Chill out with these delicious summer cocktails.

Nothing mixes better with a hot summer day than a cool, refreshing cocktail. Inside Columbia asked some of Columbia’s most popular bartenders to concoct a deliciously sippable, summertime drink. Only one ingredient was mandatory — each drink had to include Ketel One vodka; beyond that, the only limit was their creativity.

The bartenders showcased their cocktails at the Best of Columbia party in April and agreed to share their original recipes with the readers of Inside Columbia.

Creativity never tasted so good!

Bleu’s Patio Punch
Created by Aaron Brown of Bleu Restaurant & Wine Bar

Aaron Brown loves sangria, “especially how it looks in a pitcher with all the fruit and what not,” he says. But Bleu’s bartender knows that not everyone shares his love for this summertime favorite, and he wanted to create a crowd-pleasing drink that would look just as lovely in a pitcher. His Patio Punch combines “lots and lots of fresh fruit, vodka, rum … boom!”

1 cup Ketel One vodka
½ cup spiced rum
4 cups pineapple juice
2 cups homemade sour
2 cups orange juice
½ cup pomegranate simple syrup

Mix all ingredients in a large (12-cup) pitcher. To serve, pour into individual glasses and top with soda water on ice. Use your favorite fruits for garnish. Brown recommends oranges, limes, lemons, strawberries and pineapples.

Sour
Blend together equal parts:
Lime juice
Lemon juice
Simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar brought to a boil and cooled)

Sass On The Beach
Created by Tee Grant of Houlihan’s

Houlihan’s bartender Tee Grant had visions of palm trees, white sand beaches and gentle ocean waves in her head when she created her Sass On The Beach. Even if the closest you’ll get to paradise this summer is a sunny day and a backyard kiddie pool, you can transport yourself to the islands with this tasty cocktail.

1½ ounces Ketel One vodka
½ ounce peach schnapps
¼ ounce blackberry syrup
1½ ounces pineapple juice
3 ounces Sprite

Pour vodka, schnapps, syrup and juice into an ice-filled glass. Top with Sprite.

Blazin’ Melon Fresca
Created by Crystal Dominguez of Room 38

Using creative, in-house liquors and garnishes, Room 38’s Crystal Dominguez invites Columbians to enjoy a new cocktail experience. The result is a cocktail Dominguez describes as different and adventurous. “Cocktails don’t always have to follow the norms,” she says. “It’s fun to think outside the box and try something new.”

3 ounces Agua Fresca De Mulen
½ ounce lime juice
½ ounce Grand Marnier
1½ ounces Ketel One vodka
Muddled mint

Mix ingredients in a shaker and strain into a glass rimmed with habanero salt and pure bourbon sugar. Garnish with a lemon wedge and an orange wedge.

Herbalist
Created by Evan Wood of Bangkok Gardens

“Sometimes the simplest things are the best things,” says Evan Wood, and with that in mind, Wood created the Herbalist. This simple approach to garnishing a classic cocktail results in a light, refreshing drink that is an ideal antidote to humid summer days.

Mint leaves (small handful)
Thai basil (small handful, less than the mint)
Cucumber (1 thin slice)
1½ ounces Ketel One vodka
Lime wedge
Ice
2 ounces tonic

In a shaker or pint glass, add the mint leaves, basil leaves, cucumber slice, lime and vodka; gently muddle. Add ice to the shaker and stir. Strain the contents into a Collins glass filled with ice. (Straining with a Boston shaker and a julep strainer works best.) Fill the remainder of the glass with tonic. Garnish with basil flower and cucumber.

Sunday Fun-Day Bloody Mary
Created by Julia Seibel of Trey Bistro

The Sunday Fun-Day Bloody Mary is Julia Seibel’s answer to a rowdy Saturday night. Bloody Marys are a classic cure for a too-long night on the town, and Seibel’s version promises an extra kick. “Start your morning with my Bloody Mary at Trey’s for brunch and Sunday Fun-Day begins,” she says.

2 ounces Ketel One vodka
3 ounces tomato juice
½ small tomato
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon olive brine
Dash of bitters (optional)
¼ teaspoon Sriracha sauce
¼ teaspoon horseradish
Squeeze of lime wedge
Pinch of celery salt
Pinch of pepper

Fill pint glass with ice; add vodka and then tomato juice over ice. Use a juicer to squeeze the fresh tomato or just squeeze it with your hands over the glass. Add all remaining ingredients. Pour into a shaker and back into pint glass, repeat. No need to shake. Garnish with skewered olive, pickle and pepperoncini; place a lime wedge on rim. Crack fresh pepper over garnish and enjoy! For variety, use gin or add a salt rim.

Put The Lime In The Coconut
Created by Kat Prescott of 1839 Taphouse

1839 Taphouse bartender Kat Prescott says that when she wants to regain her balance, she looks to the water. “I find that sense of self on the river. It is there that I’m always balanced and rejuvenated. That’s what coconut water does for the body, with tons of nutrients and naturally occurring electrolytes.”

Prescott says this drink exemplifies relaxation because of “the clean, bright blue color and the coconut water that keeps it light and refreshing.”

1 part Ketel One vodka
2 parts coconut water
2 splashes Blue Curaçao
½ fresh lime, squeezed

Mix and pour into a glass rimmed with raw sugar.

Back In The U.S.S.R.
Created by Aaron Brown of The Bridge

The Bridge is a live music venue so bartender Aaron Brown looked to classic hits and classic cocktails for inspiration. He came up with the Back In The U.S.S.R.

“This drink is based on the Moscow Mule invented in the 1940s in Los Angeles in response to New York’s Manhattan,” he says.

The Beatles’ 1968 hit lends this cocktail its name.

1½ ounces Ketel One vodka
½ lime, squeezed
Splash of cherry bitters

Pour into a glass and top with ginger beer.

Summer Thyme Breeze
Created by Chelsea Flood of Vault

In summer, heavy drinks are a downer. “I wanted to create a drink that excites the taste buds while being equally sweet and refreshing,” says Vault bartender Chelsea Flood. She succeeded in creating a drink that is as visually appealing as it is delicious, and the attendees at the Best of Columbia party agreed. They selected Summer Thyme Breeze for People’s Choice honors at the Best of Columbia’s Cocktail Showcase.

2½ ounces Ketel One vodka
1½ ounces lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
1 ounce ginger simple syrup
½ ounce thyme simple syrup

Muddle 3 to 5 strawberries, 1 cucumber and 3 to 4 mint leaves in a shaker. Add other ingredients and strain into a glass.