Is the summer heat getting to you? Looking for a little relief beyond air conditioning?
This year, local spots have concocted all sorts of creative and refreshing summer beverages, the adult kind. I'm stressing summer here because these aren't exactly what you choose other times of the year. You wouldn't have a gin and tonic in December — that's Manhattan weather.
With their eyes on unique drink ingredients, young and creative bartenders are combining liquors, juices and fruits as well as a few ingredients new to me (orgeat?). They are also aware that the best summer drinks match the mood and rhythm of July and August, slow and easy.
Over at Forager Brewery, always on the edge with something new, Jeff Reister has put together a drink called Frozen Methode Ice Pop. He mixes together Hawaiian Munch, tropical gummies and a Hawaiian fruit punch mix. It's like a slushy frozen drink, a little on the sweet side, and a customer favorite.
Reister can also pour you a fruity sangria as well as a tangy Margarita. He also mentioned a gin-based old fashioned with the gin coming from bourbon-aged barrels. To me, the gin would bring it into the summer lineup.
Kiefer Manning, beverage manager at Cameo, explained their summer drink menu as being a part of a "classic Tiki culture," which includes rums, fresh fruits, herbs, mint and spices making for "full-flavored drinks."
A good example is the popular Frozen Painkiller. This combines light rum, pineapple juice, cream of coconut and orange juice all mixed up and served like a slushy. You might also want to order their classic mai tai, which is a combination of both light and dark rums, lime juice and house-made orgeat (a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar and rose or orange flower water).
Eight new summer beverages have joined the drink menu at The Loop. Manager Darrin Schulenberger explains these were specially crafted for the hotter months.
Most popular is the newest best-seller, Refreshing Margarita. This version is made with pineapple, cilantro, tequila, lime juice and Fresno chilies. It definitely has a kick.
Another new drink invention is called the Pineapple Mule. Here they mix New Amsterdam vodka, pineapple syrup, lime juice, coconut puree and then top it off with ginger beer.
According to Amanda Knutsen, bartender at Chester's, there are at least 10 new drinks on their summer beverage menu. A big favorite already is one called Summer Crush, a peach-flavored gin-based cocktail that also includes basil, peach puree and moscato. They can also mix up a mean mojito, a classic summer staple, that here includes key lime rum, cream-based keke liqueur, mint and club soda.
For those of us who prefer to make our own drinks, there are many ingredients we can use, such as watermelon, peach, berries, and citrus, like oranges and grapefruit. You can even use cucumbers. Mint added to a drink always means summer to me. If you have gin, vodka, tequila and rum, you can make just about anything.
You might also try mezcal, a smokey version of tequila. A bit of advice given to me is to keep summer drink ingredients to about 3-4. Leave the multi-ingredient concoctions to the pros.
Many would say that the best summer beverage is an icey cold beer, others would choose a chilled white wine. The main thing is to not get too cerebral about it — pour yourself something you like, head out to the patio or deck and enjoy the beautiful summer evening. Cheers!