The ultimate summer drink guide: New ways to get shaken and stirred

Wednesday, July 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Frisky cocktails are being served up all over the place as clever bartenders create drinks to inspire you to samba - even in the Texas heat.

"Cosmopolitans, mojitos and endless variations on martinis are popular all over the country, but the hottest trend right now is house drinks," says Steve Olson, co-founder of Libations, a New York based wine and spirits consulting firm.

"I'm seeing it more and more everywhere I go," says the master sommelier and spirits consultant whose seminars are always packed. "Restaurants [are] creating well-balanced drinks based on classic recipes. Chefs are starting to match cocktails with food, creating drinks around the food, even cooking with spirits."

At the revamped Russian Tea Room in New York City, where Mr. Olson created an array of vodka-based cocktails, it's all about infusions.

"Herbs, like mint and lavender, peppers and chiles, apples and pears, berries, honeycombs - we've used them all to infuse our vodkas," he says. Vodka, rum, grappa, wine - almost any alcoholic beverage can be infused with spices, herbs or fruit to turn an ordinary drink into a celebration.

And conjuring up cocktail concoctions isn't rocket science, so feel free to play around with whatever combinations strike your fancy. The hard part is coming up with the name for your brainchild, but that's what friends are for. Read on for the definitive guide to cool summer sipping. Cheers.

Confused about infusion?

Infused spirits are all the rage - and they're not that hard to make at home. Some tips:

Peel, seed and de-stem all fruits to ensure that the bitter tannic qualities of these parts of the fruit don't affect the taste of your infusion.

Use a large (3-liter or so) glass vessel, preferably with a cork top, to make your infusions.

Usually fruit infusions will take two to three days, herbal infusions three to four days and pepper infusions one to two days at the most.

Use quality spirits for infusions.

Keep tasting your infusions to know when you've got the flavor you are looking for.

After infusing, strain into smaller bottles and label them.
Two restaurant infusions

Arcodoro's Apricot-Infused Grappa

1.5 liters grappa
1/4 pound pitted dried apricots
2 cups sugar

Combine ingredients in a large glass canister.

Close and allow mixture to sit for 1 month in a cool, dark spot. Strain liquid into 2 empty wine bottles and recork.

You will notice some sediment settling out as your new flavored grappa rests. This is not a problem; either pour gently to keep the sediment from getting stirred up, or decant into a fresh bottle.

Store apricots in a closed container. Chop and sprinkle on ice cream or use in baking. Makes 2 (750-milliliter) bottles.

Star Canyon's Pina Diablo

1 whole pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scraped
2 serrano chiles
3 canela (Mexican cinnamon) sticks
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 quart mezcal
1/2 cup brown sugar

Layer the pineapple with the vanilla bean, serranos, canela sticks, orange zest and mint in a half-gallon, lidded jar.

Whisk the mezcal and brown sugar together in a double boiler and heat until sugar dissolves. Pour the mezcal and brown sugar mixture over the fruit and close tightly.

Refrigerate for 2 to 3 weeks, depending on desired flavor.

Strain and serve over ice. Makes 12 servings.

Per drink: Cal 254 (1% fat) Trace fat Fiber 1 g
No chol Sodium 5 mg Carbs 14 g Calcium 13 mg

Get real

What sets today's cocktails apart from a bad '70s nightmare is using real ingredients: real fruit, real juice and quality spirits.

"If you are making drinks with alcohol, buy the best liquor you can afford. No amount of lime juice, passion fruit syrup or sugar can hide the taste of cheap booze," says Bruce Weinstein in The Ultimate Party Drink Book (William Morrow, $15).

This goes for mixers too. In fruit drinks, use fresh fruit when available or better quality fresh or frozen fruit juices and mixers. Except in the case of frozen limeade, if the list of ingredients on a mixer starts with sugar, keep looking.

A case in point: After a disastrous round of margaritas soured one of his seminars, New York wine and spirits consultant Steve Olson makes sure to have Freshies Margarita Mix on hand. Produced in Colorado, the line of mixers includes Freshies Bloody Mary and a variety of margarita mixes. They are made with fresh vegetable and fruit juices and fresh herbs, and are only lightly sweetened with cane sugar or agave nectar.

- Louise Owens

Basic mixers

The mix you choose will affect how your drinks turn out.

CLUB SODA is carbonated water made with sodium bicarbonate, giving it a slightly salty taste, which may affect the flavor of the drink.

NONFLAVORED SELTZERS AND SPARKLING WATERS are carbonated waters made without the addition of other ingredients. Basically,they add only bubbles to a drink and don't affect the flavor.

MINERAL WATER contains a minimum of 250 parts per million of dissolved mineral solids. Check the label to see if the water has a low mineral content or high mineral content, which influences taste.

TONIC OR QUININE WATER is carbonated water that derives its flavor from the bitter bark of the cinchona tree.

SIMPLE SYRUP adds sweetness, is easily made and can be refrigerated for months. Mix 1 part water with 2 parts sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce to a syrup (about 5 minutes). Cool before using.

SWEET-AND-SOUR MIX is available in stores and can be made at home (recipe follows).

GINGER ALE makes an excellent mixer, adding a spicy and not-too-sweet touch to rum, bourbon and rye.
- L.O.

Sweet-and-Sour Mix

3 cups water
3 cups sugar
2 cups fresh lemon juice
2 cups fresh lime juice

Combine water and sugar in saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

Bring to a boil.

Cool syrup, then mix in lemon juice and lime juice. Chill until cold. The mix will keep 1 week if covered and refrigerated. Makes about 2 quarts.

In the house

Dallas restaurants are strutting their stuff at the bar. A few shared their house recipes with us. A few wouldn't divulge the exact recipes, only the ingredients. So getting the exact formula may require a bit of trial and error. Each recipe makes one serving.

CIUDAD COSMOMONICA: Combine ice, 2 1/2 ounces Absolut Mandarin vodka, 2 1/2 ounces Citronge orange liqueur and a splash of cranberry juice in cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

COOL RIVER ORANGE CRUSH: Combine ice, 1 1/2 ounces Absolut Mandarin vodka, 1/2 ounce Cointreau, a splash of orange juice and a splash of 7-Up in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

GREEN ROOM "DECK ME": Place ice cubes in a double old-fashioned glass. Add 2 ounces Sauza Hornitos tequila, 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier, 1/2 ounce Cointreau, 1 1/2 ounces sweet and sour mix, 1 1/2 ounces orange juice and a splash of Rose's lime juice; stir vigorously.

FISHBOWL CANTON COOLER: Made with Finlandia cranberry vodka, Cointreau and house-made grenadine.

IL SOLE SOUTHSIDE: Made with Monopolowa vodka, fresh limeade and mint.

CUBA LIBRE FROZEN ISLAND MOJO: A blend of four types of Bacardi rums with mango, pineapple and coconut.

SALVE PLAID MARTINI: Made with Absolut currant vodka, Chambord and Midori.

VOLTAIRE VOLTINI: A blend of Skyy vodka, Midori, Blavod black vodka and a dash of sweet-and-sour mix.
- L.O.

Tropical punch

Celebrating with rum drinks brings a touch of the Caribbean to any event, even in landlocked Dallas.

"Rum is tropical island sunshine, bottled," says W. Park Kerr in the new El Paso Chile Company Rum Tiki Cookbook (William Morrow, $12.95).

This collection of first-class rum cocktails will make you forget those frightening, super sweet, vividly colored potions that, well, one can only call "chick drinks" made with cheap rum and who knows what to create those colors.

No luau will be worth its leis this summer without a batch of piña coladas made with El Paso Chile Co.'s new mix. Serve them in a festive glass rimmed with a flurry of El Paso's Toasted Coconut glass rimmer, which works just like salt on a margarita glass. (See Shopping List for sources.)

- L.O.

Park Kerr's Almost Classic Mai Tai

2 1/2 ounces gold rum
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 tablespoon curacao or other orange liqueur
2 teaspoons almond syrup
1 teaspoon grenadine
Ice cubes
Wedge of pineapple and a maraschino cherry on a cocktail pick
A paper cocktail parasol

Combine all ingredients except garnish and parasol in cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake until very cold.

Pour into a stemmed cocktail glass with any remaining ice. Garnish with pineapple and cherry on pick, and top off with the parasol. Makes 1 serving.

Per drink: Cal 305 No fat No fiber
No chol Sodium 22 mg Carbs 24 g Calcium 5 mg

Park Kerr's Blackberry Rum Batido

1 cup fresh blackberries plus 3 for garnish
2 ounces white or gold rum
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 cup ice

Reserve 3 blackberries for garnish. Combine remaining ingredients in a blender. Add ice cubes.

Blend on high speed until smooth and frothy, not frozen.

Pour into a tall glass, the more festive the better, garnish with 3 blackberries, and serve immediately. Makes 1 drink.

Per drink: Cal 471 (13% fat) Fat 7 g (4 g sat) Fiber 8 g
Chol 26 mg Sodium 98 mg Carbs 61 g Calcium 265 mg

The lighter side

When you want a drink that's lower in alcohol, try substituting a dry white wine or sake for vodka or white rum. This works especially well in fruit-based drinks. Here are a couple to try:

SAKE RITA: Pour 2 ounces sake, 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur and 1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice over ice in a mixing glass and shake vigorously. Strain into a pre-chilled martini glass, and garnish with an orange wheel. This cocktail can also be served on the rocks or frozen.

SPRITZERS: The unfairly maligned spritzer is a quite refreshing alternative. Just throw together some crisp sauvignon blanc, a splash of seltzer and a squeeze of lime.
- L.O.

Shopping list

The "Freshies" very fresh line of Bloody Mary and margarita mixes: $4.99 for 32 ounces or $8.99 for 64 ounces. Available at Centennial Liquor Stores or order direct at 303-382-1805 or

Perfect Puree Mango Puree (frozen). It's all mango all the time: $7 for 30 ounces. Chef's Produce Co., 318 Cadiz St., Dallas; 214-426-0173 or 214-428-8314.

Safeway Select Frozen Smoothie Mix in Peach, Strawberry or Berry flavors: $1.99 for 16-ounce package at Tom Thumb stores.

El Paso Chile Co. Pina Colada Mix: $8 for a 24-ounce bottle or two bottles for $14. Also El Paso Chile Co. Toasted Coconut glass rimmer: $6 for a 12-ounce tin. Or buy a set that includes one of each for $12.50. At Williams-Sonoma.

The Latin beat

A big dose of Latin influence is showing up at bars in the form of Mojitos and Caipirinhas, which started showing up in Miami about four years ago and have trended their way across the country. They're ideal for Texans looking for something to do with limes besides another margarita. Here are two recipes from the Samba Room.

You'll notice the second calls for cachaca (say kah-SHAH-sah). As tequila has risen from a slammer to a sipper in Mexico, so has cachaca in Brazil. Distilled from sugar cane juice and once considered "fire water" for peasants, cachaca now is quite proudly called the nation's national drink.

Trendy sorts in Rio de Janeiro are sipping cachaca neat or in Batidas and Caipirinhas at places such as Academia de Cachaca, a restaurant featuring a collection of more than 2,000 bottles of cachaca dating to 1870.

Besides the Samba Room, catch cachaca cocktails in Dallas at places with a Latin beat such as Monica's Aca y Alla, Fogo de Chao Churrascaria and Texas de Brazil. At liquor stores, look for these brands of cachaca:

Ticktack Cachaca ($12.49/750 milliliters).

P51 Cachaca ($17.99/liter).

Ypioca Cachaca ($21.99/750 milliliters).
If you don't see it at your favorite liquor store, ask the manager to order it for you.

- L.O.

Samba Room Mojito

1/2 lime cut into 4 wedges with peel on
5 mint leaves
Ice cubes
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces white rum
1 piece sugar cane
Splash of club soda

Muddle (mash or crush) limes and mint leaves in the bottom of a collins glass. Add ice; pour in simple syrup and white rum.

Add a splash of club soda. Stir gently with sugar cane, and leave cane in glass for a garnish. Makes 1 drink.

Per drink: Cal 243 No fat Fiber 1 g
No chol Sodium 44 mg Carbs 27 g Calcium 2 mg

Samba Room Caipirinha

Crushed ice
1/2 lime cut into 4 wedges with peel on

Ice cubes
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces cachaca (a Brazilian spirit made from sugar cane; may substitute white rum)
1 piece sugar cane

Fill a double old-fashioned glass with crushed ice. Set aside.

Muddle lime in bottom of cocktail shaker. Add ice cubes, simple syrup and cachaca (or white rum) to shaker. Shake and strain into old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.

Stir gently with sugar cane and leave cane in glass for a garnish. Makes 1 drink.

Per drink: Cal 243 No fat Fiber 1 g
No chol Sodium 38 mg Carbs 27 g Calcium 1 mg

More summer swizzlers

Fast and Furious Frozen Margaritas

1 (6-ounce) can frozen limeade
6 ounces white tequila
6 ounces curacao or other orange liqueur
1 lime cut into wedges

Fill blender with ice. Add frozen limeade to blender.

Add tequila and curacao or other orange liqueur. Use empty limeade can to measure tequila and curacao or other orange liqueur.

Blend on high until frozen. Pour into margarita glasses. Add a squeeze of fresh lime to each drink. Makes 4 to 6 drinks.

Per drink: Cal 254 No fat No fiber
No chol Sodium 5 mg Carbs 38 g Calcium 7 mg

Frozen Mango Bourbon Sours

1 (6-ounce) can frozen limeade
6 mango slices (fresh or from the jar) or 6 ounces mango puree
6 ounces bourbon

Fill blender with ice. Add frozen limeade to blender. Add mango slices or puree to blender. Add bourbon. Use empty limeade can to measure boubon and mango puree.

Blend on high until frozen. Pour into stemmed cocktail glass. Makes 4 to 6 drinks.

Per drink: Cal 217 (1% fat) Trace fat Fiber 1 g
No chol Sodium 1 mg Carbs 28 g Calcium 6 mg

Quickie Frozen Peach Daiquiris

1 (6-ounce) can frozen limeade
8 ounces Safeway Select Frozen Peach Smoothie Mix, partially thawed (comes in a 16-ounce container)
6 ounces white rum

Fill blender with ice. Add frozen limeade to blender.

Add half of the carton of partially thawed Peach Smoothie Mix. Add white rum using empty limeade can to measure.

Blend on high until frozen.

Pour into stemmed cocktail glass. Makes 4 to 6 drinks.

Per drink: Cal 214 No fat Fiber 1 g
No chol Sodium 18 mg Carbs 28 g Calcium 2 mg

Garden Party Punch

2 cups mango nectar
1 cup black currant juice
1 cup strawberry juice (or raspberry juice)
1/2 cup banana nectar
8 ounces gold rum
2 teaspoons white creme de menthe

Fill 2-quart pitcher three-quarters full with ice. Add all ingredients and stir well.

Serve over ice in tall glasses. Makes 4 to 6 drinks.

Per drink: Cal: 305 (1% fat) Trace fat Fiber: 1g.
No chol. Sodium: 8 mg. Carbs: 38g. Calcium: 25 mg.