5 Classic Summer Cocktails

5 Classic Summer Cocktails
Photo/Jeff Harris
The Bourbon Smash combines mint leaves, bitters, lemon wedges and simple syrup with your choice of Bourbon.
Warm weather calls for entertaining with refreshing and vibrant drinks

When it’s winter and men’s spirits are frozen hard, they tend to impose drinking fiats: Never have a Gin & Tonic after Labor Day; don’t mix Scotch with anything but water; never serve Egg Nog until the thermometer drops below freezing. Happily, when the weather thaws, so do the rules for imbibing. All manner of colorful, refreshing drinks are fair game when relaxing poolside or on the patio. The point is to lower your internal temperature and quench your thirst, not get into mixological points of order. It’s time to mix freely with fruit juices and pile riotous garnishes into glasses meant for parched guests. If you’re thinking summer drinking season is a time when anything goes, you’re almost right. But remember the one maxim that you mustn’t ever break: always have plenty of ice on hand. 

Bourbon Smash

There are flips and slings, punches and fixes, coolers and cobblers and snappers, but the most intriguing verb-turned-noun to describe a mixed drink has to be “smash.” The name refers to the muddling of leaves in the bottom of the mixing glass, and in 1862, Jerry Thomas, author of the first American drinks book, termed the Smash “a Julep on a small plan.”

Both Smashes and Juleps typically contain muddled mint, but Smashes are made with all manner of fruit. While there’s also an encyclopedic range of Julep recipes, let’s face it—most people drink the mint kind, which is made with crushed ice, served on Derby Day and contains no fruit at all. The jumping off point for tricking out a Smash came with adding lemons to the mint, and intrepid smashers have experimented with every kind of fruit (lime makes a drink evocative of the Mojito, while orange is sweeter) and herb leaf (basil, sage and tarragon). Some even add jam. We give the basic lemon recipe, but feel free to substitute.

3 ounces Bourbon
1/2 lemon, cut in wedges
6 mint leaves
2 dashes orange bitters (optional)
1 tablespoon simple syrup

Gently muddle (despite the name, resist the urge to smash) four mint leaves with bitters, lemon wedges and simple syrup in the bottom of a mixing glass. Fill with ice and shake. Strain over large ice cubes in an Old-Fashioned glass. Garnish with two mint leaves.

Daiquiri
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Daiquiri

Sorry, Cuba Libre and Mojito, but no cocktail is more closely associated with Cuba than the Daiquiri. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, it’s named for a beach in the southeast of the country. However, the drink really came of age on the island’s opposite side decades later when Havana was America’s playground. The Daiquiri’s seminal roots can be traced to two centuries earlier when grog (diluted rum, lime juice and sugar) was rationed in the British navy.

What differentiates the modern version is ice—the form of which is still argued today. Our preference is to shake the drink with large cubes, strain and serve it straight up in a cocktail glass. But on a torrid day an argument can certainly be made for the sort of icy slurries that island resorts crush in a blender. A good compromise is a highball presentation that stays cold, but isn’t as watered down. Where we stray from most recipes is in the type of rum to use—where most call for clear varieties, we say to use dark, aged rum. Follow our lead and a rum/lime synergy occurs that takes the drink to whole new levels.

2 ounces aged rum
3/4 ounces fresh lime juice
3/4 ounces simple syrup
1 lime wheel

In an ice-filled shaker, add rum, lime juice and simple syrup (one part cane sugar, one part water heated and stirred). Shake and strain into a coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wheel. 

Tom Collins
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Tom Collins

Certainly, many mixed-drink arguments center on their ingredients or proportions thereof (consider the ongoing Martini ration debates), but few disputes rest upon the names themselves. The Tom Collins is the exception. Once variously called  the Tom Collins, John Collins and even Jim Collins, this gin concoction even has recipes based on other spirits (vodka, Irish whiskey, Tequila, applejack and Bourbon, etc.) that take such first names as Ivan, Mike, Pedro, Jack and Colonel. We’ll likely never know whence the surname came, but one theory holds that the given name Tom originally referred to the use of Old Tom gin, a sweeter alternative to London dry.

The Tom Collins gets its foam from seltzer water (unlike the Gin Fizz, which calls for a shaken egg white). Furthermore, to be a proper Tom Collins it must be served in a glass of the same name, a taller and thinner version of a highball glass. The shape serves to spread the large cubes throughout the height of the glass. While the convenience of using powdered recipes may be alluring, avoid them for proper results. 

3 ounces gin (traditionally Old Tom)
1 lemon
1 tablespoon simple syrup
1 lemon wedge
Seltzer water

Squeeze lemon and mix juice in a Collins glass with gin and simple syrup. Fill with large ice cubes. Top with seltzer. Garnish with lemon wedge.

Singapore Sling
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Singapore Sling

The first known written reference to a cocktail dates to 1806, and describes it as a “bittered sling.” But what’s a sling? The Oxford English dictionary says it’s “a sweetened drink of spirits, especially gin, and water.” Webster’s adds lemon juice. Neither begins to define the complexity of what is today served at the Raffles Hotel as the Singapore Sling. The basic drink—a sling with a red hue—began to evolve on the island nation of Singapore off of the Malay Peninsula in the late 19th century. It was a way for ladies to imbibe alcohol in disguise. (Colored with grenadine, the cocktail could be passed off as a fruit drink.)

Raffles claims to have invented the drink in 1915, and it went international soon after, but without much uniformity. Most recipes include citrus juice and cherry brandy. The hotel’s version has continued to evolve, adding pineapple juice, more liquors and fruit garnishes. That’s the recipe we offer here. Oddly, one component from the original definition has been dispensed with: water. 

1 ounce gin
1/2 ounce cherry brandy
1/4 ounce Bénédictine
1/4 ounce Cointreau
4 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
2 teaspoons grenadine
1 pineapple wedge
1 Maraschino cherry

Pour all ingredients over ice into a mixing glass. Shake and strain over fresh ice into a Collins or highball glass. Garnish with pineapple and cherry stuck on a toothpick.

Tequila Sunrise
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Tequila Sunrise

Say the name Tequila Sunrise and prepare to hear anyone within earshot break into an out-of-tune version of the Eagles song of the same name. But it is another rock band—the Rolling Stones—that can take the credit for first spreading the news of this tasty Tequila drink with the gorgeous presentation. Before it was the simple mix of Tequila, orange juice and grenadine, the Sunrise had debuted in Arizona in the 1930s with crème de cassis, lime juice and soda water. In the early ’70s a bar called the Trident in the San Francisco Bay area changed the recipe, which not only made it easier to construct, but more obvious as to how it got its name.

Sunrise refers to the drink’s appearance, not the time of day you should drink one. (If you sip one at dawn, we won’t judge.) As it happens, the Stones soon after held the kickoff party for their 1972 tour in the same bar. Mick Jagger ordered a Margarita, but was convinced to try this newfangled Tequila Sunrise. He made converts of the whole band and because it was so easy to make they proselytized the drink across the nation that summer. 

1 1/2 to 2 ounces Tequila
Orange juice
1/2 ounce grenadine syrup (to taste)
1 orange slice
1 Maraschino cherry

Pack a highball or Collins glass with ice and add Tequila. Add orange juice to within a half inch of the rim, and pour grenadine over the top. Allow the red syrup to sink to the bottom and create the rosy dawn effect. (Resist the temptation to stir.) Garnish with orange and cherry. Serving with a straw will preserve the sunrise.