It’s all about fruits and rums and over-the-top beverages this season.
For months, we mixed, shook, stirred and poured at makeshift cocktail bars in our homes, becoming mixologists to concoct spritzers, high balls and infusions like never before.
We searched online for recipes. We invested in everything from shakers to actual built-in bars. We bought blenders. We relied on voyeuristic YouTube videos with actor Stanley Tucci at his house, and other online how-to mixology tutorials. Now that the heat of summer is upon us, we realize we are pretty darn good at mixing it up, and we even have our own trademark recipes we developed along the way.
But part of the home cocktail bar lure for everyone during the pandemic was that we just couldn’t go out and get a drink while restaurants were closed. Now that restaurants are open and we can mosey up to a bar, trend watchers predict that all of our at-home mixology will make this year the year of the elaborate rum-based tropical cocktail, frozen drink and the fruity, zest-infused spritzer. Over-the-top cocktails, if you will.
And they are right. Premixed retail drinks and canned cocktail packs, like gin and tonics, boozier additions to the hard seltzer line-up, have exploded, up more than fifty percent in sales, industry watchers report. At local watering holes and restaurants, bartenders have been seeing a marked increase in the number of fruit and herb-infused drinks, fruity slushies, rum-based concoctions and frozen drinks for weeks.
“I feel like summer, for us, people really want tequila and rum,” said Iron Hill Brewery front-of-house manger Kate Hallman. “Margaritas have always been best-sellers, but this year since we started the strawberry margaritas, they are flying out of here.”
Another popular drink this summer at Iron Hill has been the passionfruit crush. The bar uses pureed fruit to make the rum-based passionfruit, lemon-lime drink, as well as a variety of similar cold drinks, including blueberry, strawberry and raspberry.
At Tavern on the Hill, bar managers David Coyle and Madeline Hart say this has been the “summer of the mojito.” They are even playing around with “Christmas in July” favorites like the “Ho-Ho Tito Mojito.” (see recipes below)
“People are saying ‘I can make a gin and tonic at home but I can’t make a Manhattan,’ or something. We’ve seen an increase in summer cocktails with fresh juices,” Coyle said.
At Jansen, bar manager Mirrah Buchter has been busy mixing up strawberry lime and basil shrubs, a vinegar-based Southern-style drink that has been immensely popular this summer. It involves mascerating fruits and letting them sit in white vinegar or white balsamic vinegar for a week or so, then serving them up mixed with brandy and gin.
Buchter also can’t seem to make enough margaritas for customers. She even takes the time to make tinctures for the margaritas, like a habanero-infused vodka, which she adds using a dropper very sparingly. To rim glasses with salt, she gets equally creative.
“People can play around with all different salts. We use pink himilayan, black lava, red salt,” Buchter said. “It’s fun to play around with different salts.
But like many restaurants this summer, Buchter said rum is a super popular choice for imbibers.
“We’re doing a lot of rum right now,” Buchter said.
That sentiment is echoed over at Chestnut Grill & Sidewalk Cafe, where bartender Kat Shorts can’t keep up with requests for Watermelon Brain Freeze drinks, a mixture of watermelon rum and watermelon juice.
“People are coming out looking for a good time and some relief,” Shorts said. “They are looking for sweet drinks and I’m doing a lot of rum and cokes too. People are asking for rum instead of vodka right now.”
Manager Margaret Tucker orders a special watermelon rum not available in state stores, to make the drink just right.
“When it’s combined with watermelon juice, it makes for a refreshing, cold summer drink.”
Here are a few recipes from the pros that you can try at home - or you can grab one at the bar on your next night out.
Chestnut Grill & Sidewalk Café Watermelon Brain Freeze
1 ½ oz. Cruzan watermelon rum
1 oz. Watermelon Pucker
3 oz. watermelon juice
Squeeze of simple syrup
Splash of Rose’s lime juice
Splash of grenadine
Mix all ingredients with ice in a blender. Garnish with a watermelon wedge.
Jansen Restaurant Smokin’ Hot Margarita
1 ½ oz. tequila
¾ oz. mescal
¾ oz. orange liqueur
1 oz. fresh lime juice
Three drops of habanero tincture (soak habaneros in vodka to infuse flavor)
Shake all ingredients with ice. Serve in a salt-rimmed margarita glass.
Ho-Ho-Tito Mojito from Tavern on the Hill
2 large sprigs pineapple mint
1½ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
2 ½ oz. Tito’s Vodka
In a 16-ounce glass, muddle ingredients, then add ice and vodka. Top with club soda and garnish with a lime wedge and pineapple mint.