Summer is a time of fads and trends, built around our fascination with pop culture. We tune our radios to hear the season's definitive song. We head to the movies to catch the must-see blockbuster.
Oh, and we sip our cocktails. And the more fashionable the drink, the better.
As cocktail culture continues to boom -- spirits revenue reached a record $18.2 billion in 2007, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States -- so does the demand for new and unusual drinks. Think of the Cosmopolitan craze prompted by
Sex in the City
So in a search for what could be this summer's "it" cocktail -- or, at the very least, to learn about some of the season's more noteworthy drinks -- we talked to leading mixologists and representatives from spirits brands (the liquor companies typically create and promote new cocktails to help drive sales). What follows are a half-dozen recipes that caught our attention. Cheers!
The makers of TRU Organic Vodka
A "grilled cocktail"? That's what the creators of this vodka-based drink (which features bacon, vodka and tomato) call it. A company spokeswoman says it's designed "to perfectly complement the smoky sweetness of a classic summer cookout." And why use an organic vodka with the drink? The "clean, balanced profile" of the spirit pairs well with the tomatoes, the company notes.
(for four drinks)
1/2 lb. ripe cherry tomatoes
2 slices grilled crispy bacon
8 oz. TRU Organic Vodka
Spices and seasonings (see below)
Grill cherry tomatoes (or other small variety). Mix with lemon juice, salt, pepper and parsley. Set aside till juices accumulate. Skewer 2-3 of the grilled cherry tomatoes on a toothpick, alternate with a piece of very crispy bacon. Make 4 skewers. Set aside. Smash remaining tomatoes lightly to release more juices. Drain through sieve and reserve liquid. Divide tomato liquid into 4 martini glasses. Shake 8 oz. vodka with ice. Top martini glasses. Stir lightly. Garnish with tomato and bacon skewers.
H. Joseph Ehrmann, proprietor of Elixir, San Francisco's first "green" bar
Ehmann describes the vodka-based cocktail as a "blueberry lemonade with thyme in it," saying its appeal is threefold: "It is simple to prepare yet appears very esoteric; it is an incredibly versatile formula (you can switch the berry for whatever is in season, or you can change the fruit/herb combo to strawberry/mint, strawberry/basil, raspberry/tarragon, etc); it is visually stimulating, which creates instant appeal."
1 1/2 oz. Square One Organic Vodka
10-15 fresh organic blueberries (can also be made with other fresh berries like blackberries or huckleberries but you may need more sweetener -- use whatever is in season and fresh)
1/2 an organic lemon, in pieces
1/4 oz. organic agave nectar
Place blueberries and lemon pieces in a mixing cup and muddle to juice both. Add agave nectar and vodka, and then top with ice. Shake vigorously for 10-20 seconds. Place one small sprig of thyme in the palm of your hand and slap it to release the oils. Twist it and place at the bottom of a 10 oz. glass (highball or old fashioned) and fill with ice. Strain the drink over the ice. Take a nice big, pretty sprig of thyme and slap it again before sticking it into the drink as a garnish.
Duggan McDonnell, mixologist with Cantina in San Francisco
This tequila-based drink is billed by McDonnell as "a perfect summer alternative to the margarita" because "it's bright, lean, fruit-forward and the recipe can be made for just one person or a group."
(for six drinks)
9 ounces Tequila Don Julio Blanco
4 1/2 ounces Grand Marnier®
6 ounces hibiscus punch (see below for recipe)
4 1/2 ounces pineapple juice
4 1/2 ounces orange juice
Citrus wheel for garnish
Pineapple fronds for garnish
Add Tequila Don Julio Blanco, Grand Marnier, hibiscus punch, pineapple juice and orange juice to pitcher. Stir 30 times. Add ice and stir another 30 times. Garnish with citrus wheels and pineapple fronds. Pour contents evenly into six rocks glasses.
Nadine Brown, sommelier of Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington, D.C.
This gin-based drink mixes one-part patriotism (it uses an American-made gin) with one-part zaniness (it features lime Tang -- yes, the same drink the astronauts made famous).
2 oz. Bluecoat American Dry Gin
1/2 tablespoon lime Tang
1/2 oz. ginger ale or ginger beer
Spoon Tang in shaker over gin, a splash of ginger ale or ginger beer and ice. Shake vigorously to dissolve Tang. Serve with or without ice. Garnish glass with a piece of caramelized ginger.
Caipirinha de Fruta
Demi Stevens, co-owner of Ortega120 in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Stevens makes this variation on the classic caipirinha, a cachaca-based drink, for her friends and family during hot summer days. "This is a beautiful, very tall, floating fruit drink," she says. But be careful, she warns: "It goes down easy and it packs a punch."
1 1/2 oz. Leblon Cachaca (pisco can also be substituted for a different type of flavor)
1/2 oz. peach schnapps
1/4 oz. grenadine
2 oz. orange juice
3 pineapple pieces (diced)
Handful of fresh raspberries
Handful of strawberries and peaches (the peaches and strawberries can be frozen if fresh are not available; they make fun, fruity ice cube alternatives)
In a shaker, pour all ingredients (except strawberries and peaches) over ice. Shake vigorously. Pour into Collins glass over peaches and strawberries. Add ice to fill. Garnish with lime wedges.
Jim Meehan, mixologist with PDT in New York
"The goal was to come up with a cool Dubonnet cocktail," Meehan explains, referring to the popular wine-based aperitif. And it's tailor-made for warm-weather. "Summer drinks should quench your thirst and cool you down without getting you tipsy right away. This drink does just that."
1 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
1/4 oz. Theuriet cassis
6 oz. Brooklyn Lager
Add the Dubonnet and cassis to a mixing glass, then fill with ice; stir and strain into a white wine glass. Top with Brooklyn Lager; garnish with a twist of lemon.
Charles Passy is a Florida-based writer who covers food, travel, entertainment and consumer culture and products.