We chatted with a few cocktail pros around the country to get their tips on making the most of warm-weather drinks.
Tip #1: Batch It Out
“Large format drinks are always a perfect, low-maintenance addition to backyard gatherings or summer parties,” says partner in San Diego’s Polite Provisions and Imbibe 75 alum, Erick Castro. But before you go bottoms up and empty all your bottles into the punch bowl, Castro has a few pointers to keep in mind:
Double & triple check your recipes and measurements. There’s no bigger bummer than realizing you’ve miscalculated your ingredients after you’ve already mixed everything together. Grab a pencil and paper, do some basic math and check and recheck your calculations—it’ll only take five minutes, which is far less time than it would take to correct any errors that come post-mixing.
Keep it cool and dark. Once you’ve created the master batch, stow it away in the fridge where it can cool and the flavors can commingle away from the sunlight, which could start altering the flavors of the party punch.
Save the citrus and sparklers for last. “You want to preserve the acidity,” says Castro, “and if you add the citrus right away, it loses its freshness.” As for the bubbles, carbonation will start dissipating as soon as its poured, so holding off on the fizzy ingredients helps ensure the punch will greet party guests as sprightly as can be.
Avoid egg whites and heavy muddling. While great for single drinks, when it comes to big batches, these ingredients are notoriously tricky for maintaining consistency. Instead, stick with spirit-forward sipper with ingredients that are easily multiplied for any number of drinks.
Tip #2: Simplify Your Mixers
Sother Teague, beverage director at Manhattan’s Amor y Amargo, streamlines outdoor entertaining by having all syrups and juices prebatched and then measures in spirits to order. This gives the option for the same cocktail to be made with multiple spirits, and “ensures that if we don’t finish off all the cocktail, I’m not left with a liter of a drink that because it involves juice is basically dying with every passing hour that I don’t drink it,” Teague says. “It also means I’ve got a pretty good base for making mocktails for those who need them as I can just add seltzer.”
Tip #3: Infuse, Infuse
Simple infusions go a long way to upping the ante on summertime sips, adding a bouquet of seasonal flavors to the glass, even when you don’t have loads of garden-fresh goods. And for bartender and author Greg Seider, tea is the preferred infuser. “Spirits steeped with tea mean that even if fruit is not at its ripest you still get the fresh flavor essence,” he says. Seider suggests infusing 3 tablespoons of dried tea per 750 milliliters of a favorite spirit for anywhere between 2-24 hours, tasting frequently until it tastes the way you want. A few of his favorite flavor combos? Try Moroccan mint tea with bourbon or peach hibiscus tea with vodka or gin.
Denver-based Brandon Wise also reaches for tea, infusing a blanc-style vermouth with chamomile before combining with gin and a quinquina for his thirst-quenching summertime aperitif, the Coat of Arms cocktail.
Coat of Arms
3/4 oz. tea-infused Dolin Blanc*
3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz. Bonal quinquina
3/4 oz. gin (Wise uses Aviation)
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
Garnish: lemon twist
Combine all ingredients and stir with ice. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish.
*Tea-Infused Dolin Blanc: Steep 6 bags of chamomile tea in one 750-milliliter bottle of room temperature Dolin Blanc vermouth for about 2-5 minutes (or until a nice golden color is reached). Remove the teabags and you’re done! Wise also notes that the infused vermouth is lovely on its own served over ice with a twist of lemon.
Tip #4: Stay Fresh
Being from bourbon country, Monkey Wrench bartender Jared Schubert serves thousands of Mint Juleps over the spring and summer season, and needed a way to keep the mint fresh and bright. Thankfully, he learned a trick from a chef that would keep the mint fresh while it was sitting out at room temperature, and would also extend its shelf life. “The chef would unbundle the mint as we received it, removing the rubber band to give the mint room to breathe, and wrap it somewhat tightly in moistened brown-paper towels—they looked like loosely rolled cigars with little crowns of mint sticking out of the top, and they were loose enough so you could remove a single sprig when you needed it,” Schubert says. “Now, on summer days on the outdoor deck at Monkey Wrench, the mint stays fresh for hours even when it’s in the triple-digits. Guests sometimes give us funny looks about having those cigar-shaped bundles out, but we’re kind of proud that our mint looks so fresh for so long.”