Enjoy 8 Classic Summer Drinks, With a Twist

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Like moving turtleneck sweaters to the back of the closet, it’s time to retire well-aged whiskeys and bring on the clear spirits, fruit juices and crushed ice. The warmer seasons demand refreshing drinks, alcoholic or not, served in tall, frosted glasses.

The classic repertoire has much to offer in this category; it’s hard to go wrong with a gin and tonic or a caipirinha. But many of these summer staples could stand a creative update or a touch of surprise without compromising their honest appeal. Detailed below are a gin and tonic with a Spanish twist, sangria made with rosé wine and a Bellini buzzed with one of the new pink Proseccos that did not exist when Giuseppe Cipriani created the now-classic in Venice. There is also a slushy Southside, with rum replacing the usual gin, a Paloma bolstered with grapefruit liqueur and spiked with chile, and a spritzer bejeweled with cherries, which always ramp up the refreshment level of a glass of wine, especially red.

For drinks of the nonalcoholic sort, Agua Fresca is the Mexican and Central American quencher made by simply adding some fruit purée or juice to cold water with a squirt of lime and, depending on the ripeness of your fruit, a touch of sweetener. Almost anything goes for this drink, even non-sweet additions like cucumbers. The Fourth of July American version would be lemonade, an almost blank canvas that can be splashed with summery flavors like strawberry, peach or mango.

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Beyond these suggestions, you can add liqueurs like triple sec and elderflower or white rum to make a happy-hour iced tea, or drop a jigger of Sambuca into iced coffee to serve with or instead of dessert. Gin in the lemonade is a quick nod to Tom Collins, a summer standby, and crushed fresh berries enliven chilled sparkling cider, alcoholic or not.

Having fresh fruit, like watermelon and strawberries, on hand will give you access to festive, colorful summer drinks on a moment’s notice. Process some of it, diced, in a blender, stir into a glass of ice with (or without) the spirit of your choice and top it off with soda water. You might consider expanding your wardrobe of fruit liqueurs and spirits beyond the usual orange to include grapefruit, lemon, raspberry and apricot. In small amounts they can brighten up many summer drinks. And for sweetening drinks, especially chilled ones, it’s a good idea to have simple syrup on hand, made by simmering equal parts granulated sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Refrigerated, the syrup will keep for a month.

To serve, warm-weather drinks demand generous glasses; tall ones are best, chilled before filling. Plastic is often the choice for outdoors, and manufacturers have improved the quality of these, though glass has more class. And then there’s the question of straws. Avoid plastic; look for paper in the disposable department, or some of the new, reusable stainless-steel ones. There are also silver straws, long, and often with a spoon at the end for a posh yet convenient touch.

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For drinks to serve more than two (or to have refills ready and to transport outdoors), you’ll want a pitcher; some have lids or come fitted with an enclosed receptacle for ice. A long mixing spoon is a useful accessory, and a good citrus juicer is also a worthwhile investment. Frozen drinks also call for a blender to reduce the ice to slush or fruit into purée; there are compact cordless ones on the market that can even go to the beach or on a picnic. And be sure your ice maker or ice cube trays are ready for overtime.

Adapted from Rosie Schaap

Time: 15 minutes plus chilling

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Yield: 6 servings

1 ½ cups mixed red and pink fruit, such as raspberries, halved strawberries and grapes, pitted cherries, cubed apple with red or pink skin, peeled pink grapefruit or blood orange segments

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

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¼ cup triple sec or other orange liqueur

1 bottle (750 ml) chilled rosé wine

½ cup chilled pomegranate juice

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1. Place the fruit, sugar and triple sec in a pitcher and stir to combine. Refrigerate until the fruit softens a bit (at least 4 hours and up to 8).

2. Add wine and pomegranate juice, stir. Serve over ice in wine glasses, and include some of the fruit in each serving.

Adapted from Socarrat Restaurant, in New York City

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Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1 drink

2 ½ ounces gin

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8 juniper berries, lightly crushed

2 dashes Angostura bitters

2 to 3 strips lemon peel (about ½ lemon)

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4 ounces good-quality tonic water, chilled

1. Half-fill a large stemmed wine glass with ice. Add gin, juniper berries and bitters; stir.

2. Twist lemon peels over the glass to release the oils and drop them in. Add tonic water, stir and serve.

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Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6 drinks

1 cup chilled peach purée, preferably white (about 2 ripe peaches or purchased purée)

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1 bottle (750 ml) rosé prosecco, preferably brut

12 fresh raspberries

1. Place 2 tablespoons peach purée in each of 6 champagne flutes. Slowly add 4 to 5 ounces prosecco, stopping as it bubbles up and continuing once it settles.

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2. Drop 2 raspberries into each glass and serve.

Adapted from “The Ladies’ Village Improvement Society Cookbook”

Time: 10 Minutes

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Yield: 2 drinks

2 ounces simple syrup

4 ounces white rum

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2 ounces lemon juice

1 ounce lime juice

1 cup crushed ice or small ice cubes

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Mint sprigs for garnish

1. Combine the simple syrup, rum and citrus juices in a cocktail shaker with ice; shake.

2. Strain into a blender with crushed ice. Blend until slushy, then pour into chilled goblets or glasses. Garnish with mint and serve.

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Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 2 drinks

4 ounces blanco tequila or mezcal

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3 ounces lime juice

3 ounces grapefruit juice

1 ounce grapefruit liqueur

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4 ounces club soda or seltzer

Pinch chile powder or cayenne

Grapefruit wedges for garnish

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1. Combine the tequila, citrus juices and grapefruit liqueur with ice in a cocktail shaker; shake well. Strain into tall glasses with ice and add soda.

2. Dust chile powder on top. Garnish with grapefruit and serve.

Time: 20 minutes plus chilling (optional)

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Yield: 4 drinks

2 cups cubed ripe watermelon or honeydew, chilled

2 cups ice cubes

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Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon simple syrup or agave syrup to taste (optional)

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

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Pinch ground white pepper

Basil sprigs for garnish

1. Purée the melon with ice in a blender. Stir in lime juice, syrup to taste, salt and pepper.

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2. Transfer to a pitcher, add 2 cups water, stir and chill or pour into ice-filled glasses. Garnish with basil and serve.

Time: 15 minutes plus chilling

Yield: 6 drinks

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4 cups brewed lemon verbena tea, chilled, or cold water

3 tablespoons simple syrup

Juice of 3 lemons (about ¾ cup)

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1 cup diced strawberries, puréed

Lemon wheels and strawberry halves for garnish

1. Place tea or water in a pitcher or other container. Stir in simple syrup, lemon juice and strawberry purée. Chill at least 1 hour.

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2. Stir well, pour into tall glasses filled with ice, garnish with lemon and strawberries and serve.

Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1 drink

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1 glass (4 to 6 ounces) fruity red wine (white or rosé can be substituted)

4 ounces sparkling water

Twist of lemon peel

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3 ripe Bing cherries, pitted and halved

Pour wine into a large stemmed wine glass or goblet. Add sparkling water. Drop in lemon twist and cherries and serve.

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