Grabbin’ a cool one
EAGLE COUNTY – Memories of root beer floats, fresh-squeezed lemonade and grape Kool-Aid dance in our heat-soaked heads this time of year. When it comes to adult beverages, there are also a few favorite summer drinks with which to refresh on a hot summer day.”During the summer, I like different things at different times of day,” said Scott Kinsey, who was enjoying a beer at the Wolcott Yacht Club last week. “I like Mai Tais during the day, mojitos during the evening, and maybe just Corona with lime at night.”Lighter beers with citrus garnish are more popular than lagers and dark ales in the summer. When it comes to Mai Tais, recipes are a matter of some dispute. A Web search yielded some 100-plus varieties, most of which involved at least two kinds of rum, and many which incorporated ingredients such as vanilla and almond syrup, Amaretto and Grenadine.
“You have to make them with blackberry brandy,” said Mitch Fox, manager at the Wolcott Yacht Club. “That’s the final ingredient that makes the drink.”If there’s anything constant about Mai Tai recipes, it’s that all recipes call for very specific ingredients. The original Trader Vic recipe from 1944 calls for 2 ounces of 17-year old J. Wray and Nephew rum over shaved ice, juice from one fresh lime, 1/2-ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao, 1/4-ounce Trader Vic’s Rock Candy Syrup, 1/2 ounce French Garier Orgeat Syrup and a sprig of fresh mint. Mint is a reappearing ingredient in summer beverages. Mojitos are not offered by every bar in the valley, but those who have put it on their summer drink lists have found that it’s an immediate best-seller.”We have them on our drink list at the Ore House, so people order them all the time,” said Josh Bailey, bar tender at the Ore House in Vail Village and the Sandbar in West Vail.”We just use fresh lime, fresh mint, light rum, simple syrup and soda. You mull it, then put ice in it. I guess it’s just the mint and lime that make it really refreshing. There’s something about rum, too. I lived in Key West for a while and got really into rum runners. Most summery drinks have rum.”True enough. But there are some other favorites that are simple to make at home for barbecues and dinner parties.
“Margaritas are probably the most popular for people to make at home,” said Geoff Moser of Riverwalk Wine and Spirits. “Some people buy tequila and all the ingredients, but most people just buy a mix and use a blender.”Moser said his personal favorite drink, not necessarily specific to summer, is any variety of Pilsner. His colleague, Kyle Bolio, said gin and tonic is his summer drink of choice, but only when made with Hendrick’s Gin from Scotland.”I feel it’s more refreshing than other gins,” he said. “It’s got less juniper and more botanicals. With this, you can actually garnish it with a slice of cucumber instead of lime.”The Yacht Club added a new menu of frozen drinks this year, the most popular being the Tropicolada with banana and mango flavors and the traditional mudslide, made with ice cream. Martinis, in all of their fruity varieties, are popular summer drinks. Ray’s in Edwards typically outdoes its wine orders with martini sales in the summer.”It’s definitely a martini in the summer time,” said Ray’s bar tender Alex Ebert. “I’d say the most popular is the Lemon Drop (Citron, lemon juice, sugar) or the Cosmopolitan (Ketel One, cranberry, Cointreau). We’ve been getting a lot of orders for Long Island Ice Teas, too.”
Hot weather mixingSome local bars have gone into full-fledge experimentation for summer drinks, creating new and original masterpieces. Loaded Joe’s in Avon has several summer specials, including its popular mojito made with Bacardi and sour, and also a mint julep made with Maker’s Mark whiskey – a drink that Joe’s CO-owner John Tepley is surprised isn’t in very high demand in the High Country.”Mint juleps are huge in the south, especially where I’m from – Chattanooga, Tenn. I guess people just don’t think to order them here,” he said. “I like to experiment with summer drinks, too.”One of Tepley’s originals is his Mama’s Kool-Aid, made with five different flavors of Stoli – peach, strawberry, raspberry, cranberry and vanilla – mixed with cranberry juice and sweet and sour.”It’s potent,” he said. “But it tastes just like Kool-Aid.”Of Loaded Joe’s extensive martini list, the best summer sellers are the Affair to Remember, made with Stoli Strasberi, banana liqueur and pineapple, and the Razbertini, made with Stoli Razberi, Cassis, Cointreau and cranberry with a lime garnish. One of Tepley’s masterpieces that hasn’t quite taken hold is the Skip & Go Naked, a combination of Coor’s Light, gin and sour mix.
“Nobody has ever served this in the valley,” he said. “It’s a unique taste. I think it’s a good, refreshing drink. But a lot of people are like, ‘Oh. You’re mixing beer and gin together?’ It hasn’t been a big seller yet.”Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado