Popular pours: A handy guide to cocktail trends during the summer
New twists on old favorites seem content to lure you back to the basics, an effortless attempt to dethrone any previously proclaimed “king” of cocktails.
Rather than begging for your attention via gooey flavors reminiscent of a candy store, the libations of summer embody a more simplistic approach. It's time to sip and smell the roses. Whether you're in a bar or your own backyard, here's a look at what's pouring in popularity, according to experts from several Pittsburgh bars.
Kate Benz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-380-8515.
“The big thing right now for the summer time is a glass of rosé with a couple slices of peaches or mango. It's a little lighter than sangria…it's a little more refreshing. With a dry rosé, I would recommend it to anyone. It's just very, very, very refreshing. Especially with friends…buy a couple of bottles — one is not enough. Sit in your backyard, open a glass of cold rosé wine, throw a couple slides of peach or melon and there you go.”
— Fernando Nunez, General Manager, Ibiza Tapas & Wine Bar
“It's unlike a wheat beer that's using a lot of yeast in its brew process. They use more fruit and herb. So you really get a lot more flavor. I've had a lot of saisons that are very herb-y all the way to a saison that's more fruity, which are very refreshing. It's very summery in that you're getting a lot of garden-esque flavor out of it. It's also high in carbonation, which makes it enjoyable over the summertime.”
— Sarah Shaffer, Product Manager, The Beer Market
Gin Basil Smash
“Summer is always a big time for fresh fruits, light ‘summery' cocktails. We'll be using everything from produce to fruit. Our Gin Basil Smash, honestly, would not be a better summer cocktail. It's herbaceous and it's floral…kind of takes the place of a mojito for us. It's lighter, it's really refreshing. The simple syrup that we use will make the sweetness from the basil really come out, really expands the sweetness of the basil.”
— Sean Enright, Bar Manager, Bar Marco
“Cider is just exploding — not just here, but everywhere. People are starting to realize it's not just a sweet alcoholic drink and it can be a craft product, not mass produced. We approach cider as a wine product anyway (which means) usually you don't add any carbonation. I know a lot of people perceive it to be other than beer or wine, but the process is very similar to making a white wine. And we tend to do some weird things with cider: “Santa's Cinnamon” for Christmas in July, ginger cider, oak cider, and pumpkin cider in October.”
— Bill Larkin, “Cellar Dweller,” Arsenal Cider House & Wine Cellar
“It's like a creative little cousin of tequila. With a lot of tequilas, what you're going to finish with is that strong agave punch, so it will be a lot sweeter when it ends. With this, instead of the sweetness and the oak-y-ness that you're going to get from the quality tequilas that are aged, (you'll) instead get a more smoky flavor. A little bit crisper and a little bit more exciting to the palate...it's really nice and summery. It's new and exciting in a really old way that people are starting to enjoy again.”
— Abigail Brehm, Bartender, Harvard & Highland
From the bar to your backyard
Whether you're hosting a few friends or expecting an entire house-full of guests, there's a cocktail recipe for just about every taste. Luscious fruits, zesty spices and the inclusion of fresh garden herbs add a refreshing twist to the following thirst-quenchers. These recipes are courtesy of Real Simple magazine.
2 bottles champagne (or ginger ale), chilled
4 cups pear nectar
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
For each serving, pour 3⁄4 cup of Champagne (or ginger ale) into a flute or wineglass and top with 1⁄2 cup of pear nectar. Squeeze and drop in 1 wedge of lime.
Makes 8 servings.
Hint: Rather than be stuck bartending while the party goes on without you, prepare drinks about one hour before the first guest arrives.
Bourbon Ginger Snap
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup honey
1 piece (3-inches) of fresh gingerroot, peeled and sliced
6 cups fresh orange juice
4 cups pear nectar
1 liter bourbon
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Ice, for serving
In a large saucepan, combine 2 quarts water, the fresh lemon juice, honey and gingerroot; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain into a large bowl; let cool.
Add the orange juice, pear nectar, bourbon, and lemons to the lemon syrup. Serve over ice.
Makes 20 servings.
Hint: “Punch bowls are much punchier these days,” says Nancy Byrnes of Nancy Byrnes Events. “They can be a great part of a summer beverage service. Vintage works well, too — shop for vintage punch bowls at any the area's antique stores or estate sales and keep an eye out for some vintage wine and rocks glasses to add to your collection.”
Pineapple Mint Punch
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup water
3 quarts pineapple juice
1 liter gin
1 liter club soda
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh mint leaves
Ice, for serving
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and 1⁄2 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes; let cool. In a large bowl, combine the sugar syrup, pineapple juice, gin, club soda, lime juice, and mint. Serve over ice.
Makes 20 servings.
Hint: Presentation need not be an intimidating or a budget-breaking process. Even the most simple of touches can pack a wallop of whimsy and charm. “Tequila Lime Shots (are) a real party starter,” Byrnes says. “Hollow out the limes, salt the rims and fill with your favorite tequila. Use the lime pulp to make a fresh guacamole. Enjoy!”