Warm, balmy weather calls for cooling cocktails. We take a look at some of the planet’s best loved summer quenchers, and how they’re consumed.
Aperol, an Italian apéritif, has been around since 1919. In the 50s, the standard white-wine-and-soda mix commonly drunk in Venice got an upgrade to the Aperol Spritz, also known as the Spritz Veneziano. The cocktail is a perfect summer sippin’ cooler, with a relatively low ABV and an invigorating bitter edge. And, of course, what could be more festive than bubbly?
RECIPE: Pour 3 parts prosecco and 2 parts Aperol in a wine glass. Top with soda water and garnish with an orange slice.
If you ask a professional bartender what their ‘desert-island’ drink is, the answer is often the Daiquiri. Why? Because it’s a simple, perfectly balanced cocktail that’s tough to tire of. For our purposes, it’s also an excellent option for lazy summer days and warm, beachy nights … which is apt, as Daiquirí is a beach in Cuba from which the drink gets its name. It was supposedly invented on the island in the early 1900s, and continues to be popular there to this day.
RECIPE: Shake 2 parts white rum, 1 part fresh lime juice and ¾ part simple syrup with ice. Strain into a chilled coup glass and garnish with a lime wheel, if desired.
Pimm’s may be as quintessentially English as cucumber sandwiches, but it’s common in all parts of the former British Empire. While we associate it with fancy summer sporting events such as horseracing at Ascot, rowing at the Henley Royal Regatta and tennis at Wimbledon, it was originally a drink for the masses. See the side box for the fascinating history of Pimm’s.
RECIPE: Add 1 part Pimm’s No. 1, 2 parts carbonated lemonade and ice to a jug. Garnish with mint and slices of cucumber, oranges and strawberries. Serve in highballs.
Many cocktails have riffs, where the traditional base spirit is swapped out for something else. The Margarita is one such drink, ‘margarita’ being Spanish for ‘daisy’. Here, the brandy used in the Daisy cocktail from the US is switched for tequila south of the border in Mexico. At least, that’s one of the origin stories out there, but whatever the true history, the Margarita is a brilliant summer soother. Serving it slushy style takes it to the next level: icy, tart and boozy. To be consumed with caution.
RECIPE: Blend 3 parts tequila, 2 parts orange liqueur, 1 part fresh lime juice and 1 part simple syrup with 3–4 cups ice. Serve in coup or margarita glasses rimmed with kosher salt and garnished with lime slices.
The word ‘sangría’ translates as bloodletting, which is a remarkably macabre name for this jolly punch. Hailing from Spain and Portugal and seen in bars and restaurants all over these Iberian nations, it’s great for parties and events, as you serve it in big jugs. While traditionally made with red wine, a lighter version can be made with white wine, as Sangria Blanca.
RECIPE: Mix sugar, orange juice, red wine and ice in a jug to taste. Add chunks of apple, orange rind and cinnamon sticks. If you like, you can boost with liqueur or brandy, and top with soda. Serve in large wine glasses.
Dark ‘n Stormy
We’re heading down to Bermuda for this one, a straightforward drink that hits the proverbial spot. A signature serve of Gosling’s Rum, the distillers even went so far as to patent the name, so technically if a bar markets a Dark ‘n Stormy with any other brand they’re risking litigation. Legend has it that a sailor first came up with the concept, commenting that the drink was “the colour of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under.”
RECIPE: Add 2 shots of dark rum to a highball glass with ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.
A list of summer drinks would be incomplete without the G&T. Whether you’re a fan of Cape Gin or favour the more traditional London Dry, the G&T is as widespread as the common cold used to be in Mzanzi in the days before obsessive handwashing and mask fashion. We drink it at parties, we drink it at home; there’s nary an occasion for social lubrication that the G&T isn’t invited to.
RECIPE: Add 2 shots of gin to a glass with ice, and top with tonic water. Garnish with lemon, cucumber or whatever herbs or fynbos you can forage from your garden.
How Pimm’s was pinched from the proletariat
In 1840s London you couldn’t walk a block without passing an oyster bar or street vendor. While we may know them an erotic delicacy – slurped sexily alongside chilled glasses of bubbly – back then oysters were cheap and plentiful, enjoyed in soups, stews and pies by every Tom, Dick and Harry who couldn’t afford the beef of the upper crust.
To help his chain of Pimm’s Oyster Warehouses stand out from the competition, proprietor James Pimm created The No. 1 Cup, a gin-based tonic to aid digestion of the rich food. Originally served in pewter tankards on site, by 1865 Pimm’s No. 1 was so popular among the health seekers of the day that it was bottled for off-site consumption.
A few years later, Sir Horatio David Davies bought the franchise, and saw the opportunity to market the drink in the colonies. Soon, it was seen not just as a beneficial elixir, but as a libation to be imbibed for pleasure.
By 1912, the esteemed export from the British Isles had found its way into much fancier circles, Pimm’s finding fame in all corners of the globe, being swigged with glee in far-fling places such as Ceylon, Sudan and even South Africa.
These says, Pimm’s is synonymous with posh events back in Blighty, even going so far as to be the signature drink of Wimbledon, where Pimm’s bars have been celebrated since the 1970s.
This post first appeared in Cheers Magazine in Nov 2020.