In the olden days, a singular variety of cocktail apparently sufficed for the whole year. Your parents and grandparents can no doubt attest to a time when the bartender would ask some variation of “What’s your poison?” Or, if you were a regular, there’d be no need to even ask. And that concoction – usually a spirit enhanced by a liqueur or a mixer – was just what you drank, except maybe around the holidays, when you’d get wild and throw back a little nog.
But that idea seems so quaint in a time in which the rest of our lives naturally fluctuate with the seasons. It’s sort of like drinking a pumpkin spice latte in mid-June or having strawberry shortcake at your Thanksgiving table. Modern cocktails incorporate seasonal flavors and fresh ingredients as part of an experience designed to excite your senses and give you a sense of time and place. A good cocktail ought to be memorable. Its memory should remind you of where you were when you drank it and what you were feeling at the time.
It is with this notion in mind that I would like to share with you a trio of recipes that will allow you to fully embrace the change that is in the air. In an annual rite of passage, spring is turning into summer. In Southern California, the transition can be seen in lavender-colored shadows beneath now-green Jacaranda trees, it can be inhaled in the form of jasmine-scented breezes, and can be felt as rays of sunshine that now have a little less distance to travel.
Let’s focus on three types of spirit: gin, vodka and tequila. These can be incorporated into wonderfully refreshing cocktails that will help you beat the heat all summer long. The first of these concoctions is built around Future Gin, an L.A.-based, women-owned distiller. The name is apt, I think, because it very much represents the future of gin by harmonizing a palette of flavors reminiscent of the Southland rather than South Asia. Gin is a spirit capable of incorporating the local agriculture into its profile, and thus provide a distillation of a place’s essence. Whatever, right, get to the recipe. Here ya go.
2 oz Future Gin
1 oz Lemon Juice
.75 oz Coconut Cream
Throw it all into a shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a Collins glass and pour over popsicle chunks rather than ice (brilliant, yes?).
Next up, vodka. Sunny Vodka is another local brand. This is a corn-sourced spirit that’s distilled a half-dozen times to create a super pure product. And what makes it unique is that afterward, it’s finished by being filtered through California limestone, reducing even more impurities and imparting a mineraly profile with a hint of sweetness. The filtration gets rid of that harsh burn that’s often associated with vodka, and creates a smooth, velvety mouthfeel. Here’s a great way to enjoy it on a warm afternoon:
1 1/2 oz Sunny Vodka
1 oz orange juice
1 oz lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup
½ oz tonic or soda water
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake all ingredients over ice. Pour into a Collins glass. Squeeze a hint of orange zest. Garnish with orange peel twist.
And finally, to-kill-ya. Since there’s no such thing as a local tequila (to be considered tequila, it can only be made in Jalisco, Mexico, otherwise, it’s a mezcal), we’re going to have to go a little south of the border for our next cocktail. El Tequileño sources blue agave from the mineral-rich soil of the highlands of Jalisco. The milling process uses volcanic spring water to extract the natural sugars of the cooked agave. It’s fermented in tanks carved from 150-year-old mango trees and distilled in copper pot stills to remove impurities. It’s then either rested or aged in barrels to mellow and to take on more complexity.
1 ½ oz El Tequileño Blanco
.25 oz lime juice
Margarita Salt (I like to substitute Tajin for a bit more spiciness)
Salt the rim of a highball glass and fill with ice. Add tequila and lime juice. Top with cola. Stir (with a knife, if you prefer authenticity). Garnish with a lime wheel. Salud!
Summer Cocktails to Beat the Heat