Monday, June 30, 2014

Step Up Summer Cocktails

The opportunity to chop, cook, infuse, mix and savor produce grown close to home is one of summer’s greatest pleasures. Cooking is an enjoyable chore and hobby elevated by seasonal crops. But, creating and sipping a perfectly mixed cocktail is an escape, experiment and method of relaxation that soaks up the essence of summer living for me.

I use my Iron Gate platter as a cocktail tray/mixing station for intimate patio gatherings.
Unexpected and inexpensive, since there's no party serving piece to buy. Use what you have...

I don’t get too serious or strict about recipes, but treat every glass, pitcher or jar like an art project from summer camp. There’s direction but no rules or expectations – just creative fun. My bar is open to treat friends at least a couple of times a week. Sometimes it's 3 and others it's 30. I've streamlined the process for more fun, less work.

Whether you’re using plastic cups at a lake cabin or expensive crystal on a veranda is irrelevant. Focus on bringing smiles and flavors to yourself and your favorite people.

Let your hosts choose their flavor or twist. Keep herbs in glasses with water along with mini scissors
and sliced fruit. A side cutting board and knife nearby to encourage cutting into your display.

Display what you have on hand so guests can get creative. There's nothing prettier to add color to a table.
A centerpiece of edible goodies (see above, cut into some to start) is a summer party favorite.


Keep fruit and herbs on hand. Buy fresh from local farmers or grow what you can. Less chemicals = more flavor and joy for all. 

Give your guests a choice instead of sticking them with a signature cocktail. Unfussy is the best hot- weather vibe. If someone dislikes berries, they shouldn't have to sip your 'famous strawberry lemonade'-- no matter how good it is. Bonus - flavor options serve as your decor/centerpiece.

Skip sugary mixes, juices and sodas all together. Ugh! They cause sluggish feelings, not to mention the wrench thrown at your swimsuit profile.

Sparkling water reigns. Today's mini machines eliminate excess plastic, but bigger bottles of Pellegrino go a long way when using lots of ice. We all crave a little fizz. It’s also nice to have on hand for abstainers, for creating their own flavored 'mocktail'.
PS: Sub sparkling water for tonic and save 125 calories per 12 oz.  At the end of the party, this really adds up. Glass bottles are so easy to clean and reuse, another plus.

Like white jeans, clear liquors are summer essentials.  Fruit hues shine and melting ice doesn’t cause a watered-down look. Infuse with herbs or fruit for a few days for a much more subtle and genuine taste than pre-flavored varieties. And, they won't stain those white jeans, either.

 I’m addicted to slower melting ‘ice balls'. I throw in basil, mint, berries or citrus for flavor. My favorites are the amply-sized Tovolo Ice Sphere Molds found at Absolution in Nashville

Summer’s about taking a break, including one from your usual cocktail or spirit brand. Instead of the ‘usual’, try new tequila or an artisan gin. A great example is US made boutique brand, Sugar Wash Moonshine as an alternative to white rum. It’s sweeter, lighter and such fun to invite friends over for ‘moonshine’ mojitos. 

Don’t go overboard and try to coordinate everything. No one cares about that except for little girls at birthday parties. If it’s an adult gathering, the environment shouldn’t be ‘matchy’. Curated themes are tasteful, but all of that party store nonsense is never good idea, especially for a casually elegant cocktail hour.

Infusing is commonplace at our bar. Gin with the flavor of fresh cucumbers and mint from my
 herb garden is great solo, but surprisingly complimentary to sweeter fruits like mango and berries. 

More tips, shortcuts and mixing fun will be posted here all week. Don’t miss seeing THE LIST of my go-to sites for shopping, recipes and presentations. Keep following... lots of libations yet to come.


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