It’s SUMMER! You may have heard me mention this before, but I’m as happy as Olaf at the thought of summer. Time to sit out on the deck with friends, sip on some drinks, breathe in the smell of cut grass (or the ocean if you’re very, very lucky), and exhale.
Today we are visiting the wonderful and magical world of summer cocktails. I have a feeling this is only part one of the cocktails series as I found many more recipes that I wanted to share, but we can start with these 7 amazing summer cocktails!
Before we get to the cocktails, oh and they are delish, let’s talk about the importance of using the right ingredients. You will get an entirely different and much more tantalizing taste by using fresh and homemade ingredients instead of buying a mix at a store. If you have never had a margarita using only fresh ingredients instead of a mix, you do not know what you’re missing! Sure, if you are throwing a party for 200 people and you can make your signature drink into a punch, then I’m OK with using a mix. However, today we are talking about the individually crafted cocktail to be sipped at sunset on a warm summer’s evening with a few friends…oh doesn’t that sound nice? Ahhh….where was I? Oh yeah, NO MIXES! This also goes for store bought simple syrup, lemon/lime juice, herbs in a tube…nope! Don’t worry, it’s not that much more work (OK, it’s a little more work) but it’s worth it!
Choose your alcohol wisely, quality matters. If you are using more than two ingredients, it doesn’t have to be top shelf, but don’t pick the cheapest either. I usually use this rule, if I can sip it straight and appreciate the flavor, it will work in a drink. If it makes me want to wash my mouth out and drink anything else to get rid of the taste…I’ll think twice before using it in a cocktail.
Homemade Herb Infused Simple Syrup:
Why make your own herb infused simple syrup? Because it tastes so flippin’ amazing! It’s so easy and the payoff is HUGE! Don’t believe me? OK, let’s discuss simple syrup and I’ll explain.
What is simple syrup?
It is a liquid sweetener made with sugar and water to be used in cold beverages such as cocktails, iced tea/juice, and a variety of other uses. Because it’s already in liquid form it’s easy to mix into a cocktail, unlike sugar that may not fully dissolve and leave sugar in the bottom of the glass.
There are different kinds of simple syrup: rich and regular. The rich syrup is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water and is used in tea and some beverages. The regular (what we will make) is 1 part sugar to 1 part water.
As for the sugar, you can use raw or white or even honey! Each will have a slightly different color and flavor. I did all three in my examples, but go with your own taste.
Why infuse herbs?
Reason one: if you are making a cocktail that requires muddling an herb (we’ll talk about muddling soon) with simple syrup, if you use a syrup that already has that herb infused, you will get an extra layer of that herb flavor and it will delightfully enhance the cocktail. OR use a syrup with a different herb to add a new layer of flavor!
Reason two: if you a making an herb free cocktail but would like to give it a little something extra, use an infused simple syrup instead.
Reason three: it’s delicious! Trust me, we did a LOT of testing to make sure this was true. *hiccup*
Herb Infused Simple Syrup:
- 1 part sugar (white, raw, or honey)
- 1 part water
- fresh herbs (as much or as little as you like per your taste)
- Bring sugar and water to a rolling boil, then remove from heat.
- Add herbs and let sit for 2 hours.
- Strain into a glass jar, seal and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
If you are making a large batch of many flavors, like I did, then try this:
- Prep and put your herbs into heat safe jars
- After bringing your sugar and water to a boil and removing from heat, pour equal amount into each jar over the herbs
- Let stand, uncovered, in the jars for 2 hours
- Strain into measuring cup, then pour back into jar
- Seal and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks
- Mark your jars! You won’t know the flavors once the herbs are removed, so make sure you can identify the flavor and write an expiration date.
Lemon and Basil Simple Syrup (to be used in Lemon-Basil Martinis):
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- zest of one lemon
- Bring all ingredients to a boil (make sure sugar is dissolved)
- Remove from heat and let stand for 2 hours
- Strain into a jar then seal and store in fridge for up to one week
A few handy tools to have on hand for today’s cocktails/syrups:
- Muddler (When a recipe calls for you to “muddle” ingredients, it means to smash them together in the bottom of a glass or cocktail shaker to mix all of the flavors. When herbs are muddled, more flavor is released than if they were just cut and stirred. A muddler is in the picture above crossed over the microzester.)
- Cocktail Shaker
- Measuring Cup
- Measuring Spoons
And now, FINALLY, the drinks!
Sage Before Beauty:
The perfect blend of tart and sweet that makes a bubbly refreshing drink that will sneak up on you in a hurry!
- 2 large pieces of lemon rind (with no pith)
- 5 ounces Sage (the alcohol, not the herb)
- 2 ounces St. Germain
- 1.5 ounces fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2/3 cup Prosecco
- Lemon wheel or curled lemon zest for garnish
- Twist the lemon rind over the glass to release the oils, then wipe the inside and rim of glass with the rind.
- Pour Sage, St. Germain, and lemon juice into shaker and fill with ice.
- Shake for 20 seconds, then strain into glass.
- Top with Prosecco.
- Garnish with lemon wheel or zest.
Basil, Mint, and Lemon Mojito:
This was light and refreshing, but in retrospect, I would have used my homemade mint or basil/lemon simple syrup instead of the agave nectar. I broke my own rule about sweetener (serves me right for following directions) and it just wasn’t as good as it could have been.
- Sprig of basil
- Sprig of mint
- Sweetener (1 tsp of agave nectar or 2 tsp of herb simple syrup)
- 1.5 ounces white rum
- 1-2 tsp of fresh lemon juice
- Seltzer water
- Muddle basil, mint, and sweetener in cocktail shaker.
- Add rum and lemon juice.
- Fill with ice and shake for about 10-15 seconds.
- Pour into glass over ice and top with seltzer.
- Stir and garnish with sprig of mint or basil.
This drink is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. Of course, if you are in the “cilantro tastes like soap” camp, then you will not like this drink AT ALL, just move on to the next one. However, if you DO like cilantro and you want to add a little spice (it can get hot!) to your drink routine, then this is it! It has the freshness of the cilantro and lime, the heat of a jalapeno, and the sweetness from the cilantro simple syrup…oh yeah, and some rum.
Warning…nothing will make you more unhappy that getting jalapeno in your eyes, so be very careful when cutting the jalapeno slices and warn the drinker that there are jalapeno slices and seeds in the drink, so consume at their own risk.
- 6-8 cilantro leaves (a bit more if you wish)
- 2 tbsp cilantro simple syrup
- 1.5 ounces white rum
- 1/2 cup seltzer
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 2 round thin jalapeno slices
- Muddle cilantro, jalapeno, and cilantro simple syrup in cocktail shaker.
- Add rum and lime juice.
- Fill with ice and shake for 10-15 seconds.
- Strain over ice and top with seltzer.
- Garnish with jalapeno slice, but be sure to caution the drinker of the jalapeno!
Lemon – Basil Martini:
The sweetness of this drink is based on the simple syrup. My first batch was way too sweet because I used a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar in the simple syrup recipe. But with the altered recipe (posted in simple syrup section), there is half the amount of sugar and it is a much better cocktail. I sugared the rim using lemon juice and white sugar, but it may be sweet enough for your taste without the sugared rim.
- 1.5 parts quality vodka (we used Cold River and it gave it a very unique taste)
- 1 part Lemon and Basil Simple Syrup (recipe earlier in this post)
- Sugar the rim of a martini glass by dipping it in lemon juice then in white sugar.
- Shake vodka and simple syrup with ice in cocktail shaker for about 20 seconds.
- Pour into martini glass and garnish with basil sprig.
Lemon – Thyme Gimlet:
A fun twist on the traditional gimlet, yet it still prevents scurvy! The original gimlet (gin and lime juice) was said to have been drunk by British officers in the 19th century to prevent scurvy while at sea. Now that’s my kind of medicine!
- 4 ounces gin
- 1.5 ounces lemon juice
- 1.5 ounces thyme simple syrup
- Shake all ingredients with ice for 20 seconds.
- Pour into small chilled glass and garnish with lemon slice.
Basil – Cucumber Gin and Tonic:
Because Hendrick’s gin is infused with cucumber, it is a natural for any cucumber cocktail. These flavors work beautifully together!
- 3 cucumber slices
- 3 basil leaves
- 1 tbsp basil simple syrup (or regular simple syrup)
- 1 ounce Hendrick’s gin (or other quality gin)
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1/2 cup tonic water
- Muddle 2 cucumber slices and 2 basil leaves with the basil simple syrup.
- Add gin and lime juice.
- Add crushed ice and top with tonic water.
- Stir and garnish with cucumber slice and basil leaf.
Blackberry, Lemon, and Mint Gin and Tonics:
I decided to do this recipe in a large batch to see if it held up over time in the fridge and I was delighted with the results. The tonic lost a bit of it’s bubbles, but the flavor just got stronger with the blackberries and mint steeping in the gin. I was also pleased with the color, it’s so bright and it’s all from the muddled blackberries!
- 24 blackberries
- 40 mint leaves
- 4 lemons
- 1/2 cup mint simple syrup
- 24 ounces quality gin
- 12 oz tonic water
- In a strong large measuring cup (2 cup or larger size) muddle blackberries, mint leaves, and juice of 4 lemons.
- Stir in simple syrup then pour into a large pitcher.
- Gently stir in gin and tonic water.
- When ready to serve, strain over ice and garnish with blackberries.
There they are, 7 amazing summer cocktail recipes to test and enjoy this summer! I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed testing them for you!