Summer with a twist

By Don Kavanagh

They're here at last: bright, glorious hot days ... so start mixing cocktails. Don Kavanagh shows us how.

The clink of ice cubes in a cocktail glass is a great soundtrack to summer.
The clink of ice cubes in a cocktail glass is a great soundtrack to summer.

Warm days at the beach and barbecue nights are the order of the day, so I thought I'd suggest a few timely cocktails you can mix up at home.

The first thing to remember is that cocktails need balance. You can't throw four different spirits together, add some sweet juice and simply call it a cocktail. Balance is the key and it sometimes helps to go for restraint rather than exuberance when pouring the liquor.

Summer drinks need to taste summery, so go for fresh flavours, like passionfruit, melon and raspberry. With garnishes, don't be afraid to try something different, like basil instead of mint, and make sure you have heaps of ice to keep things cool.

These recipes can all be altered to your taste and if you fancy a rest from the booze, you can replace the spirit with iced tea for a refreshing drink.

The French martini is one of my favourite summer drinks, because it combines the creaminess of vanilla with the sweet sharpness of pineapple juice.

As well, it is one of the world's simplest cocktails to make. Shake 45ml of vanilla vodka, 30ml of Chambord liqueur and 75ml of pineapple juice with ice and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel and you have a classy summer classic.

I'm not the world's biggest tequila drinker, but I do like it in the summer, so here's a way to get rid of that bottle that's been sitting in the cupboard. In a blender, puree 400g of watermelon until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and strain the watermelon juice, pressing gently on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. In a large pitcher, combine sugar syrup with lime juice, blueberries and mint leaves. Using a wooden spoon, lightly muddle the blueberries and mint. Add the watermelon juice and tequila. Refrigerate until chilled - about two hours.

Pour the cocktail into tall ice-filled glasses and garnish with mint or basil sprigs. It's a cracking drink and a great way to share with friends.

For a summery twist on the classic mojito, try it with strawberries and lemon, which gives a fantastic sweet-sour punch to the drink. In a cocktail shaker, muddle four lemon wedges with whole strawberries and mint leaves. Add ice and 45ml of white rum and some sugar syrup; shake well. Strain into crushed ice-filled highball glasses. Garnish with strawberry halves and mint sprigs.

- Herald on Sunday

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