What can I say? I like the sauce.

I know what you’re thinking, “But… wait… Robby’s a beer guy… right?”

Yes, I’m a beer guy. I make it, drink it, sell it, and market it. I also happen to enjoy making cocktails. I’ve made some fantastic cocktails in my time. I’ve also made some terrible ones. I’m one of those process guys who enjoys the journey as much as the destination. I’m also a flavor guy. I love trying new things and experimenting with different ingredients. In short, when I’m making cocktails, I get to be the mad scientist, and I love that!

Now, before we get started, we need to talk about cocktail seasons. Yep, it’s a thing. In my humble opinion, I assert that there are summer cocktails and winter cocktails. I don’t feel the need to get any more specific than that. Summer drinks often have a lot of clear spirits and fruits like strawberries, cherries, and raspberries. Winter drinks are full of brown spirits and stewed fruit notes. I’m speaking in generalities here, but you get the idea.

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Today we’re gonna look at some of my favorite summer cocktails. They are simple to make and won’t require much of a cash investment. Most of these recipes feature simple ingredients. You may have to buy a few things (like bitters), but they will last a long time and can be used in many different recipes.

Okay, let’s start with one of my favorites:

Aperol Spritz

Aperol Spritz cocktail

Not only is the Aperol spritz one of my favorite summer cocktails, it’s also the easiest to make. It’s two ingredients and a lifetime of flavor.

The Aperol spritz is very big in Europe. It’s bitter, slightly sweet, and it reminds me of Paris (my favorite city in the world (so far), and I am totally fine with being a cliché). Every café you sit down at has the Aperol spritz on the menu, and I order it pretty regularly. It’s become my go-to drink when I don’t know what I want. It never lets me down. In fact, I ordered one at a dinner during the 2019 IPCPR show in Las Vegas (where the elite meet to eat 😉). It was a dinner put on by a cigar company and, for whatever reason, I ended up on the opposite side of the room from the rest of the media contingent. I never asked why I was not allowed to be part of their group. I didn’t want to pull at that thread. Anyway, we’re having dinner and someone comes by and asks if I would like another drink. Duh. So, I order an Aperol spritz. A few minutes later and I was enjoying an amazing cocktail with some great conversation. Later, it was brought to my attention that all of the media “cool guys” were making fun of me and my “girly” drink. But guess what has two thumbs and didn’t notice and/or care about their comments. You know the answer.

Okay, enough. How do you make the darn thing? Here it is. Are you ready?

  • 2 oz Aperol
  • 4 oz sparkling wine
  • OPTIONAL – some recipes call for 1 oz sparkling mineral water

That’s it.

Put some ice in a glass, add the two ingredients, and stir.

Aperol is a classic Italian bitter aperitif made by the fine folks who also make Campari. Aperol is bitter, but it is nowhere near as bitter as Campari. Aperol also has some sweetness to it with notes of rhubarb and citrus.

Tom Collins/Gin Rickey

I didn’t always like gin. I do now and that is thanks to Mr. Tom Collins. There are a lot of different styles of gin, but we’re not gonna get into that here. For now, we’re just going to look at these two recipes, which are very similar. In fact, they are exactly the same, outside of the fruit. Tom Collins features lemon and the Gin Rickey features lime. They are classic, refreshing, and super simple to make.

There is a sweet spot for cocktail recipes and these two have it. It’s the ration of spirit to fruit to sweetness—two to one to one half. Learn it. It means you’re using two ounces of the spirit, one ounce of the fruit juice, and half an ounce of simple syrup.

Tom Collins

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz simple syrup

Gin Rickey

  • 2 oz gin
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz simple syrup

I make this one a little different than most. I don’t shake it. We’re not gonna get into the pros and cons of shaking your drink here. Some drinks, you absolutely HAVE to shake. Any kind of sour that has egg white MUST be shaken or it will be very gross… This has to do with emulsification and aeration. Small bubbles get in there and give the drink its smooth texture. In this case, I stir. Stirring lets each component of the drink maintain its individuality, so to speak. I like to taste the gin and the lemon/lime separately. I’m weird, but that’s what’s great about cocktails. You can, as they say, have it your way. Try these shaken and stirred and see which you prefer.

Shipwreck

Shipwreck cocktail

Bourbon? I thought you said brown spirits were only for winter cocktails. Well, I didn’t say that exactly. Most summer cocktails are bright and fruity. The shipwreck is on the darker side, so let’s call it a summer evening cocktail. I included it on this list because it’s delicious and it pairs really well with cigars.

It turns out there are several different cocktails with the shipwreck moniker, but this is the only one you want to drink. It features bourbon, dark aged rum, lime juice, simple syrup, mint leaf, and Angostura bitters. Actually, the components are very similar to the Old Cuban (more on that in a bit), but the flavor is very different.

How do I make it?

  • 1 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz aged rum
  • ¾ oz fresh lime
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • 5 mint leaves
  • 3–4 dashes of Angostura bitters (floater)

In a shaker, combine the bourbon, rum, lime juice, simple syrup, mint, and ice. This time, we’re not going to muddle the mint leaves. We’re simply going to shake everything together and let the ice do the work. The idea here is keep the mint influence to a minimum. If we were to muddle the mint, then that flavor would become much stronger. In this case, we’re just imparting the essence of mint. Next, you’ll want to strain the concoction into a rocks glass over ice (I prefer the drink over ice, some do not). Here’s where the bitters come in. We’re going to leave a floater of three to four dashes of Angostura bitters. To make a floater, you just add the dashes to the top of the drink. That’s it. No stirring. You want the bitters to float on the top so that, in most cases, it is the first flavor to hit your lips. Let me know what you think when you try this one (as well as what are you gonna pair it with!).

Summer Shandy

This one is gonna be quick.

The summer shandy is a crowd pleaser. It’s a punch that is SUPER easy to make and, if you’re not careful, will get you more than slightly turnt.

What’s the recipe?

  • 1 container frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 3–4 cans of light beer

This can be done with any kind of lemonade concentrate. It can be raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, etc.

All you have to do is combine all the components into a big pitcher and stir. I like to add some lemon slices and fresh fruit (try to find fruit that matches the concentrate). In this example, I used raspberries. Just stir and pour over ice. Trust me, this once can get out of hand. It tastes like you’re drinking sparkling lemonade, but remember, there is a CUP of vodka in there… along with about 40 oz of beer. This is perfect for a proper Dojo party.

Old Cuban

Old Cuban cocktail

The Old Cuban is a brilliant symphony of flavor that I find myself dreaming about. Yeah, I really just said that. While it’s one of the more time-intensive drinks on the list, it is well worth it.

Despite the name, the Old Cuban has only been around since 2001 (depending on who you ask). It is very similar to a mojito, but I think it has a lot more flavor.

Here’s what you’re gonna need: aged dark rum, Angostura bitters, fresh limes, simple syrup, fresh mint leaves, and sparkling wine.

Aged Rum is a really fun rabbit hole to fall into. It started for me a few years ago with Zaya 12-year-old. Their recipe has since changed and I suggest you ONLY use that stuff for mixed drinks. Then I moved on to Flor de Cana, Ron Zacapa and Diplomatico. There are many more, but these are the mainstays in my bar. They pair brilliantly with most cigars, so grab a bottle and see what you think. Flor de Cana 12 and Diplomatico are my personal favorites (message me directly if you have questions. I’ll be happy to help).

Note: you need simple syrup to make this (and many other) cocktails. The good news is, it’s easy to make. It requires a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. Put it in a small pot (you’ll want to stir it to make sure the sugar is dissolved) and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and let it simmer for five minutes. That’s it. Let it cool down and you’re good to go.

OK, how do I make it?

  • 1½ oz aged rum
  • ½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice (fresh juice makes a HUGE difference)
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 oz Champagne
  • 10–12 mint leaves

In a cocktail shaker, combine the rum, lime juice, bitters, and simple syrup. Add in the mint leaves and gently muddle them (you can use a muddler or the back of a spoon). The idea is to gently smash the leaves to release their oils. Then just add in some ice and shake for 15 to 20 seconds. Strain the contents of the shaker into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top it with the two ounces of sparkling wine, give it a little stir, and you’re ready to enjoy one of my personal favorites.

Note on sparkling wine: get something cheap. I usually go with a bottle of Barefoot Bubbly somewhere in the $7 to $10 range. This will make several cocktails. Also, invest a few bucks in a champagne stopper to keep the bottle bubbly for a few days.

Okay, that’s it. You’re officially ready to mix up some fantastic drinks for the summer. Leave a comment with your favorite summer cocktails or let me know what you think of the recipes you have tried.

We practice moderation in the Dojo and suggest you do as well.

—Cheers!

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