With what has seemed like a Game of Thrones-esque winter finally coming to an end, and summer poking her head gingerly round the corner, it seems as good a time as any to talk about easy to make summery cocktails for the home. Or garden. Or anywhere that’s not a bar really...
Creating drinks at home can be a challenge; most cocktails require specialist equipment and more than a bit of skill to both create and serve, however there are a few simple guidelines and products that can make it considerably easier. So in order to help you, our intrepid reader, navigate these perilous waters, we’ve come up with a bit of a guide to help.
Firstly, the world seems to revolve around Gin at the moment, there seems to be a new distillery producing ‘artisan’ or ‘bespoke’ gins popping up more regularly than callous presidential tweets, and this is therefore a perfect place to start. We’d advise grabbing a bottle of something good but simple, like a decent quality London Dry Gin, as this will make great cocktails. If however you prefer your drinks made with saffron-infused, Himalayan Goat’s Gin then have at it, but be warned that those overbearing goaty flavours might be a little too present in your final creation...
Next you’re going to need a decent Rum, stick to white for now but make sure it’s the good stuff. Flor De Caña, El Dorado, Angostura and Doorly’s all produce great white rums that work wonders in summery drinks and won’t break the bank. Thirdly our good friend Tequila needs to make an appearance. Though some of you might be nervous about the idea, Tequila is the perfect summer tipple – and it works wonders with a variety of drinks styles. Try Sauza Hornitos Reposado, Ocho, Gran Centenario or even Don Julio Blanco if you fancy splashing out. Rounding out the basic essentials (apart from ice, garnishes and the courage to experiment) are Aperol, Prosecco, Campari, Soda, Tonic and Citrus Juices.
Next you’re going to need a sweetening agent of some sort. Simple syrup (1:1 hot water to sugar, stir and allow to cool) is a great start, but grabbing some elderflower, rhubarb or similar cordial can lend a gorgeous and elegant edge to anything you make at home, and will impress even the most uppity of house guests. Yes, even you Sandra.
Now it might seem obvious, but we can’t stress enough the importance of fresh ingredients where possible. Pop down that pre-bottled lemon juice you last doused on the pancakes you made in March, grab a lemon from your local fruit vendor, a handy fork or squeezer, and go crazy on the poor thing. The same can be said for any of the other ingredients you choose to use, whether it be in-season cheddar strawberries or Spanish blood oranges; the fresher the better.
You’ll also be requiring either a mixing jug or something similar, a jigger or 25ml measure (or just eyeball it), bottle opener, strainer, stirrer and cocktail shaker. All of these can be picked up from various stores across the city, and are well worth the investment if you fancy doing this more than once. .
So you have your basic weaponry. Your ice cube trays are full to bursting, fresh fruit is chopped and at the ready and you feel like Tom Cruise! Well, sorry there cowboy but you’re going to have to slow down a second, you see you’ve forgotten one last thing – the glasses. We’d recommend buying yourself a decent set of flutes, some cocktail glasses and some highballs (tall, skinny ones), as matching glassware adds that air of professionalism and touch of class that will hopefully convince your friends you have a clue what you’re doing.
Lastly, you need a little inspiration, so below are a few basic cocktails that you can make in your home with limited equipment. Feel free to try out new combinations, and remember that sometimes less is more!
First up its the ever popular Aperol Spritz. To a large wine glass ad 50ml Aperol Aperetif, 25ml of soda, loads of ice, and top up with good Prosecco, add a couple of slices of blood orange if you can find it (normal orange will do just fine), give it a stir and boom, you’re nailing it already. Summer in a glass.
Next up let’s try something a little trickier, the Daiquiri. This is short, sharp and massively refreshing. Start with your cocktail shaker, add 50 ml White rum, 25ml lime juice, 12.5ml simple syrup and ice to the top. Shake it like it’s your bosses face, strain into a cocktail glass or over the rocks and there you have it. This is a great one to adapt with fresh fruit, simply muddle strawberries, raspberries or whatever you feel like in the cocktail shaker before you start and hey presto, strawberry daiquiri!
Now we have a simple classic, the French 75. Grab those flutes you just ran out and bought, throw in a shot of gin, half of lemon and a little sugar syrup to your personal taste, then top that bad boy up with Prosecco (or for the original, champagne). Keep an eye on these ones as, like their namesake, they’re lethal. This is a great one to modify with those fruit cordials we mentioned earlier instead of sugar syrup, or throw in tequila instead of gin for a delicious Mexican twist...
Another easily built drink is the classic Tom Collins, but this is a great one to mess around with. The basic recipe calls for 50ml gin, 25ml lemon juice and 12.5ml simple syrup, served long over ice and topped with soda, but there’s a ton of variation you can bring into this one with fresh fruit, garnishes and modifying sweeteners. Let your inner bartender be free and experiment to your heart’s content. Just maybe nail a recipe before your guests arrive.
Lastly we have the most challenging of the bunch, the infamous Negroni. Bitter as your mother-in-law but ultimately considerably more refreshing, this cocktail divides opinion more than most. Equal measures of Gin, Campari and Sweet Vermouth (pop to Corks of Cotham or Weber & Tring’s for suggestions), stirred briefly over ice and garnished simply with an orange slice, served on the rocks. Short, near-offensively revivifying, and classy as hell. Well there you have it folks.
That’s summer sorted. Now we just need some sun...