Inside Columbia magazine invited three CoMo barkeeps — Sycamore’s Andrew Ruth, Bleu’s Aaron Brown and Kait Andre of Coley’s American Bistro — to share their inspirations for quintessential summer libations. With summer’s abundance of fresh produce and plenty of ice, these favorite recipes are thirst-quenching and delicious summer craft cocktails you can try on your own. Enjoy!
By Andrew Ruth, bar manager at Sycamore
2 ounces Earl Grey tea-infused vodka
½ ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
½ ounce honey syrup
3 dashes peach bitters
2 ounces club soda
Rosemary sprig for garnish
Pour vodka into an ice-filled glass. Add the next three ingredients. Top with club soda and stir. Garnish with rosemary sprig.
Sweet tea is a signature summer beverage and the inspiration behind Sycamore bar manager Andrew Ruth’s Alabama Worley cocktail.
Vodka infused with Earl Grey tea is the centerpiece of this drink. Ruth added peach bitters and honey syrup to round out the flavor. Fresh lemon juice and fizzy club soda give the cocktail a thirst-quenching quality.
“Fresh citrus is refreshing,” says Ruth. “It adds brightness and acidity. The peach bitters give the drink a nice background note.”
For summer drinks, Ruth says he likes to add booze to something nonalcoholic that people enjoy drinking on a warm day, such as lemonade or iced tea. “You can also take a popular cocktail like a margarita and modify it to make it more interesting and take it to another level,” he says.
“Fresh herbs give a nice aroma to a drink, and they look cool. You can infuse fresh fruit into your simple syrups. Take a trip to the farmers market and use what is in season.”
Ruth suggests slow-melting ice blocks for parties. “It will keep punches cool without diluting them,” he says. “Crushed ice is also great for summer drinks.”
CUCUMBER BASIL COOLER
By Aaron Brown, bar manager at Bleu
1 basil leaf
1 or 2 slices of cucumber
1 ounce cucumber vodka
½ ounce Riesling
1 ounce sour mix
1slice of cucumber for garnish
1 basil leaf for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the cucumber and basil. Add vodka, Riesling and sour mix. Strain into a large, ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with basil leaf and cucumber slice.
The menu at Bleu describes the Cucumber Basil Cooler as “summer personified.” The drink is light, yet it has a bold flavor. Bar manager Aaron Brown makes his own sour mix for the cocktail.
“The freshness of the cucumber reminds you of a summer garden,” Brown says. “It is very refreshing. The vodka lends itself to blending easily. It is a crowd-pleaser.”
Brown suggests trying the cocktail with Hendrick’s gin instead of vodka. “The herbal flavor of the gin brings out the cocktail’s fresh flavors [for] a complex flavor explosion,” he says.
For a nonalcoholic version, replace the vodka and Riesling with lemonade or lemon-lime soda.
BLISTER IN THE SUN
By Kait Andre, bar manager at Coley’s American Bistro
1 ounce vodka
4 to 5 ounces strawberry-mint lemonade
Combine vodka and lemonade in an ice-filled glass. Garnish with mint sprig and a lemon slice.
For this simple cocktail, Kait Andre, bar manager at Coley’s American Bistro, makes her own lemonade using fresh strawberries and mint.
“Use fresh ingredients that are seasonal,” says Coley’s owner Brian Coley. “Our summer cocktail menu features drinks with fresh berries, ginger and herbs like thyme and basil.”
“Sweeter drinks with citrus seem to be popular in the summer,” Coley says. “Vodka is very well masked by mixers, but you can make an equally great summer cocktail with whiskey. Don’t be afraid to try something different that is outside of your comfort zone,” he adds.
“If you eliminate the vodka, the strawberry-mint lemonade makes a great summer beverage on its own,” Coley says.