3 refreshing summer cocktails

A frosty beer is always a crowd pleaser, but if you’re looking to impress your guests with a cocktail or two, Matthew Strickland, head distiller at D.C.’s District Distilling Company, has some ideas. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON — Tending to a sizzling pile of coals and flickering flames is hard — and hot — work, which is why no summer cookout is complete without something cool in the glass.

A frosty beer is always a crowd-pleaser, but if you’re looking to impress your guests with a cocktail or two, Matthew Strickland, head distiller at D.C.’s District Distilling Company, has some ideas.

First, Strickland said there’s no need to complicate things if you don’t have the time or the budget for a bunch of different bottles. A simple highball cocktail is a foolproof option.

For example, mix up 2 ounces of gin, a half-ounce of lime juice and top the drink off with tonic water for a refreshing gin and tonic. If your menu features barbecue, pair it alongside some aged spirits.

“You can do something as easy as whiskey and soda. It’s 2 ounces of whiskey, 4 ounces of soda, all over ice, stir it up and maybe add a cherry cocktail and you’re good to go,” he said.

For those who want to get fancier and flex their cocktail chops, Strickland shared three recipes, perfect for any summer gathering:

Watermelon, mint and gin: A wonderful combination

At District Distilling, Strickland and his team serve a drink that incorporates one of summer’s most popular fruits: watermelon. It’s mixed with Aperol, gin and just a few dashes of crème de menthe.

“Crème de menthe is an old, (mint-flavored) liqueur that you don’t see that often. And the problem with crème de menthe is, most of the ones you find on the market these days are bright neon-green and flavored with all kinds of crud that you don’t really want,” Strickland said.

That’s not the case at District Distilling, where Strickland makes his own (neon-free) bottles.

Cocktail ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces Aperol
  • 1.5 ounces gin
  • 1.5 ounces watermelon juice
  • ¼- to ½-ounce of crème de menthe

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake well. Then, pour the cocktail into a tall glass over ice and top it with a splash of soda water (if you want) for a touch of carbonation.

“The nice thing about this cocktail is that you can serve this up if you want, it works really well on its own, but I like to lengthen it over ice and top it off with a little bit of soda,” Strickland said.

“And honestly, mint and watermelon go really well together.”

Rum, pineapple and IPA? It works

The ingredient list for this drink sounds strange, but this tropical-inspired cocktail mixed with craft beer works.

Cocktail ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces golden rum
  • ¾ ounce pineapple juice
  • ½- to ¾- ounce of fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce of green Chartreuse
  • ¼ crème de cacao
  • An IPA of your choice

Combine the rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, green Chartreuse, and crème de cacao in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake well. Pour the drink, along with the ice, into a tall glass and top it off with your favorite IPA.

“(Adding the IPA) is sort of like adding soda water — it lengthens the drink a little bit — but you’re also adding some bitterness as well, which is nice because you do end up having a fair amount of sugar in there,” Strickland said.

A sparkling daiquiri

When Strickland (and most craft cocktail professionals) says “daiquiri,” he is not talking about a frozen, umbrella-topped pink drink. A daiquiri is simply a cocktail comprised of rum, simple syrup and lime juice.

For special events, he likes to top the coupe off with some sparkling wine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce white rum
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • Sparkling wine, such as prosecco

Combine the rum, lime juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake well. Strain the drink into a chilled coupe glass, and top it off with some sparkling wine.

Can’t you just picture the garden party now?


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