Bright, fragrant, fruity libations with delicate shards of ice—presented with theatrical flair and finesse to conjure memories of sand, surf, and romance.
Rare is the night I turn down a proper Old Fashioned, sultry Sazerac, or fetchingly hued Negroni. There are few better ways to end an evening than with one of these silky, stirred, often a tad boozy, cocktails. Of course there’s no going back to drinking Champagne once one of these heady beauties is savored, so to me a bold, stirred drink signifies a timeless nightcap. But when summer strikes, it’s those bright, fragrant libations unleashed from cocktail shakers that I find most satisfying.
Consider the Piña Colada. Could there be a drink more emblematic of infinite sand and sunshine than this favorite marrying rum, pineapple juice, and cream of coconut—especially when fresh, quality ingredients are embraced instead of too-cloying ones? Or what about the beautifully layered Queen’s Park Swizzle, with its swirl of rum, mint, and bitters? That glass, filled with a tower of crushed ice, satisfies like none other on the most stifling of evenings.
I’m not the only one who equates the season of barbecues and patio sipping with crisp, shaken creations.
“I love the way a shaken cocktail perfectly blends the ingredients and introduces air to create a wonderful effervescence. Nothing says summer like a freezing cold Tommy’s Margarita or classic Daiquiri with a little Rhum Agricole added,” says Kenny Hanlon, bartender at the restaurant Kindred, in Davidson, North Carolina. “We make our own grenadine, so a Scofflaw is a great concoction, too.”
While many imbibers shy away from brown spirits when the temperatures spike, I love them year-round—although the Mint Julep, served in a frosty silver cup, beckons amid the heat far more than a Boulevardier. Therefore, the aforementioned shaken Scofflaw, with dry vermouth, lemon juice, and orange bitters, is a perfect way to relish whiskey in the hottest of seasons.
Anthony Bohlinger, head bartender at Chefs Club by Food & Wine, in New York City, also gravitates toward shaken cocktails come summertime. “They are more alive because of the oxygen and bubbles. They are also generally more aromatic. When I think about shaken cocktails, I visualize lighter drinks, even if they are spirit-forward. They are usually more refreshing,” he says.
The Gimlet is certainly one of the most quenching, and that’s why this classic gin and lime tipple is what Bohlinger is particularly smitten with this year. And, it’s one of my favorites as well—either because of its cool, bracing simplicity, even in the doldrums of winter, or perhaps because of its power to rejuvenate. Bohlinger is tinkering with different versions of the drink, including the Puck, uniting pear, bourbon, pepper, and sweet bee pollen.
Summer fruits and shrubs are also part of Bohlinger’s seasonal repertoire, and if you’re as keen on these vinegar-based elixirs as I am—along with many an experimental bartender—I highly recommend delving into Michael Dietsch’s riveting Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times.