A bluffer’s guide to summer drinks

Is there anything better than a summer patio party? You need not be a mixologist or have a fully kitted out bar to serve up something fabulous for your guests. Pillage your local farmer’s market, your patio herb garden and fridge for some killer cocktail ingredients.

· Pretty up your bubbly. There is something undeniably convivial and festive about popping open a bottle of bubbly. Prosecco is my go-to to stockpile year round and serve. For summer, doll it up with berries, citrus zest, or a splash of a good quality fruit juice (pear and peach are nice). I’m obsessed with bitters lately, so try topping up a glass of bubbly with bit of Campari and squeeze of lemon juice for a gorgeous cocktail.

· Upgrade from ice cubes to frozen fruit. They won’t dilute a drink the way ice does, plus the effect looks summery, adding some colour and flavour as they melt. Grab a few extra ice cubes trays and freeze the fruit of your choice in them.

· Perfect one standout cocktail. Find a signature drink that you love to serve and do it really, really well. This summer, I have vowed to master the Negroni, one of my favourite classic cocktails. Recipes vary, but this one is arguably a purist’s pick.

· Whip up fancy syrups. Bring two parts sugar to one part water to boil in a pot. Once simmering, toss in a handful of herbs from your garden and leave it for a few minutes. Cool and strain, and mix away. Gin is fantastic with savouries like thyme and rosemary.

· Master a sangria. Experiment with a few recipes to get one that you love (weekend drinking assignment!). Sangrias are the stews of cocktails, in the sense that you can add almost anything you’ve got on hand. They are also great for putting otherwise mediocre wines to work. Stick with dry wines as sangria is sweetened by the other ingredients. Try white sangria with Pinot Grigio or cava, a liquer (cointreau, brandy) and any white flesh fruit like peaches or pears. Add your juice of choice to taste. Or, grab a bottle of Rioja, brandy, and pomegranate juice and whatever berries you can find for a classic red sangria.

· Muddle the waters. White spirits like rum and vodka are easily paired with soda and can be muddled with whatever herbs and fruit you have handy. Rum, lime and mint make for a classic mojito, or try blueberries with thyme, or basil with berries. Vodka, watermelon and mint are summer in a glass, too.

· Always stock tons of non-alcoholic options and feed your guests liberally. Be mindful of how much you drink, so you can better look after your guests.

Cocktail Photo courtesy of the LCBO 

~ Karen Cleveland

Questions, comments and conundrums are most welcome at twitter.com/schoolfinishing or formspring.me/KarenCleveland

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