Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer Cocktails





Julie Reiner
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: One of the best things about living in New York are the great restaurants and bars. Julie Reiner's iconic saloons serving craft cocktails — Flatiron Lounge, Pegu Club, Clover Club, and newest venture, Leyenda are some of Noel's and my favorite places for date night. The drinks are amazing, the food is wonderful, the atmosphere is celebratory, and, best of all, even though they're sort of glam — the vibe is neighborly.

In case you can't get to New York, the good news is cocktail doyenne Julie Reiner has a new book out: The Craft Cocktail Party: Delicious Drinks for Every Occasion (Grand Central Publishing).

Yes, readers, I couldn't resist getting it... (I'm a bit of a Julie fangirl — love seeing women chefs and business owners succeed.) 

The CRAFT COCKTAIL PARTY gives cocktail basics and keeps thing simple for the home cook. (Yay!) The recipes are organized into the four seasons—not surprising, given that Reiner's inspired by seasonal ingredients. As she writes: 

At the season's height, when every stand at the farmers’ market sags under the weight of pristine berries, plump tomatoes, and bunches of fragrant herbs, my bar starts to resemble a garden. I generally divide my market haul into two piles: one for muddling into drinks and one for making infusions and syrups. When certain fruits, like raspberries, are gently heated in sugar, the resulting syrup can be even more robust in flavor than the fruit itself.

I haven't tried all the recipes in "Summer" yet (give me time—it's only June...), but I do think I've found one for our summer house cocktail.

Here's the recipe for Ginger-Mint Lemonade — perfect for summer and can be made with or without alcohol.


The ginger syrup in this drink is the real star. It’s so good, in fact, that you could leave the booze out entirely for an undeniably delicious mocktail. 

8 mint leaves 
¾ ounce ginger syrup 
2 ounces citrus vodka or gin (I recommend Ketel One Citroen or Tanqueray No. Ten) 
¾ ounce lemon juice 
1 ½ ounces water 
Garnish / Mint sprig


Ginger Syrup Ginger is a very versatile cocktail ingredient. It works with any spirit category and adds spice to your beverage without adding heat. It’s essential to categories of drinks called “mules” and “bucks,” most frequently encountered in the form of the Moscow Mule. The best way to make it is with a juice extractor (used to juice vegetables and noncitrus fruits). If you don’t have one, you can still make ginger juice with a bit of elbow grease: Just grate fresh peeled ginger root with a microplane zester and then squeeze it through a piece of cheesecloth. However, when you’re entertaining or making lots of drinks, it’s perfectly acceptable to buy a bottled ginger juice or syrup. There are quite a few good ones on the market today. I recommend ginger juice from the Ginger People and Hawaiian ginger syrup from Pacifikool, both of which can be found online.

½ cup ginger juice 
1 cup superfine sugar 

Heat the juice in a saucepan over low heat until warm but not boiling. 

Add the sugar and blend with an immersion blender or whisk. 

Let cool, then transfer to a nonreactive metal or glass container with a lid and store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. 

MAKES ABOUT 1 CUP, enough for about 13 drinks

SUSAN: Reds and lovely readers, what drinks, alcoholic or not, keep you cool in the summer. Please share in the comments! And cheers!


  1. Congratulations to Hank and Rhys for their award nominations!

    Summer drinks . . . if I’m not having coffee, my everyday go-to drink is flavored seltzer water, but summer always means a pitcher or two of my grandmother’s special iced coffee.
    Start with enough strong black coffee to fill about one quarter of your pitcher. Add three heaping tablespoons of honey and then enough milk to fill the pitcher three-quarters full. Fill the pitcher the rest of the way with ice cream [your choice of flavors, but we always use chocolate] and put it in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to serve the iced coffee, stir the coffee mixture in the pitcher and fill a tall glass about three-fourths full. Add ice cream to fill the glass. Then sit back with a good book, relax, and enjoy!

  2. When we lived in West Africa, our cook (it was pretty much expected that foreigners would hire a local man to cook, clean, and do laundry, so...) would make a ginger drink like yours except without the booze, of course. He'd grate peeled ginger and steep it in just boiled water, then strain and press it. Add sugar, lime juice, and mint, and it's the best. We find it's good with rum added, or whiskey.

    Joan, I also like iced coffee with sugar mixed in while the coffee is still warm, then chilled and served with whole milk over ice, but no ice cream! I first had it at a sidewalk cafe in Tokyo and have loved it ever since.

  3. Go, Hank & Rhys!! Wowie Zowie!!

    And can I just say this drink looks fabulous. I wonder why you can't use the shredded ginger to make the not-so simple syrup and then strain it through a cheese cloth after it cools... what think?

  4. Yes congrats to our honored Reds!

    I can't picture myself grating and squeezing ginger, though the drink sounds delish! Joan, your coffee sounds like dessert in a glass:). And I enjoyed the snippets of this book.

    We became obsessed with mojitos after visiting Cuba. Will have to pick that up again this summer.

  5. Congratulations Hank!!! Congratulations Rhys!!!

    Summer drinks - I'm a sucker for mint. and honestly, can drink enough plain ol' mint tea to sink a battleship.

  6. SO we've invented a new one--it's called a Christie! And although it's delicious, it's needs..something. So Susan,( and Reds) you all are the perfect people to ask.

    Start with vodka--have you tried Ciroc? And then add this stuff we found at the drug store. It's coconut/pineapple flavored club soda. It is YUMMY! So a chilled martini glass, add ice, add vodka, and flavored club soda, and a big twist of lemon. The lemon makes a huge difference.

    But what else would you include to amp it up a bit?

  7. Oh, and thank you! Yes, I am THRILLED!!! (And Yay, Rhys--you are a treasure.)

  8. Rhys and Hank, I'm deliriously happy for you both! Fingers crossed.

    Yum, ginger and citrus--what's not to like? Will have to try this.

    After a trip last year to New Orleans, my husband and I have gotten into Sazeracs, but only for special occasions, and we keep it to one apiece because they are potent suckers. There's Pernod in them, just a touch, but all the rest of the ingredients except the little bit of sugar are also alcoholic. Tasty, though.

  9. Yum, Yum. I love almost any 'red' drink and have been known to overdo the grenadine in my Tequila sunrise just for the effect. My latest favorite (and a nod to the Kentucky Derby in May) is mint julep. I have a bumper crop of mint in my garden and my husband collects bourbons. A match made in heaven. For non-alcoholic summer drinking, it's either homemade mint ice tea from an aging Southern Living recipe or key lime lemonade. Extra light on the sugar! Refreshing to enjoy at poolside.

  10. Hank and Rhys!!! You two must take a picture of your trophy rooms sometime and show us where you keep all of these richly deserved awards. Congratulations on your current nominations! So proud to know such talented authors and so happy that you two are rewarded for your excellence.

    When I was visiting my hometown last weekend, I went to the town's wine festival with some dear lifelong friends, and I had a white wine Sangria mix that was delicious, just perfect for a summer evening with friends. I brought home the recipe, but I'm not sure where I put it right now. As I can no longer drink red wine much with my ulcers, the white wine mix was a nice find.

    I'm a big coffee fan, but I like my coffee hot. However, after reading Joan's and Edith's recipes for iced coffee, I might have to finally give that a try. Lucy, I first had a mojito on my Key West trip last fall, and it became my drink of choice that trip. Hank, I like the sound of your Christie, as vodka is my favorite hard liquor.

  11. Hi everyone! Your drinks are all delicious!

    Hank, I'd add some Angostura bitters?

  12. How wonderful, Rhys and Hank!

    One of my favorites for a summer afternoon pick-me-up is this Iced Coffee. It is versatile, as you use your choice of coffee, sweetener (or none), and flavorings.

    Texas Summer Iced Coffee

    1/2 to 1 cup ice (depending on your glass)
    1/2 cup coffee, cold
    1/2 cup vanilla almond milk, unsweetened
    1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    about 1 tsp honey or agave syrup OR a bit of stevia (optional)
    a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cocoa powder (optional)

    Place ice in a tall glass. Add the cold coffee, almond milk and vanilla extract on top. Add your choice of sweetener and garnish, if desired. Stir with a long spoon and enjoy immediately.

    Hint: Save that last bit of coffee in the pot in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, in a jar with a lid. Then you'll have what you need when you want or need an afternoon "tonic."

  13. Hank and Rhys… congratulations, my luvs!

    Hank, I think your coconut/pineapple based Christie calls for fresh lime with a chunk of fresh ginger sitting on the bottom where a cherry might otherwise be. It's very easy to peel fresh ginger root.

    Ginger root keeps well in the freezer.

  14. Just wanted to clarify that I've been nominated for the MacAvity award too-Sue Feder Historical, not Bruce Alexander. That was earlier this year. All good, however! Thanks for kind words. And greetings from England