The growing popularity and resurgence of some liquors, like bourbon, rye, rum, and gin, have led to a trend in new twists on some old favorites.—Barr Hill photo


June 21 is the first day of summer, as well as the longest one. After that, each day gets shorter by a minute or two. Since summer is a fast runner, now is a good time to think of refreshing libations for the lovely days ahead. Many of the following summer cocktail suggestions from local establishments — liquor stores, restaurants, and bars — are new twists on old favorites. All are trending now.

Barr Hill photo

These sources mention the growing popularity of tequila, and they note that rum and gin are also seeing a resurgence. Often referred to as “the new whiskey,” quality rums such as Pyrat and Real McCoy are loved as a sipping drink — just add a splash of lime. An old favorite, rosé wine, is gaining attention, as are the cool, crisp, chilled whites such as Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chardonnays. Included in this summer wine list are light Malbecs and Spanish wines. Agave lovers like its low alcohol content.

“Use a good brand of silver tequila and muddle (bar jargon for smash) an orange slice with a dash of cinnamon,” suggests Pam Love, co-owner of Jimmy’s Southside Restaurant and Glen Liquor Store in Darien. “It’s a personal favorite of mine — one and done.”

“Dark and Stormy, with origins in Bermuda, almost has a mind-set with the weather,” Love says with a chuckle. “On days that fit this description, we put ‘Dark and Stormy’ on our drink special, and it’s always a big seller.”

“Our customers look forward to our summer Italian ice feature,” says Kristine Dwyer, of the original Vazzy’s Restaurant in Bridgeport. Each year they partner with the Micalizzi Italian Ice company in Bridgeport. “One year the drink was lemon ice and vodka, another, the martini. This year it will be cherry ice and bourbon,” Dwyer says. “We also make our Sangria from scratch, and it’s very popular, as are rum drinks,” with Rum Chata, a favorite among the restaurant’s clients, made from Caribbean rum and cream.

Barr Hill photo

Currently, customers at Peter’s Spirit Shop in Weston are clamoring for artisanal gins, vodkas, bourbons, and ryes, according to Larry Vavrek, owner. “Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin, made right in Brooklyn, is one of my personal favorites,” he says, noting that the store will be doing a tasting of the Greenhook Ginsmiths with a few different cocktails on Friday, May 19 from 4 to 7 p.m. “Shoppers are also buying a lot of club soda, bitters, and higher end sweet vermouths to make fancier Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.”

Walk back to the refrigerated section of Walter Stewart’s Wine and Spirits in New Canaan and discover ready-to-go sparkling cocktails such as Fishers Island Lemonade or fruit-flavored hard ciders. John Robinson, the manager, notes the popularity of spiked seltzers — West Indian Lime, Cape Cod Cranberry, Indian River Grapefruit — or go a step farther and pour Greenhook Ginsmiths Beach Plum Gin, mix with seltzer, and pour over ice.

“White rum, such as Captain Morgan and Pyrat, is more of a summer drink,” he says, before addressing the different types of tequilas. Blanco, Plata, Silver, White, and Platinum are clear and unaged; Gold, Joven, and Oro have added colorants and flavorings; and Reposado and Anejo are aged or rested tequilas.

‘Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin, made right in Brooklyn, is one of my personal favorites,’ says Larry Vavrek, owner of Peter’s Spirit Shop in Weston.—Larry Vavrek photo

“People are into exploring pop-up, cheeky craft cocktails that are bright and light,” says Jeff Hodson, bartender at the Hub and Spoke Restaurant in Bridgeport, adding, “We sell a ton of Old Fashioned variations.” He predicts Mule drinks (variations of the Moscow Mule) will be a driving force this summer.

Just as the farm-to-table movement is gaining momentum, the farm-to-glass trend is experiencing a groundswell of popularity. Several businesses use handcrafted, artisanal vodkas, such as Organic Crop Harvest Vodka, known for its clean, pure taste. The company’s best seller is cucumber-flavored vodka, while Meyer lemon and tomato are available at some places. Tito’s Handmade Vodka uses corn rather than grain in its processing, making it gluten-free.

Our sources provided the following summer drinks recipes, but be adventurous when using these flavored vodkas. Add a sprig of basil, thyme or dill as a garnish or a thin sliver of cucumber or a cherry tomato. Experiment with muddling, using a few blueberries, mint leaves, or watermelon chunks.

Cucumber Dill-Icious
(Recipe courtesy of Larry Vavrek, Peter’s Spirit Shop, Weston)

Ingredients:
2 oz. cucumber vodka
.5 oz. fresh lime juice
½ part agave nectar

Directions:

Muddle cucumber and dill with lime juice. Add vodka and agave nectar. Garnish with sliced cucumber and dill leaf.

The Bee’s Knees
(Recipe courtesy of Barr Hill)

Ingredients:
2 oz. Barr Hill gin
.75 oz. lemon juice
.75 oz. honey simple syrup
Lemon for garnish
Lavender (optional added garnish)

Directions:
To a shaker filled with ice, add gin, lemon juice, and honey simple syrup, and shake vigorously.  Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.  Add garnish.

Grapefruit Margarita
(Recipe courtesy of Jimmy’s Southside Tavern)

Combine ingredients:
2 oz. pineapple juice
2 oz. grapefruit juice
.5 oz. grapefruit liquor
.5 oz. Aperol (an Italian aperitif)
2 oz. tequila

For a touch of sweetness, blood orange or simple sweetener may substitute for grapefruit liquor.

Moscow Mule
(Recipe courtesy of Vazzy’s 19th Hole Restaurant, Fairfield)

Ingredients:
2 oz. vodka
½ lime
Ginger beer

Directions:

Mules are traditionally served in copper mugs. Squeeze the lime juice; drop the lime into the mug. Add ice, pour in vodka and ginger beer. Add garnish.

The 19th Hole
(Recipe courtesy of Vazzy’s 19th Hole Restaurant, Fairfield)

Combine ingredients:
Equal parts lemonade and iced tea
2 oz. vodka

Gin ’n’ Jam
(Recipe courtesy of Barr Hill)

Ingredients:
2 oz. Barr Hill gin
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 spoonful strawberry-rhubarb jam

Directions:

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain over crushed ice. Garnish with a scoop of jam resting across the rim.

 

Mint to Be — a simple twist on the classic Mojito
(Recipe courtesy of Larry Vavrek, Peter’s Spirit Shop, Weston)

Ingredients:

2 oz. vodka
.5 oz. fresh lime juice
.25 oz. granulated sugar
8 mint leaves

Directions:

Muddle sugar, lime juice, and mint leaves in a tall glass. Add ice, pour in vodka, top with club soda. Garnish with mint leaf and lime wheel.