Beach Drinks vs. Summer Drinks

Does the ultimate summer drink have to be made in a blender or come with an umbrella? No. There's a difference between beach drinks and summer drinks. A beach drink blinds with flamboyant garnishes and shakes its fruitiness in your face, but in the end doesn't taste much different than a Jamba Juice. A summer drink is refreshing, with some thirst-quenching acidity. It doesn't have to be froufrou, just tasty enough to get you to leave your patio. Disqualifying the margarita from competing because it's so ubiquitous, last week I stumbled around town trying to find Seattle's best summery drinks. Your average home bar can't match Oliver's Twist (6822 Greenwood Ave. N.) for unique ingredients. Tons of aromatic ingredients not traditionally served in coolers dot the cocktail list. A take on the classic sidecar, the bar's Old Sally features quince as an accent instead of the standard lemon or orange, and finishes the drink with walnut oil. The effect is like an exotic perfume. If you're fresh from a walk around Green Lake, you may want to cut Old Sally with soda so she lasts longer. Right off I-5, the bright yellow La Casa del Mojito (7545 Lake City Way N.E.) is the kind of south-of-our-border hideaway to duck into when you've been in the yard all day and can't see yourself generating any more heat to feed yourself. The popular girls, mojito and caipirinha, match up with all sorts of Latin American edibles, but La Casa's pisco sour wins the "I'd travel 10 miles for this" award, especially when you pair it with the "Luam's plantain sampler." The drink, of either Chilean or Peruvian origin, is like a brandy lime drop with crushed ice and a creamy egg-white foam that gives hints of Key lime pie. If you lack air-conditioning and Japanese maples, escape a summer heat wave on the patio furniture of the inside courtyard at Umi Sake House (2230 First Ave.). Its cocktail list includes many 'tini-style drinks made with sake and fresh fruit or herbs. Lighter in alcohol and more aromatic than vodka, sake gives more refreshment and less burn. The drinks with lychee liqueur and fresh mango are delicious, but the light sweetness of the cucumber sake rules. Sipped alongside fresh sashimi, it's like a mini-visit to an expensive spa hotel. Before you slum it with plastic cups at the rock show, treat yourself to an early evening vacation at Licorous (928 12th Ave. E.). Does the lounge of newly James Beard Award–winning chef John Sundstrom now serve James Beard Award–winning cocktails? I'd certainly make that call, because it was hard to pick a drink from Licorous' current list, since each concoction was prettier than the last. Until I tried the Playa Rosa. With a nod to the native and the tropical, it's an up drink with hibiscus-infused tequila, fresh pineapple juice, lime, and hibiscus syrup. The flavor—zippy, sweet, and layered—is as vibrant as the shocking magenta color. Give the bartender at your local watering hole a chance to share their liquid take on summer, and maybe you'll get off your chaise longue more often.

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