Mixing it Up

The Winners of our Reader-Submitted Summer Cocktail Contest

Posted on 06.30.17 – Feature, Food & Drink, Recipes

A summer drink has a certain quality all its own, far different from your stuffy old fashioned, Manhattan and other cocktails so urbane that you can practically see the crackling flames in the fireplace. No, the summer drink does the opposite of that; it makes you think of folding lounge chairs and chlorine pools, hot afternoons and cool sunsets.

Of course, there are some summer standards coming from the bar. The gin and tonic, the mojito, the sea breeze … and does anyone still drink piña coladas? But we wanted something new, something different, something fun. So we turned to our readers and asked you to submit your favorite summer cocktail recipes.

It was fun sorting through the submissions, but difficult to determine our four finalists—the ones we would actually make and taste. (Yes, we have heard about it being a tough job. Sarcasm we get.) A big thanks goes to the people at Hootch and Banter restaurant, especially manager Julie Nearman and bar chef Jeff Naylor, who let us invade their space for a day so we could watch Naylor do his magic behind the bar while we photographed and sampled the final products. (Again, we acknowledge there are worse jobs.)

We ultimately decided on one grand-prize winning cocktail and three runners-up. See and taste for yourself on the following pages.

Winner: Mysterious Ways by Chris Spear

  • 2.5 ounces of bourbon (such as Four Roses Yellow Label)
  • .75 ounce of Islay single-malt Scotch whisky (such as Laphroaig 10)
  • .5 ounce of green Chartreuse liqueur
  • 2.5 ounces of Bittermilk No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour Mix
  • Combine all ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a glass with ice of choice.

Judges’ Comments:

This is a grown-up drink that packs a punch, and when we first saw the ingredients—and then the finished product—we wondered if it was truly a “summer” cocktail. But Mysterious Ways ambitiously bridges the divide between sophistication and refreshment, with a surprisingly light flavor that complements the complex flavors beneath the surface.

Runner-Up: Rosemary’s Baby by Matt Makowski

  • 2. 5 ounces of Hendrick’s Gin
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 slices of cucumber
  • .75 ounce of agave nectar
  • 1 ounce of fresh-squeezed lemon juice

In a shaker, muddle the rosemary, cucumbers, lemon juice and agave nectar. Let the combination rest for 30 to 45 seconds after the muddling to let the oils come out. Next, add gin to the shaker, and fill the rest with ice and shake heartily. Double strain into a glass and garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a slice of cucumber.

Judges’ Comments:

If you are thinking this drink leans toward a gin and tonic, forget that now. The choice of Hendrick’s Gin here is perfect because its subtle juniper flavor doesn’t overpower the cocktail, allowing the rosemary, cucumber, lemon juice and agave nectar to shine through.

Runner-Up: The Rascal by Mike Eichelberger

  • .5 ounces of vodka
  • .5 ounces of dark rum
  • .5 ounces of tequila
  • .5 ounces of peach schnapps
  • .5 ounces of sour mix
  • Cranberry juice
  • 1 to 2 dashes of Angostura bitters (optional)

Mix all ingredients except cranberry juice in a pint glass. Shake. Pour into glass filled with ice. Top with cranberry juice.

Judges’ Comments:

Despite boasting four different liquors, this is no re-imagined Long Island Iced Tea. The Rascal manages to taste light and refreshing, the kind of sipping cocktail you would have at the ready during an afternoon at the pool or barbecue. But unlike many summer drinks, this one has actual balance and doesn’t overwhelm you with sweetness.

Runner-Up: Fredneck Punch by Stacy Custer

  • 1 ounce of vodka
  • 1 ounce of coconut rum
  • 1 ounce of peach schnapps
  • 1 ounce of raspberry schnapps
  • 1 ounce of pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce of cranberry juice

Serve over ice.

Judges’ Comments:

This recipe is within reach of even the wannabe barkeep, but don’t let its simplicity fool you: This is an excellent cocktail. While the coconut rum is definitely a prominent flavor, it mixes well with the two varieties of schnapps and the fruit juices, giving you the feel you are going to the islands in your own backyard.