There is something special about a cocktail. Beautifully refreshing and daintily decorated, cocktails sing of luxury and adventure and the sweet splendour of summer. And, as our back gardens look set to stay as the go-to destinations for Covid-safe socialising, there is more reason than ever to perfect your repertoire of summer mixes.
Keeping up to date with all that’s à la mode behind the world’s best bars is a sure way to on-trend tipples. Elderflower flavours are, for instance, popular with today’s top mixologists. Delicately sweet and softly floral, elderflower complements the fruity undertones in drinks such as prosecco and gin.
No list of ‘what’s hot’ can forgo a mention of gin. It’s no secret than gin has been the drink of the past few years. A carefully crafted mixture of juniper and botanicals, gin is sure to stay as distilleries experiment ever more adventurously with less conventional fruits and flavour combinations.
Gin, however, might have to contend for pride of place on the drinks shelf, with rum hailed to become the ‘new gin’. Rum is a liquor made from fermented and distilled sugarcane molasses, and we are seeing an increasingly diverse spectrum of this Caribbean classic, from light-bodied white rums to darker drinks that take on the colour of the oak barrels in which they were aged. Some of our best-loved cocktails are rum-based – the daiquiri and the mojito spring to mind – but other timeless favourites are being reinvented with rum. Try, for instance, a rum negroni for something slightly more gentle than the traditional gin-based beverage. Simply mix 50ml of golden rum with the same measures of a bitter aperitif like Campari and some sweet red vermouth, along with 25ml of water. Majestic and gorgeously mellow.
The trend for all things alcohol-free is also on the radar of all cocktail connoisseurs. Midlands-based drinks experts the Cocktail Shaker Boys highlight the term ‘non-alcoholic cocktails’ over ‘mocktails’. “There is a new movement towards alcohol-free cocktails that are worlds away from the too-sweet mixtures of cheap fruit juices dominating most people’s mocktails experience,” says Steve Loxton from Cocktail Shaker Boys. And, with an increasingly sophisticated market of alcohol-free distilled spirits from established brands like Lyre’s and Seedlip, non-alcohol cocktails are fast becoming a drink of choice rather than a short-changed and overpriced alternative for those who prefer an alcohol-free beverage.
Cocktails are all about pizzazz; it’s that touch of theatrical flair and flourish that makes them so special. Bartenders are always looking out for ways to make their menus sing with show-business shimmer, but you don’t need their glow-in-the-dark ingredients or gold encrusted glasses to add dazzle to your drinks. Standout produce, for example, is a guaranteed to make the best mixes; seasonal summer fruits like raspberries, rhubarb and elderflower will add an enviable just-picked bloom to any beverage. Get creative with ice cubes by freezing berries or edible flowers (tiny pansies look pretty) in ice cube trays.
Cocktails are, of course, nothing without performance, so serve up your drinks best-dressed with easy garnishes like orange slices, cut-out apple pieces or delicate slivers of chilli – the perfect complement to those cocktails with a bit of background heat. And why keep it just to drinks? The garden-fresh flavours of cocktails work perfectly in your favourite sweet treats – try lime-zested mojito cakes or Piña colada puddings flavoured with pineapple, coconut and rum for a fabulous talking point at your next drinks party!
There are no rules when it comes to cocktails. Whether you take inspiration from top mixologists or your own taste buds, allow your imagination to flow free in cocktails that are subtle or spiced or sparkling with summer sweetness. Chin-chin!