From breakfast to after-dinner drinks these are the cocktails that will keep you going all day.
Wanna know what I love the most about summer – besides everything?
Cottage getaways. They are totally my jam. I have friends who report not enjoying the cottage, but I’ve long thought there’s something wrong with them.
But, it takes a bit of seasoning to cottage properly. The uninitiated can over-pack, bring the wrong items … assume they’ll be showering every day.
The key to cottaging like a pro is to pack as lightly as you can – including your bar selection.
As fully stocked as we may be in the city (pick your poison… gin, vodka, whisky, it’s all here along with all the garnishes and flavours to whip up anything from a dry martini to a frozen margarita) it’s just not feasible to load all that in the car and trek it three hours north.
What I like to do is figure out the cocktails required for the week(s) in question. A few tips on this: lower alcohol works best for day drinking, batch cocktails are your friend, and simplicity is key. Who wants to be stuck behind the bar when the dock beckons? Not me.
With that in mind here’s my summer cocktail cottage menu that takes me from breakfast to after dinner digestifs.
Full disclosure: I completely stole this from the excellent cocktail book Batch Cocktails: Make Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion by Maggie Hoffman. But she writes that she got it from a bartender in San Francisco, so we’re all drinking buddies here.
Blending up a mix of Campari, cold coffee and grapefruit, this is not only a fantastic eye opener, but also a nice hair of the dog depending on what day of your cottage vacation you are on currently.
The night before, I brew the coffee and chill it overnight and stick the Campari in the fridge so they’re ready to go. (See? Being in the woods is bringing out the Girl Scout in me already.)
I also whip up simple syrup if I haven’t already, melting 2 cups of sugar into 1 cup of simmering water and letting it chill overnight.
The morning of, while various family members start breakfast, I pour the cold coffee, Campari, simple syrup and a pinch of salt into a large pitcher and put it back in the fridge while I set about juicing the grapefruits. (And I remember to juice extra for later in the day, because I am sooo on top of it).
Once the grapefruits are juiced and my biceps hardened, I add three cups of the juice to the pitcher as well.
When we’re called to the table, I fill glasses with ice and ¼ cup tonic, top with the Campari mix and garnish with a grapefruit twist.
This mixture gives five of us enough for two generous glasses and maybe a splash more.
I was introduced to this aristocratic British tipple by an English chef I worked with years ago. During the hot summer months, after a long day of service, we’d discuss business matters over a Pimm’s. Very posh of us, if I do say so myself.
Considered the official cocktail of Wimbledon, this drink can be served so loaded down with fresh-produce garnishes (strawberries, apples, lemon, orange, basil, mint, cucumber…) there’s hardly room for the drink itself. I keep things simpler because on steamy cottage days I’d rather be drinking than chopping.
Pimm’s if you haven’t heard of it, is a gin-based liqueur, the colour of burnt terracotta, and has a secret mix of herbs and spices that give it a bitter citrus and herbal note. Coming in at 25% alcohol, but cut by juices or sodas, this is perfect for thirst-quenching day drinking: keeping you hydrated with an element of festivity, but low enough in booze that you make it to dinner.
Pimm’s is traditionally mixed with zesty ginger beer, but you can also use ginger ale or sparkling lemonade, so like the garnish, there’s some flexibility to the recipe. Here’s mine.
Is there anything more civilized that cocktail hour?
For a proper aperitif, you need something a bit tart and tangy; something to get your mouth watering in anticipation of the grand meal to come.
Served alongside some casually elegant nibbles of spiced nuts, salty olives, and crunchy kettle chips, this pre-dinner ritual makes me feel like I’m some fabulously bohemian Contessa lounging in my Amalfi summer home. What? Like you weren’t thinking it.
I know what you’re thinking, “Erin, what the heck happened to dinner?!?!”
Well, truth be told I don’t drink a cocktail with dinner. I drink wine. There are barkeeps and spirit enthusiasts who insist cocktails can be paired to meals, but not in my world.
Back to the task at hand.
Earlier this year I had a fantastic cocktail at Mercatto Locale in Toronto called the Niccola. A frothy blend of espresso, cream, vodka and Frangelico, I was reluctant to try it, because, well, I’m not typically a super sweet cocktail kind of drinker.
However, the bartender who invented it convinced me, and I am glad she did, because it was bloody excellent! Yes, it skewed slightly sweeter, but not over the top, as the bitter espresso and neutralizing vodka balanced the sweetness out.
My sister picked up a bottle of Wayne Gretzky Canadian Cream Whisky (similar to Baileys), and I thought I would recreate my own version of Niccola. I dare say, sitting by the fire, listening to the loons call and the wind rustle through the trees, this is just about as Canadian as it gets.
(While ice is typically not used in cocktail glasses, Mercatto did it, and it looked really cool. If you don’t have either the coup or the round ice, a rocks glass filled with ice is fine – it is the cottage, after all!)