In the cold winter months I love hot toddies and mulled wine, but come spring and summer I crave a sweet cocktail laced with fruit and cream.
The fun thing about cocktails is they’re so easy to play around with, substituting one liqueur for another, changing the fruit or herb, switching out white wine for red.
Cool Drinks for Warmer Weather
My favorite summer cocktail is a mojito. I love the zesty lime, cooling mint, and just a hint of white rum, mixed with the bubbles of soda water or sparkling mineral water. I also like altering the mojito with various additions. In Amsterdam, I had an exquisite one with gooseberries and blackberries that has become the standard from which I judge all other mojitos. Today, I made one with raspberries, dark and juicy. They blend perfectly with the lime, and the mint takes the edge off of the tartness.
On cool summer evenings, I fancy a white Russian, smooth and creamy. My current favorite way to make it is with strong homemade coffee liqueur and coconut milk. The coconut milk not only blends beautifully with the liqueur, but it also has the added benefit of settling an upset stomach. It is also rich in antioxidants, as well as magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and vitamins C, E, and B. It’s nice to know your decadent cocktail is also doing your body some good.
As the weather warms up, I also enjoy brewing my own limoncello and sangria. They are so delicious on balmy afternoons, cooling and fruity with a bit of booze that relaxes and soothes.
Instead of sticking with simple limoncello, I make it with various citrus fruits, including limes and, my current favorite, mandarin oranges. It takes about one month to get to the right strength of flavor, and after that you can drink it ice cold from the freezer, add it to sparkling mineral water for a cooler, or even mix it in with your mojito for an extra citrusy boost.
Sangria is so much fun to experiment with. You can stick with simple oranges and apples preserved in red wine, or branch out a bit. Try a white wine sangria with pears or white nectarines, or consider adding spices such as star anise to red wine poured over ripe plums.
Ready to drink? Here are a few recipes to get your cocktail imagination whirring.
White Russian with Coconut Milk
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce coffee liqueur
light coconut milk
2-3 ice cubes
Pour vodka and coffee liqueur over ice cubes in a highball glass. Stir in enough coconut milk to fill.
6-8 mint leaves
3 half lime slices
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water heated until sugar dissolves)
2 ounces white rum
Muddle mint leaves, raspberries, and lime slices in a glass. Add lime juice, simple syrup, and white rum, stirring to mix. Serve immediately.
10-12 mandarin oranges
1 quart vodka
2 cups simple syrup (2 cups sugar, 2 cups water heated until sugar dissolves)
Use a sharp knife, zester, or microplane to remove mandarin peel, avoiding the white pith. Place in clean one-quart jar. Pour vodka over peel to fill the jar. Seal and store in cool, dark place for two weeks.
After two weeks, pour mixture into gallon jar and add simple syrup. Seal and store in cool, dark place for another two weeks.
Strain and store in freezer until ready to use. Serve cold.
Lead photo by VancityAllie, all other photos courtesy of the author.