Utah doesn’t have much in the way of sandy beaches. But we do have a lot of back yards here. And as lovely as Utah summers can be, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t turn yours into the tropics. All it takes, along with some cold beer or wine, is a handful of good summer cocktail recipes.
First things first: Save the whiskey for winter. Summer drinks are all about clear liquors, ice and fresh fruit. The latter'fresh fruit'can make or break a backyard barbecue and will separate you from the masses that use premixed store-bought concoctions with all sort of artificial flavors and preservatives. Learn to core and dice a pineapple, to mince mint and to make sour mix from scratch. It’s worth the effort, and your friends, family and neighbors will love you for it.
Also, don’t be stingy with the ice. For summer flings, you’ll need lots of ice. Keep it in the freezer or in a cooler next to wherever you’re mixing cocktails. Nothing can kill a summer party buzz like running out of ice.
When it comes to outdoor sipping, don’t be too picky about glassware. Plastic cups are perfectly fine'although it’s better to employ reusable glasses if possible. You can find inexpensive, colorful summer tumblers and such these days at most supermarkets and big box retailers.
So now all you need a few recipes and a blender or two. Here are some of my favorite summer cocktail drinks and how to make them.
In case you haven’t noticed, the use of pomegranates in cooking, for garnishes and especially in cocktails is very trendy right now. So here is how to make a Pomegranate Martini: In a pitcher, combine 3/4 cup chilled gin, the juice of one lemon and one orange, and 1/4 cup of pomegranate syrup. Stir the juices and syrup together and serve in martini glasses (serves 4) over ice or straight up. Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds.
One of the most popular cocktails at the popular Agave restaurant in New York is its Strawberry Tequila Mojito. Here is how they do it: Pour 1-1/2 ounces silver tequila into a shaker filled with ice. In a rocks glass (or whatever), smash up two strawberries, a handful of mint leaves (about a dozen) and a packet of sugar (or artificial sweetener), along with the juice of 1/4 lime. Add this mÃ©lange to the tequila and shake for all you’re worth. Serve in a glass with a splash of soda, garnished with a strawberry.
Of course, nothing could be more classic in warm weather than a Gin & Tonic. But this is important: Put your gin in the freezer the night before your shindig. In fact, you can do this with all of the liquor you’ll be using; it won’t freeze. Pour 2 ounces of chilled super-premium'don’t be cheap!'gin in a highball glass filled with ice. And I mean, filled with ice. This way the drink won’t become watery and diluted within minutes of making it. Add 2 to 3 ounces of fresh, fizzy tonic' Schweppes is classic'to taste, then squeeze a wedge of lime or lemon into the drink and drop the wedge right in there.
Cheers to you and the summer season!
Sips: Here’s a hot tip: The best restaurant wine prices I’ve found anywhere are at Fanny’s Grill at The Homestead (see Dining, p. 28). It’s a very wine-friendly place where they mark up every bottle only $5, which is less than most places charge for corkage. That’s one way to lure wine lovers out to Midway!