Summer is one big seasonal excuse to get together with friends, enjoy the warm weather, and sip refreshing drinks. Cocktails can be a bit intimidating, but if you stick to simple ratios and use seasonal ingredients, the drinks will always be a hit. After a trip to the farmers' market this past weekend, I was inspired by the bright colors and rich flavors of the fruits and decided it was time to indulge in some summertime libations.
Nectarines are one of my favorite summer fruits and their sweetness pairs well with several alcohols, including tequila, gin and vodka. Using ingredients similar to a margarita, I created a slight variation, swapping the tequila for an Italian apertif, Cocchio Americano. The results are sweet and very smooth.
2 ripe nectarines, cut into chunks
4 oz. fresh lime juice (2 oz. for the cocktail, 2 oz. to make the nectarine purée)
1.5 oz. Cocchi Americano
3/4 oz. Cointreau (or your preferred orange liqueur)
1. Place the nectarines and 2 oz. of lime juice into a blender or food processor. Pulse several times to break up the nectarines, then blend on high until a smooth purée forms.
2. Place the remaining ingredients into a cocktail shaker, along with 3/4 oz. of the nectarine purée, add ice and shake vigorously.
3. Strain into a chilled coupé or glass and garnish with a small slice of nectarine.
This Blackberry Gin Sparkler is a take on a classic French 75 and uses fresh, muddled blackberries to provide a little tartness. I used Old Tom Gin to create a slightly malty undertone, but you can use whatever gin you have available. Plus, whenever you top off a drink with some Champagne, it's hard to go wrong.
10-12 fresh blackberries
Juice of 1 lemon
1 oz. of Old Tom Gin
3 oz. Champagne or sparkling wine
1/4 oz. simple syrup (or 1/4 tsp fine sugar)
1. Place the blackberries and simple syrup into a mixing glass and gently muddle them until they just begin to break open.
2. Add the gin, lemon juice, and ice to the mixing glass and stir until the ingredients are well incorporated.
3. Strain the cocktail mixture into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a blackberry.
Nothing symbolizes summer fruit to me more than fresh strawberries. I use them for so many desserts that I don't often think about using them in cocktails. After our recent trip to Mexico, I kind of developed a healthy appreciation for Piña Coladas and think this version perfectly balances flavors of the tropics with the earthiness of the berries.
2 oz. dark rum
6 large (2-inch) chunks of pineapple
8 strawberries, hulled and cut in half
1 oz. heavy coconut cream
1 oz. Velvet Falernum (totally optional)
1. Place all ingredients into a blender and mix on high until smooth and frothy.
2. Pour into a large glass or goblet and garnish with half a strawberry.