DIY Craft Cocktails: Hello, summer drinks

summer drinks

I maintain that making cocktails should be as spontaneous and improvisational as regular cooking. This is particularly true during the height of summer, when backyard gardens and farmers markets are producing an almost overwhelming amount of vegetables and fruit.


For example, there are few things as pleasant as drinking cold Vinho Verde in a friend's backyard, then plucking a couple fresh raspberries and dropping them into your glass. (Berries can also be frozen and later used as ice cubes in cocktails throughout the summer.) Additionally, just-picked tomatoes (roughly chopped and salted) form the base of a spectacular Bloody Mary, one that can be garnished with a sliver of fresh cucumber.


Summer drinks should be refreshing, easy, and made with ingredients you already have on hand. The following recipes are for drinks I've been enjoying this summer, and are basic guidelines/suggestions that can be adapted to whatever is available.


Please note that each of these recipes is for a single drink, but can be doubled, tripled, etc., depending on how many you're making. As always, drink responsibly.


Long Island Arnold Palmer

The Long Island Iced Tea is a cocktail with a terrible reputation: it's usually made with too many different kinds of liquor and then topped with a quick shot of cola from a bar's soda gun, in order to make all the booze resemble a tall glass of tea. It's designed for maximum intoxication instead of being slowly sipped and enjoyed. The version below is much gentler, and is made with fresh lemon juice and sweet syrup, as a kind of improvised lemonade. It can be made with black or green tea, either brewed (and chilled) or with bottled iced tea.



.5 oz shot vodka

.5 oz shot gin

.5 oz shot tequila

.5 oz shot dry vermouth

1 lemon, juiced

2 teaspoons simple syrup or agave syrup

8 oz iced tea

Lemon slice, for garnish


Add the lemon juice and the syrup to a pint glass. Mix until the syrup has dissolved. Add ice, liquor, and tea, then stir. Garnish with lemon slice.


Rum Watermelon Cooler

This cocktail is partly sweet, partly bitter, and can be made with seasonal fruits that are common to summer parties/barbecues. To juice the fruit, simply press it against the inside of a cocktail shaker – the idea is to release most of the juice while keeping large chunks of the fruit intact (they will be further broken up when the drink is shaken.)



1 oz shot of dark rum

.5 oz shot of Aperol, Campari, or other bitter liqueur

1 ripe nectarine or other stone fruit, stone removed, cut in half

1 medium wedge of watermelon

Soda water

Wedge of watermelon, for garnish


Juice the nectarine by pressing it against the inside of a cocktail shaker. Do the same with the wedge of watermelon. Add ice, rum, Aperol, and shake. Pour (don't strain) into an old fashioned glass, and top with soda water. Garnish with watermelon.


Gin and Fruit Punch

Gin might be the quintessential summer cocktail ingredient: it can be iced down and sipped on its own, or mixed into a wide variety of drinks, including the classic and much-beloved gin and tonic. The following cocktail combines gin with berries (any combination will work) and mint, then finished with either hard cider or sparkling apple juice.



1 oz shot of gin

handful of berries (raspberries, blackberries, and/or cherries, pits removed)

2 teaspoons of sugar

1 tablespoon chopped mint

3 oz hard cider or sparkling apple juice

1 cherry, for garnish

1-2 sprigs of mint, for garnish


Mash the berries, mint, and sugar in a mortar and pestle or in a highball glass, using a muddler. Add the berry mixture to a cocktail shaker, add gin and ice, and shake. Pour (don't strain) into the highball glass and top with cider/sparkling apple juice. Garnish with cherry by slicing it halfway (to the pit) and pressing it onto the side of the glass. Garnish with mint sprigs as well.



Peter Groynom is a graduate of Carleton College and the San Francisco School of Bartending. He is an avid home cook, a writer, and a Photoshop enthusiast. His photography can be found at Arts and Hovercrafts. He lives in Minneapolis.