of fresh lime juice (12 limes will do it)
• one and a half cups of Cointreau or a similar triple sec liqueur
• three and a half cups of the tequila
• salt (preferably kosher salt)
• blood orange slices
• lots of ice
Made famous in the TV series Sex in the City. An oldie but goodie this dates from the early 1970s. The base is vodka and a good choice would be Absolut Citron Vodka. This Swedish vodka has a trace of citron in its flavour which works well in this classic cocktail. Lemon, mandarin grapefruit and lime are added to produce its crisp finish. The ingredients for a Cosmopolitan are:
• one and a quarter ounces (about two and a half teaspoons) of the vodka
• a quarter of an ounce of Rose’s lime juice (or three quarters of a teaspoon)
• a quarter of an ounce of Triple Sec (Cointreau) (three quarters of a tablespoon)
• a quarter of a cup of cranberry juice
Best made in cocktail shaker. Garnish with a twist of lime.
This uses rum as its base and Puerto Rican rum suits it best. There are several available such as Cockspur Fine Rum. This is a really simple cocktail with these ingredients for each glass:
• one ounce of the rum
• two or three (depending on taste) ounces of ginger ale
• one ounce of orange juice
• garnish with orange or star-type fruit (optional)