MINNEAPOLIS — Fruit, flowers, herbs — nothing says summer more than the bounty from farmers markets or our own gardens. Those fresh ingredients that fill our baskets are also the best places to start when crafting summer cocktails.
“We’re seasonal drinkers here in Minnesota,” said Christian Kyllonen, a bartender at Nolo’s Kitchen and its Rooftop Bar in Minneapolis. “Obviously, in summer, you think fresh and fruity.”
That’s why Kyllonen jams his cocktails with the flavors of watermelon, blueberry and lavender, cucumber and berries.
He also leans toward clear spirits. “Wintertime comes around, I’m drinking stouts and Scotch and whiskey,” he said. “Summertime, I think tequila, I think vodka, gin, more of those lighter liquors.”
Bars across the Twin Cities are welcoming guests back with a slate of fun and refreshing concoctions that speak to the season.
With surfboards for tables and three churning slushie machines, the menu at the Rooftop Bar, perched on the top floor of the century-old Maytag building in the North Loop, is firmly rooted in summer.
The Tropical Tequila layers the spirit, a can of fruit-flavored Red Bull and a splash of orange juice — a drink that is easily re-engineered at home.
But summer drinks don’t have to be complicated, drink-makers say, and don’t be afraid to play with what you have on hand.
“I just love fresh herbs in cocktails,” said Britt Tracy, a Twin Cities bartender.
Serves 1. From Rooftop Bar in Minneapolis.
11/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) tequila
Tropical- or citrus- flavored soda, such as Red Bull Yellow Edition
Splash of orange juice
Ice, for serving
Fill a highball glass with ice. Add tequila. Add tropical soda almost to the top of the glass. Top with a splash of orange juice.
Serves 1. Note: To make simple syrup, mix equal amounts of sugar and water and heat until sugar is dissolved. From Minneapolis bartender Britt Tracy.
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) gin
3/4 ounces (11/2 tablespoons) simple syrup
3/4 ounces (11/2 tablespoons) fresh lime juice
Pinch of salt
1 to 2 basil leaves or other fresh herbs
Ice, for shaking
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add gin, simple syrup, lime juice and a pinch of salt. Shake vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass. Twist and rub the basil leaves in your hands to muddle before dropping them into the glass.
Hibiscus and Orange Ice Tea
Makes about 2 1/2 cups. Salma Hage, author of the forthcoming “Middle Eastern Sweets” (Phaidon).
2 tablespoons dried hibiscus flowers
Strips of orange peel from 1/2 orange
Scant 1/4 cup orange juice
A few sprigs of mint, for garnish
Ice, for serving
Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil, then turn off the heat and add the hibiscus flowers and the strips of orange peel. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain the tea and add the orange juice. Allow to cool in the fridge. Serve with fresh mint leaves and plenty of ice.