Fun and easy summer cocktails

Good company, dinner sizzling on the grill, a warm summer night and a cold drink in your hand… What better way to pass the evening? Whether it’s an informal gathering or a cocktail party, a fancy drink adds instant class.

True — some cocktails are classics, but what makes summer special is the flavours of fresh produce and juices at their peak, not to mention the sunny colours and playful garnishes. Raid your garden, or plan a trip to a local farmers’ market or farm.

While it may be a stretch to say summer cocktails are good for you, many of the ingredients also pack a healthy punch. (In moderation, of course.) Here are some ingredients to add to your list.

Essential summer fare

Berries and berry juices. Slice them, freeze them whole or in ice cubes, puree them, blend them — there are many possibilities for these anti-oxidant packed fruits.

Red fruits. Who says berries get to have all the fun? Cherries, grapes, pomegranates and plums also have anti-oxidants, rich colours and juicy textures.

Citrus fruits and juices. True, we don’t grow citrus here — but these fruits are packed with vitamin C and are popular as ingredients and garnishes alike. (What would a bar be without lemons and limes?)

Tropical and exotic fruits. Nothing says “tropical escape” like the flavours of pineapple and coconut. For a little something different, branch out into more exotic fare like star fruit, which makes a fuss-free garnish thanks to its shape.

Orange fruits and vegetables (and their juices). Don’t be surprised to find carrots or squash in some drink recipes, but veggies aren’t the only way to get some beta carotene. Turn to peaches, apricots, nectarines, mangoes and melon too.

Red or white wine . Does your summer getaway include a wine tour? The health benefits of red wine and white wine are well known, and they make a nice base for a cocktail.

Herbs . Is mint taking over your garden? You’ll need an excuse to use it up. (Dare we suggest mint juleps?) Other herbs like lavender, basil, rosemary, cilantro and thyme make for some unique and attractive cocktails too.

Cucumbers. Is it a fruit or a vegetable? It doesn’t matter — it’s showing up in teas, lemonades, flavoured water and even cocktails. (Like this Cucumber Sake-Tini recipe from

Honey . Per calorie, this sweetener is stronger and more flavourful than sugar, and makes an easy simple syrup. (It also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut.) For a change, skip the grocery store and look for locally-made honey or more potent varieties, like Manuka.

Ginger . Another source of antioxidants, it’s also a natural complement to the other flavours you’re using. Make a simple ginger syrup for cocktails, iced tea, lemonade or to drizzle over desserts.

– Beer. Always great on its own, beer cocktails have been getting more attention in the past couple of years. (And they appeal to the gentlemen in the crowd.)

Summer sippers

Need a few ideas? Here are a couple of recipes to get you started:

Agua de Sandia (Watermelon)

This recipe blends a favourite summer fruit with some honey for golden sweetness. Add a splash of alcohol, or serve as-is for a “mocktail”.

Makes 2 quarts

1 medium watermelon, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 to 1-1/2 cups honey
2 quarts water
2 limes, thinly sliced, optional

Place chopped watermelon in blender. Add 1cup water and 1 cup 100% pure honey. Puree fruit until smooth — this will require several batches. Pour puree into a pitcher and add remaining water. Stir until combined. Taste for sweetness. If necessary, add additional 1/2 cup of honey.

Serving Suggestion: Best if served chilled over ice. You may also add thinly sliced limes to add taste and color.

Recipe courtesy of the National Honey Board.

Not a watermelon fan? Try the Agua de Piña or Agua de Melon instead.

Vineyard Pitcher Punch

Don’t want to be mixing drinks all night? You can prepare this mix ahead of time and add the ginger ale just before you serve.

Makes 10 servings

750 millilitres red wine
2 cups apple juice
1/2 cup honey
1 cup strawberries, whole
11 oz. ginger ale or lemon-lime soda
Ice cubes

Mix wine, apple juice and honey in large pitcher. Add lime slices and strawberries. Chill one hour or longer. Just before serving, add ginger ale and pour over ice cubes in tall glasses. Garnish each glass with some of the fruit.

Recipe courtesy of the National Honey Board.

White Sangria Cocktail

There are many variations of white wine sangrias, but this one keeps things cool using frozen fruit.

1 peach, cut up, frozen
1 plum, cut up, frozen
3 strawberries, cut up, frozen
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 cup dry white wine
1 ounce brandy or cognac
1 cup small ice cubes

Combine the ingredients in a blender, process until smooth, and serve.


Lemon Blueberry Zinger

Need something icy for a steamy summer night? Try this refreshing recipe submitted by reader Cookie:

1/2 cup juice from fresh lemons
1/2 tsp lemon peel, grated
1 cup frozen blueberries, or fresh, if available.
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup frozen lemon sorbet
2 cups ice, crushed

Combine all ingredients, (except crushed ice) in blender and puree for about 30 seconds.

Add ice to blender and puree until mixture is smooth. Serve immediately.

Alternatively, try fresh raspberries and raspberry sorbet instead.

Bloody Bull Cocktail Recipe

Looking for spicy instead of sweet? If you don’t mind a few extra steps, this fiery cocktail is sure to give your taste buds a work out.

Makes 2 servings

6 ounces tomato juice
4 ounces beef bouillon
2 1/2 ounces vodka
1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper, to garnish
Celery sticks or pickled okra, to garnish

In a small pitcher or bowl combine tomato juice, bouillon, vodka, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, Creole seasoning, celery salt, lime juice and lemon juice and stir to blend well. Divide the mixture between highball glasses containing ice, and garnish with black pepper and celery or okra.


If you’re looking to meet your veggie quota for the day, try a more traditional cocktail like the Spa Blood Mary for Two from

Of course, these are just a few of the thousands of recipes to choose from. If you’re looking for more ideas, check out:
– Your local liquor store. (In addition to magazines, you can find recipes through liquor board websites.)
– Online recipe websites like, and’s Cocktails have an endless selection of choices. (Don’t worry, you can search by ingredient, most popular recipes and other criteria.)
– iTunes Store. Yes, there’s an app for cocktail recipes too — if you have an iPod touch, iPhone or iPad handy.

Have an idea or recipe? Share it in the comments!

Photo © Andrea Skjold

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