Planning for summer in Seattle can sometimes feel like an act of faith, yet I’m taking the plunge and writing about a few summer cocktails that, with a bit of meteorological luck, we can all enjoy in the upcoming months. Each recipe is designed to produce one drink—usually about three ounces—but for a barbecue or cocktail party I encourage you to make a larger batch ahead of time, and then stir or shake each drink to order. One other note: Quantities matter. Some ingredients are potent, strongly flavored, sweet, or possess other qualities that in the wrong balance can wreck a drink. Any half-decent home bar has at least one jigger, either a classic two-sided metal one or a more modern graduated plastic model.
A few keys when it comes to summery cocktails: First off, spirits also matter. While of course any base spirit can be enjoyable at any time, I personally prefer to save my scotch for winter. Summer is a time to enjoy bright, fresh flavors, fruits, and maybe even a bit of spice, which to me means mostly gin, tequila, and rum. Second, fresh fruit is hard to predict, as flavors can vary from berry to berry. That’s the main reason I prefer to purée and strain fruits before mixing them into a cocktail: It achieves a more consistent product. Finally, a note on shaking cocktails: The longer you shake, the more you dilute the drink. Five to 10 seconds should be plenty to cool the drink properly, and if you want to serve the drink “up” (in a martini glass), make sure you strain it to ensure that no ice ends up in the glass.
Cherry Old Fashioned Washington’s cherry season is about to start, making this a perfect time to try this drink. I like to use Bing cherries for their color, but Rainiers will taste great as well. I simply pit the cherries and purée them briefly, then store the purée in a squeeze bottle in the fridge, where it lasts for two weeks or so. If your cherries are a bit tart, you can add a small amount of sugar.
In a pint glass, combine one section of orange peel (just use a vegetable peeler to take a one-inch wide section), three dashes of Angostura bitters, and a half-ounce of cherry purée. Gently press the peel with a muddler, then add two ounces of whiskey. I prefer Woodinville Whiskey’s Rye for this drink, as the spicy notes go great with the sweetness of the cherries. Add ice and stir for 20 seconds. Strain into a smaller glass with fresh ice, and garnish with a pitted cherry.
Trade Wind One of my absolute favorites, it includes a couple of exotic ingredients—plum brandy and/or plum bitters—but it’s worth the investment, as it’s a spectacular drink when made right. Add one ounce of gold rum, one ounce of spiced rum, a half-ounce of lime juice, a half-ounce of plum brandy, and three dashes of plum bitters to a mixing glass. Stir over ice, strain, and serve garnished with a slice of fresh plum.
Aviation Again, there are some unusual ingredients here, but they combine into an ethereal drink that’s hard to deny. I start with two ounces of Woodinville’s Voyager gin, a half-ounce of lemon juice, and a quarter-ounce each of creme de violette and maraschino liqueur. Add ice and shake briskly for 10 seconds, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Rosé sangria While red and white wines are often used for sangria, I actually prefer rosés, which have enough body to stand up to richer fruits without being too heavy. The choice of fruits matters: Stick with berries (especially strawberries and raspberries) and stone fruits (I love white peaches), as a good rosé should have plenty of acidity. You can throw in some grapefruit or oranges if you like, but I limit my citrus. As for which rosé to use, I prefer ones made from Rhone varietals, like the 2012 Renegade from Sleight of Hand. For each six ounces of wine, I like to add an ounce of decent (not super-cheap, not expensive) French brandy, like Jacques Cardin. Sangria is great, because you can make it ahead of time and store it in the fridge. Proportions don’t really matter, and on a sunny summer day in the backyard or on the porch, nothing’s better.