“Three beverage managers, a spirits specialist, and food TV host walk into a bar.” The punchline? A quintet of surprisingly effortless drink recipes that will make you the MVP of every rooftop, terrace, and seafaring vessel this summer.
Dubbed by English humourist P.G. Wodehouse as “a misunderstood vitamin”, cocktails are to the mind of every sufficiently keen drinker a compelling panacea 365 days out of the year — more playful than a glass of vino, certainly less perilous than pure spirits. And unlike the latter two categories, neither heat nor cold can hope to put a damper on the inherently delicious qualities of, say, a Gimlet. Yet there’s a certain enhancive effect that goes with making and drinking cocktails in the depth of summer that’s very much a peculiarity of this season. Perhaps long days (and even longer nights) are to blame; or it’s down to that magical way in which thoroughly irksome summer activities (greetings wakeboarding!) suddenly appeal when you add a Mint Julep or thirst-eradicating highball to the equation. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In order to celebrate the season of sundowners on rooftops and nautical sojourns, I asked five of Hong Kong’s leading F&B personalities to pony up their recipes for go-to ‘bulletproof’ summer cocktails. No doubt, in a pinch you can always opt for a classic two-part mixer — half-spirit, half-dilutant, an avalanche of ice — and call it a day; but then you’d be depriving yourself of the opportunity to practice one of the indispensable party tricks of the 20th century — making drinks. Our talent surveyed were saddled with a seemingly straightforward task: to craft a recipe simple enough that it could be emulated at home; yet with enough flavour and complexity to withstand the rigours of summer. Did they succeed? Grab a jigger, a shaker, and see for yourself.
Matteo Ceravolo’s Fusettone
Combine bitters and soda together and stir. Strain over ice and garnish with large grapefruit slice.
“Despite the heat, summer is always the best season for day drinking. For that reason, I usually enjoy fresh, low ABV beverages that are delicious any time of the day. Being a lover of bitter flavours, I’ve always been a big advocate for mixing liqueurs (e.g. amaro) together with juice or fruit soda. The ‘Fusettone’ is actually a recipe for summer cocktails from our friends at Bitter Fusetti — something I realised I’d been drinking forever, before they introduced it to me.
Fusetti itself is a bitter created in Milan, incorporating the perfect mixture of spices: gentian, rhubarb, cinchona bark, and, as a special ingredient, quassia. This variety is what makes Fusetti excellent in both classic drinks or more modern recipes. The ‘Fusettone’ is very much in the second camp: it’s easy to make, requiring only a single other ingredient — pink grapefruit soda (my favourite pairing for a bitter). At Certa HQ, we use J. Gasco: a great Piedmontese brand that also happens to be low calorie. Refreshing, sour, and addictive, this is pretty much your best option when making drinks at home or on a boat — why overcomplicate things?” — MC
Sabrina Cantini Budden’s Jijivisha
Title: Beverage Manager, The Hari
Ingredients: Chai-infused rum (60ml); Cardamom honey (15ml); Fresh ginger juice (1/2 tsp); Turmeric (2 pinches); Lime juice (15ml); Pineapple juice (30ml).
Make the ‘chai rum’ by infusing chai tea (5 tablespoons) into a standard-size bottle of dark rum and leaving to sit at room temperature for at least 48 hours.
Then, warm honey in a saucepan on low-medium heat with a handful of cardamom seeds (pre-muddled). Leave to cook for at least 30 minutes.
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker together with ice and shake hard. Double-strain the liquid into a chilled coupe glass. Set aside some of the prepackaged chai for garnish.
“The Jijivisha is the perfect balance between spice and refreshment. To me, it’s one of those drinks that’s super-sippable, always leaving you wanting more. The name is transliterated from the Hindi phrase “desire to live”, which in these pandemic-riven times is an important sentiment to share. The drink is inspired by the classic Daiquiri — well-known to be one of the all-time classic summer cocktails.
In place of the usual sugar syrups which are used in a Daiquiri, I’ve included a couple of natural superfoods such as ginger and turmeric (as well as organic honey), all of which are great for you and lend a spicy kick to the whole beverage.” — SCB
Devender Kumar’s Merone
Title: Assistant GM, The Aubrey
Ingredients: Cantaloupe melon syrup (3/4 oz); Kamimura Awamori ‘Danryu’ (3/4 oz); Montelobos Mezcal (1/2 oz); Ancho Reyes Original (1/2 oz); Angostura bitters (1 dash); Fresh lime juice (3/4 oz).
Refrigerate then chop all ingredients into bite-sized pieces, reserving some of the cantaloupe melon for garnish. Combine in a blender and pulse until smooth. Strain into a tumbler, and add fresh juice from the remaining melon to taste.
“Yubari cantaloupes are in season right now, and they’re absolutely delicious. The ‘Merone’ has a simple yet delicious flavour profile: there’s a touch of smokiness from the mezcal and ancho liqueur, accompanied by Japan’s most emblematic spirit in the guise of Awamori. The foundational flavours are just so refreshing, and having that extra touch of smokiness is fantastic in conjunction with the melon. If you don’t have any Ancho Reyes handy, you can use any other sort of chilli liqueur to substitute. Better yet, if you have fresh green or red chillis at home, try using those.
One last thing: prior to making the ‘Merone’, it’s essential that you freeze the pieces of cut melon used for this recipe. When combined with the other ingredients a blender, they approximate the effect of adding ice, without diluting all of that amazing fruit flavour.” — DK
Debbie Wong’s Lady Diana
Shake all ingredients together with ice. Strain into a coupe or Old Fashioned glass. Garnish and immediately serve.
“No matter whether it’s in food or beverages, I’m always attracted to recipes that are ‘big impact, little effort’, and in the midst of summer that rings especially true. This ‘Lady Di’ is a mere four ingredients, shaken together to create a stunningly attractive, refreshing, and yet layered cocktail — just like the late princess herself. This is that rare drink that stands apart from the rest; and has an uncanny ability to connect with all kinds of drinkers at-large.” — DW
Lorenzo Antinori’s Sherry & Tonic
Pour ingredients into tumbler with ice. Spritz essential oils from an orange over top before serving.
“This might sound like your classic ‘nerdy bartender’ pick, although really, it’s a concoction that ticks all the boxes for what summer cocktails ought to be. First and foremost, it possesses complexity beyond the usual long drink built upon juice or soda, aiming to be light and zingy. Instead, it’s chockful of sugar (and delicious delicious regret). Behind its ‘dry’ stereotype, sherries in the manzanilla or fino style impart a beautiful floral nuttiness that’s the product of light oxidisation. Alongside its natural acidity, this imbues dry sherry with a thirst-quenching quality that’s perfect for hot summer days.
Personally, I love to serve my Sherry & Tonic in a tall tumbler, together with ice and a handful of mint leaves resting in the bottom of the glass. Choose high-quality tonic with a low sugar content and be rigorous in ensuring that it’s served extremely cold. I like to spritz the oil of an orange peel over the finished beverage, in order to add a delicate citric aroma. Alternatively, if you’re going for more flair, you can add a whole orange wedge. Best enjoyed on a terrace surrounded by friends — extra points if you make them a whole carafe!” — LA
This story first appeared on PrestigeOnline Hong Kong