Next time you stop by your local farmer’s market for seasonal produce, select your favorite fruits and herbs to create the perfect summer cocktail.
Before you go, make a list of produce you’ll enjoy snacking on and pairing with your liquor of choice. Popular produce choices include blackberries, blueberries, apricots, cucumbers, peaches, strawberries and watermelon. For herbs, stock up on basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, cilantro and lavender.
While out shopping, swing by a local liquor store and stock up on your favorite spirits. If you prefer a more neutral liquor—as I do—pick up a few bottles of vodka; for floral or juniper undertones, go for gin; for more robust drinks, buy rum, whiskey and tequila, adding in ginger or an interesting bitter for a strongly flavored cocktail. Also, buy any bar tools you may need, such as a strainer, shaker and microplane.
Once you are ready to start measuring, pouring and creating cocktails at home, start simple with proven pairings, such as mint or basil with a sweet liquor; rosemary or sage with a savory liquor; or lavender with a floral gin. After you master these combinations, try out other fan favorites, using your preferred neutral liquor:
- Blueberries + lemon zest
- Grapefruit + rosemary
- Watermelon + mint
- Strawberries + basil
- Cucumbers + thyme
Mixing together seasonal cocktails comes more naturally to some than to others, especially at first. If you aren’t in the mood or don’t have time to create a cocktail, pour a flavored LaCroix into a fancy glass, add a splash of spirits and top it off with the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon or lime. My favorite summer cocktail includes vodka, grapefruit LaCroix and a hint of lime juice. It’s light and easy and doesn’t involve a muddler or any time spent at my kitchen counter.
Whether you prefer to keep it simple or live more adventurously, enjoy creating and sipping on flavorful cocktails this summer. Make what you like and ignore trends you don’t.
When you are ready to show off your bartending skills to the outside world, host a summer party and invite all of your friends. Woo them over by making one signature drink that most everyone will enjoy—sangria with a twist, for example. Instead of making one large batch, opt for smaller batches and replenish as needed. Also, stock up on summer brews, just in case it’s a beer drinking kind of day.
Emily Pinner is a Chattanooga native with restaurant and retail management background. After managing Riverside Wine & Spirits for seven years, she created an event planning department that has connected her with lots of other local vendors. Her mission is to take the stress and guessing out of beverage planning for events.