As the summer heats up, my thirst for interesting and unique cocktails increases. Don’t get me wrong, I love my summertime wines, but my husband has a keen knack for mixing up some terrific libations. The best is when I bring home some of Nino’s freshest produce and let him work his magic. Year round we play with citrus, but right now we have fresh melons, pineapple, berries and stone fruits like peaches and nectarines. And with “the Cocktail Revolution” at hand, we can’t just focus on the fruit! Peppers, cucumbers, basil and thyme are all found in cocktails in the trendiest hotspots around Detroit. Just last week, I had an “exhilaratingly” spicy drink made with house-made Ghost pepper syrup at The Oakland in Ferndale! The produce section, for the at-home mixologist, is a sea of colorful splashes of flavor, just waiting to be imbibed.
Here are some of my favorite summer cocktails:
The Artless Watermelon Mojito Recipe
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me post a picture of this. It is a simple and refreshing cocktail that came out of what I had available: white rum, watermelon, mint, and limes.
- 2 oz. Cruzan White Rum
- 1 oz. Passoa Passion Fruit Liqueur
- 1 oz. lime juice
- 1 ½ cups cubed watermelon
- 4 leaves mint
- 1 cup ice
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend till smooth.
The Original Mai Tai Recipe
Created by “Trader” Vic Bergeron in 1944, the Mai Tai has almost as many variations as there are islands in the sea. A thousand pretenders (and an entire national craze) have come and gone, but the original is still the best. Despite its complex flavors, it’s a cinch to make.
- 1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
- ½ oz. orange Curacao
- ¼ oz. orgeat syrup
- ¼ oz. sugar syrup
- 1 oz. Meyer’s dark Jamaican rum
- 1 oz. Appleton Estate V/X rum
Combine the ingredients in a shaker with a generous helping of crushed ice, shake, and pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass. Drop the spent lime shell into the drink, where it will float like a tiny island. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a slice of pineapple on the rim.
EXR and Ginger Recipe
The Bitter Truth is a German company specializing in bitters and long forgotten liqueurs. The EXR is a Krauter Liqueur, that is a little like coke syrup with a bitter twist on the finish. If you’ve ever had Amaro or Jagermeister, it’s a little like that. But when mixed with Canada Dry Ginger Ale, lime juice and orange zest, it becomes bright and refreshing!
- 2 oz. EXR Krauter Liqueur
- 1 oz. lime juice
- 3 oz. Canada Dry Ginger Ale (Sorry, Vernor’s is too sweet for this one.)
- 1 tbsp. orange zest
Pour all ingredients over ice in a tall collins glass and stir.
The Beautiful Red Bell Recipe
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try drinking a few peppers? Created at the popular Kansas City, Missouri cocktail haven Manifesto, the Beautiful Red Bell is an unusual new drink that’s rapidly gaining a following. Here’s what you’ll need to try your own.
- 1/3 of a red bell pepper, sliced into 2-inch strips
- 5 basil leaves
- ½ lime, juiced
- 1 ½ oz. gin
- 1 tsp. agave nectar
Combine the pepper, basil, and lime juice in a shaker, then muddle thoroughly. The goal is to completely mash the pepper. There should be no “crunch” left. Add the gin, a generous amount of ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass.
Coconut Basil Slimlet Recipe
Based off the classic Gimlet that comprised of vodka and Rose’s Lime Cordial, this adds a tropical yet skinny twist.
- 2 oz. Skinnygirl Island Coconut Vodka
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
- 2 sprigs of fresh basil
- 1 tbsp. agave syrup
Muddle agave syrup, 4 leaves basil, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add Skinnygirl Island Coconut Vodka and ice. Shake vigorously and strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with additional basil.
Once you get the hang of these drinks, I suggest finding new recipes in some of Metro Detroit’s best bars. I highly recommend The Sugar House in Detroit and The Oakland in Ferndale. These bartenders, or mixologists if you prefer, are a cut above, using handmade bitters and syrups that make their cocktails stratospherically good! An additional bonus? There is outdoor seating at both establishments.