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Cocktails for summer: Five easy-mixers

When the mercury soars, it’s time to reach for the ice – and the shaker and stirrer. Keep your cool this season, with these fresh twists on some classic mixed drinks.

Sun riding high in the sky, nights long and lively: it’s that time of year again. And summer drinking staples are back once more, from perfectly chilled Provençal rosé to clean, crisp ciders. Then there’s the exciting world of mixed drinks to consider, too.

So what’s on trend for this season? Summer drinking often isn’t about reinventing the wheel, as Rachel Reid, general manager at cocktail bar Swift Borough in London, attests. Spritzes and Margaritas are set to be popular again, she says: ‘The Spritz always does well in the summer, as it’s thirst-quenching and can easily be manipulated into being sweet, bitter or fruity at the ease of the person making it.’

These drinks may be classics, but they are always evolving, as the Margarita and Spritz twists featured in this article will demonstrate. In fact, the ‘Spritz’ here is a non-alcoholic serve. ‘What I find interesting is that the definition of a Spritz is becoming wider and wider, incorporating drinks that do not necessarily include wine any longer,’ explains Michele Mariotti, who heads up the bars program at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland.

Speaking of low- and no-alcohol drinks, their rise continues apace, with top bars and restaurants dedicating more space on their menus to this sector year after year. It’s the fastest-developing and most innovative drinks category right now, with plenty of quality and interesting non-alcoholic brands available.

Special mentions go to Everleaf’s creative and delicious range, as well as Botivo and Mother Root. The latter two use apple cider vinegar as a base, and botanicals to flavour their expressions.

The best way to use all of these products is by mixing them with some of the exciting flavoured soda and tonic waters on the market right now. Get creative with the garnish, too: ‘We’re using abundant garnishes this summer, because the one thing we can’t bottle is the freshness of ingredients,’ says Everleaf’s founder Paul Mathew. ‘I always recommend picking one flavour from the drink and amplifying it with a fresh ingredient.’

Finally, while buying the ingredients for your drinks, make sure you don’t forget one vital component. ‘Ice is such an important ingredient, and you never have enough of it,’ declares Mariotti. ‘I recommend always having a freezer full of it.’ When adding ice to a glass, don’t skimp – fill the vessel.

So what is the red thread through all these drinks, and all of this advice? Freshness. Keep it fresh this summer, and your bibulous journey will be an immensely satisfying one.

Hibiscus Royale

Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Hibiscus is a true flower of the tropics and warm climates. Its delicate, bright petals provide decoration for memorable trips in beautiful destinations. It also happens to have a wonderful flavour, and is particularly popular in Mexico, where it is used to make a non-alcoholic hibiscus iced tea drink known as Agua de Jamaica. This refreshing and ruby-coloured beverage, served over ice, is a beguiling mix of sweet, tart and floral – the perfect sip in the hot midday sun anywhere.

Here, we’ve taken that fabulous hibiscus flavour and combined it with non-vintage Champagne. The floral character teases out the complexity of the fizz – even with Moët & Chandon NV, a fresh, reductive wine, the resulting drink brought a delicious lees-y richness to the fore. This is a perfect welcome drink for summer garden parties – set the glasses up with the syrup in the bottom ahead of time, then you can simply top up with the chilled Champagne as everyone arrives.

Ingredients: 15ml Giffard Hibiscus Syrup, 150ml NV Champagne

Glass: Flute

Garnish: Edible flower

Method: Pour syrup into bottom of a chilled flute, pour the Champagne over it and gently stir a few times

Tom Collins

Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Although its exact origins are lost to the mists of time, it is widely accepted that a Tom Collins was created some time in the 19th century. The concept of mixing the building blocks of lemonade – lemon juice, sugar and soda water – with spirit is simple, yet incredibly effective, especially on a hot summer’s day. Old Tom is a historical gin that is sweeter than the typical London dry gins. While both London dry and Old Tom gins work in a Tom Collins, this version – with Porter’s Tropical Old Tom (Alc 40%, available through Amazon UK) – results in a light, refreshing and lemony drink with tropical hints and added depth.

Ingredients: 50ml Porter’s Tropical Old Tom Gin, 25ml lemon juice, 15ml sugar syrup, 40ml soda water

Glass: Highball

Garnish: Lemon wheel and maraschino cherry

Method: Fill glass with ice, measure ingredients in, gently stir and garnish

Tommy’s Margarita

Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

‘Margaritas are popular all year round, but in summer the demand for them is at an all-time high,’ declares Swift Borough’s Rachel Reid. ‘The frozen Margarita is a great way to cool down, while the unfrozen Margarita offers that sharp tartness and saltiness that is craved on a hot summer’s day.’ While the original drink calls for tequila, triple sec liqueur and lime juice, this relatively new twist on the classic, which swaps the liqueur out for agave syrup, is arguably taking over as the most-served Margarita variant in bars around the world. The beauty of it is the fact that tequila is made using the agave plant, and the use of agave syrup really amps up the flavour of the raw material, producing a more rounded drink than the original cocktail recipe. To really capitalise on this approach, use tequilas that say ‘100% agave’ on the bottle. Brands such as Ocho, Olmeca Altos, Patrón, Tapatio and Vivir are a good place to start.

Ingredients: 50ml blanco tequila, 25ml lime juice, 12.5ml agave syrup

Glass: Rocks

Garnish: None

Method: Shake ingredients over ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass

Violet Mountain Spritz

Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Those abstaining from alcohol need no longer be banished to drinking lime and soda, with this simple-to-make yet complex-tasting, non-alcoholic spritz. Zero-alcohol drinks brand Everleaf has a range of products that encapsulate natural environments: Forest, Marine and Mountain (available through Everleaf, Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange). Mountain is an organoleptic interpretation of founder Paul Mathew’s walk up a mountain, which includes strawberries, cherry blossom, rose hip and juniper. ‘I try to paint with flavours,’ he explains. While Mountain is delicious with a normal tonic water, Artisan Drinks’ Violet Blossom tonic adds extra delicate florality, giving a gently beguiling whole.

The strawberry garnish in your drink doesn’t need to be fresh. ‘Berries are a fantastic ingredient to freeze and use in your drinks to supplement ice and have something cool to nibble on while you drink,’ says Michele Mariotti, head of bars at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. ‘At the American Bar here we use a variety of berries in frozen form. They keep your drink cool and also look the part when used in conjunction with ice.’

Ingredients: 30ml Everleaf Mountain, 90ml Artisan Drinks Violet Blossom Tonic

Glass: Wine

Garnish: Strawberries

Method: Fill glass with ice, build ingredients in glass, gently stir and garnish

Champagne Piña Colada

Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

When I’m dreaming of cocktails on the beach, a Piña Colada is the drink that always comes to mind. This grown-up but fun twist, with its addition of Champagne to elevate the drink, was created by Chris Moore in London bar Coupette a few years ago. Decent white rums such as Havana Club Original Añejo 3 Anos and Banks 5 Island both work really well. If you’re wondering if this cocktail requires the rhum agricole, having experimented with and without, the agricole adds a wonderful grassy complexity. If you don’t want to buy two different rums, the easiest shortcut is to use 30ml of That Boutiquey Rum Company’s Signature Blend #1 (Alc 42%, available through Master of Malt, Tipples of Manchester), which is a blend of rhum agricole and molasses rum.

A quick note about the coconut ice cream – the original recipe used sorbet. Having experimented, I believe either works. The ice cream simply produces a creamier drink.

Ingredients: 20ml decent white rum, 10ml rhum agricole, 25ml Giffard Caribbean Pineapple Liqueur, 50ml pineapple juice, 2 scoops coconut ice cream or sorbet, 60ml NV Champagne

Glass: Wine

Garnish: Pineapple leaf

Method: Blend 100g of crushed ice with the top five ingredients, including 15ml of the Champagne. Pour the remaining 45ml of Champagne into a chilled glass; pour the mix from the blender into the glass

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