A Moscow mule. Photo: NYT
A Moscow mule. Photo: NYT

Around the world in 10 summer cocktails

  • From a classic mojito to an Assam tea and turmeric-infused G&T, here is mixologist Darren Crawford’s guide to the 10 best summer cocktails
  • Lemon, mint and effervescence form the basis of most summer drinks

The triad of ice, lemon and soda forms the basic template of a summer cocktail for mixologist Darren Crawford. A San Francisco native, Crawford is currently the beverage director at Mumbai-based Americano, which opened last month, and a bartender who believes that the best summer cocktails are often the simplest ones, with just two-three ingredients and lots of bubbles. Shaken, stirred or simply poured on the rocks, the perfect cocktail for summer is all about refreshment and a balance of ingredients. Crawford plays with time-tested tropical fruit concoctions, craft gins, prohibition-era classics, global cocktail trends and local flavours from around the world to create tipples that represent summer in a glass. Here is his guide to the 10 best summer cocktails.

Gateway Tonic (India)

This is my version of a G&T and a hat-tip to the Indian summer. The standard G&T is rendered into a more layered cocktail with local flavours. I combined Assam-tea-infused gin with a home-made ginger-turmeric liqueur, tonic water and lime juice. The drink is finished with slices of cucumber and a basil flower garnish.

Paloma (Mexico)

Rather poetically named Paloma, or the dove, this Mexican summer staple is a two-ingredient no-brainer. This combination of tequila and off-the-shelf grapefruit soda is served with a wedge of lime. Take this everyday drink a notch higher by making your own grapefruit soda by blending the fresh fruit with soda, fresh lime and a sweetener. For a smoky version of the original, replace tequila with mescal.

Moscow Mule (US)

Dating back to 1940s’ Los Angeles, this drink came about when a bartender tried to get rid of excess quantities of ginger beer and vodka. The effervescence combined with ginger overtones and lemon to balance out the sweetness and a neutral spirit like vodka worked really well. One of its defining characteristics was its presentation in a copper mug. Although the Moscow Mule continues to be a summer favourite, it is possible to add mint to the recipe and take it in a different direction. Swapping the vodka for a gin with botanical notes can also add new layers to the cocktail.

Lion’s Share (China, Ireland, Scotland)

While this version of the drink is my ode to China, it is actually a blend of global flavours. I mix Irish and Scotch whisky with a vodka-based Lapsang Souchong tea tincture. To this I add ginger and fresh green apple juice. The idea is to reinforce the smoke and flavours of the tea. The cocktail is garnished with a slice of green apple and finished with freshly-grated nutmeg.

Southside (US)

This is a cocktail that belongs to the Chicago of Al Capone and the prohibition era, when vats of gin, of varying quality, were bootlegged across the city. While this simple cocktail is basically a gin sour, the mint adds an element of freshness and makes it a perfect summer luncheon staple. Elevate the cocktail by using craft gins with a more floral and aromatic note and replace the mint with sprigs of fresh basil.

Pimm’s Cup (England)

This 19th century gin-based tonic was invented by a Mr Pimm, a farmer’s son from Kent. Different recipes of this tonic were identified by the different numbers on the bottles and each Pimm’s variant was nearly a cocktail in its own right. The original concoction added lemonade, herbs and fruits to the mix. One of two classic Wimbledon cocktails, the ingredients that go into a Pimm’s Cup are as much about flavour as they are about looking good. So there is a profusion of summer berries and more. Add sparkling water or ginger beer for a refreshing take on the original or transform it into a boozy Pimm’s Royal Cup by adding champagne instead of soda.

Singapore Sling (Singapore)

In the world of classic cocktails, this one is possibly the hardest to replicate on busy bar nights as the original includes over six ingredients. Invented in Singapore’s Raffles hotel as the perfect solution for a tropical summer, the drink typically combines a base of gin with splashes of cherry brandy, Bénédictine, bitters, pineapple juice, lemon and sparkling water. This is a chic version of the tropical punch bowl with a really nice balance and there are very few bars that make it from scratch, most preferring to use a premix instead.

Whisky Matcha Highball (Japan)

While whiskies are a choice tipple in Japan, the favourite way of drinking it is as a highball topped with plenty of soda and ice. Whisky highballs are often seen as an alternative to beers in the hot summer months. This particular cocktail uses Bourbon as a base and the matcha tea adds umami flavours and a local context while the honey syrup and lemon juice balance the whole drink.

Mojito (Cuba)

It gets pretty hot in Cuba so it’s only natural that one of its most popular drinks draws on some of the country’s most widely available ingredients—rum, sugar cane, lime and mint. Originally devised as a local remedy for seafarers with tropical illnesses, the drink has become one of the world’s most famous highballs. It’s deceptively simple, but the key to a good mojito lies entirely in the execution of the drink rather than the quality of rum used. The idea is to muddle the mint enough to release its sweeter oils rather than pound it into a bitter paste. Since lime and mint are the base flavours, the cocktail is versatile enough to be adapted with the addition of a range of fruits. Try a more sophisticated version by using Rhum Agricole, a cane-juice rum from the French Caribbean.

White Wine Spritzer (Hungary)

A popular Hungarian drink dating back to the 19th century, fröccs, or the wine spritzer, was crafted to make still wine more pleasant. The effervescence and ice make it more suited to hot weather. You can build on the drink by adding fresh fruit or liqueurs like Aperol or Crème de Cassis. You can also replace the soda with Prosecco.

Illustrations by Satya Prakash