As the days get longer and warmer, sitting outside with a refreshing and flavorful alcoholic beverage can offer a nice respite from the heat. The growing popularity of artisanal cocktails means that supermarkets and liquor stores are stocking many of the essential ingredients for getting buzzed in good taste. These drinks represent a return to the basics, an emphasis on fresh ingredients, and an appreciation for high-quality spirits that is a step above what most college students are used to. Each of the following intoxicating refreshments is designed to be simple, affordable, and easy to enjoy anywhere—given some sunshine and Solo cups.
The Mezcal Margarita:
Store-bought margarita mixes are full of high fructose corn syrup and have too much triple sec, salt, and ice to be palatable. This version is much more elementary, swapping tequila and triple sec for mezcal: a dark, smoky spirit that adds a layer of depth to the drink. Tequila is distilled from the blue agave plant, or Agave tequilna, while mezcal owes its complex and rich flavor to the heart of the Agave americana. What really matters though is that mezcal dramatically increases flavor. It is available at most larger liquor retailers (like Binny’s, for example). The sweetness is achieved with just a touch of agave nectar rather than copious amounts of sugar. Lime juice rounds the drink out and contributes to its vibrant color and flavor.
To begin, you’ll need a cocktail shaker full of ice. Fill a 1/4 cup measuring unit three-fourths of the way full with mezcal. Fill the rest up with your favorite dark rum. Add this to the cocktail shaker along with 2 tablespoons of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of agave nectar. Finish with just a pinch of salt to draw out and intensify the flavors, shake, and pour into a glass.
2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs agave syrup
1/4 cup alcohol (3/4 Mezcal, 1/4 rum)
pinch of salt
The Andre Smash:
This sangria-like cocktail, screaming to be served in a pitcher, is perfect to keep chilled in the fridge. Lime, lemon, fresh berries, and a bit of mint are muddled with champagne for a light, crisp cocktail perfect for summer nights. The Andre Smash sounds quite startling, even intimidating, but it truly is a patient drink that only gets better the longer it is allowed to sit in the fridge. We recommend using Andre champagne because it’s ridiculously cheap, but any brand (including any dry white wine) can be used. When crushed, the blueberries release a deep red juice, so don’t be surprised if the finished product ends up looking shockingly pink.
You will need a large pitcher. Cut 1 whole lemon and 1 whole lime into wedges and drop them into the bottom. Add 1 cup fresh berries. Rub 8 sprigs of mint with leaves between the palms of your hands to release the essential oils before adding them to the pitcher. Twist off the top of the Andre and pour just enough to cover the ingredients. Holding the Andre bottle by the stem, mash all the ingredients in the pitcher repeatedly until all their juices have been released. This process, called muddling, will bring out oils in the skin of the citrus and the mint leaves, smush the blueberries, and release the juice from the lemons and limes. Then, add the remainder of the Andre. If you’re feeling especially spirited, add an additional 1/2 cup of rum (for extra smash). The pitcher can be chilled in the fridge for several days, and care should be taken when pouring to ensure the mint or citrus rinds don’t end up in the glass.
1 cup blueberries
8 sprigs of mint
1 bottle of Andre
Tips: Pour a splash of Andre into pitcher before muddling. After muddling, add rest of Andre. For an extra kick, add 1/2 cup of rum.
Basil and Cucumber Collins:
This drink combines fresh herbs and produce with lime and seltzer water for a revitalizing mixture, fragrant yet mild in flavor. Gin, derived from juniper berries and a mix of botanical herbs, is perfectly paired with fresh herbs like basil and gastronomic cooling agents such as cucumber. Once again, this drink requires muddling to bring out the oils in the herbs and to crush the chunks of cucumber. Most kitchen utensils, from the handle of a wooden spoon or spatula, will suffice for this process. A splash of seltzer at the end lightens the drink and gives it a rejuvenating touch.
To start, pour 1/8 cup lime juice into a cocktail shaker. Rub 4 fresh basil leaves between your hands to release the oils and add them, along with 4 slices of cucumbers, quartered, to the shaker. With whatever broad-based kitchen utensil at your disposal, mash all the ingredients until the cucumber is decently crushed. Top with 1/3 cup gin and ice to your liking. Shake vigorously until satisfied. Pour into a glass and top with 1/3 cup seltzer water.
1/8 cup lime juice
4 fresh basil leaves (large)
4 1/4 inch slices of cucumber (eyeball and quarter at will)
1/3 cup of gin
1/3 cup seltzer
During your summer festivities, please remember to drink responsibly and add tiny umbrellas as needed.