Cool Summer Cocktails

Nate Fryirs at The Lodge in Tahoe Donner mixing up the So Fresh and So Clean Cocktail and the Paloma. | Priya Hutner

It’s summer, the perfect time to cool down, kick back and chill out in the Tahoe sunshine and nothing quenches the thirst like a flavorful cocktail. Making cocktails is an art. Experimenting with cocktails is fun. Drinking cocktails is just plain refreshing.

Watermelon & cucumber | Fresh fruit in a mixed drink is especially refreshing. Watermelon and its cousin cucumber make fabulous cocktails that are both cooling and delicious. Cut open a watermelon and drain the juice, or blend it, and add it to your favorite white spirit; add a splash of soda water or flavored soda water, a twist of lime and enjoy. For a cool-as-a-cucumber cocktail, add a few slices to your mixed drink.

Add fruit | Fruit simple syrups are also a great addition to summer libations. Try peach or nectarine simple syrup with tequila, soda water and a squeeze of lime juice. If you have extra berries on hand, freeze them and blend them with your favorite vodka, gin, rum or tequila for a tasty, slushy cocktail.

Go low-cal | For a low-calorie cocktail, forget the sugar and go naked with your alcohol, soda water and fresh citrus juice. Other easy summer classics include white wine spritzers and sangria.

Gin | Gin and tonic, the quintessential summer cocktail, can become new with a spritz of fruit liquor. Shake up your Tom Collins by adding berries for a tasty blackberry or raspberry Collins. Chillax with a Negroni or gimlet; both are fabulous gin drinks perfect for a hot day. Their recipes offer lots of room in which to improvise.

Vodka | Vodka mixes well with almost anything. Think Moscow Mule: vodka and flavored La Croix or give the classic Sea Breeze a try.

Rum | Rum is also a great base for summer cocktails; a sip of a cool Cuban Mint Mojito transports me to the sea. Blend some rum frozen daiquiris — with only three ingredients it couldn’t be simpler: rum, lime juice and simple syrup. Get fancy and add fresh mango, peach, strawberry, blackberry or raspberries to impress your guests.

Tequila | Then there’s tequila, fabulous in almost any form, from sipping a nice top shelf Anejo or Reposado to mixing up the perfect margarita, tequila screams summer. Skinny or top shelf, frozen or on the rocks, salt or no salt no matter how you shake it, the margarita is a first-class cocktail. The debate rages on whether tequila is a stimulant compared to other white spirits and it’s all the talk these days, but does it really matter? Tequila mixes nicely with so many things.

The Hacienda Del Lago Mexican Stevi’rita and The Skinny Margarita. | Pryia Hutner

While speaking cocktail controversies, the Aperol Spritz comes to mind. It got a bad rap last year, but I don’t agree. It is delightful in every way and I am a fan. It’s an easy cocktail to make: Aperol, Prosecco, club soda and an orange slice. I add a squeeze of fresh orange juice.

One of my current favorite summer sips is a play on the Hummingbird, which is deliciously amazing. It’s light, easy and so drinkable: Champagne or Prosecco, ST- Germain (an elderflower liquor), club soda and a splash of grapefruit juice with a grapefruit twist.

Some shout outs go to Pianeta in downtown Truckee for its Margarita Italiano made with Cazadores Tequila Reposado, house sour, fresh lime and an Aperol float. You can’t have just one.

Hacienda Del Lago in Tahoe City gets big points for its very tasty Stevi’rita made with Azuñia Silver tequila, ST-Germain, grapefruit and lime juice and a touch of agave nectar.

Aussie Nate Fryirs, the bartender at The Lodge Restaurant & Pub in Tahoe Donner, is currently mixing up the So Fresh and So Clean Cocktail, made with Tito’s vodka, ST-Germain, lime juice, soda water, muddled cucumber and fresh mint.

“This drink has been flying off the shelf,” says Fryirs. He also recommends the Paloma, made with 21 Seeds Grapefruit Hibiscus tequila, soda water and grapefruit juice.

With so many cocktails, take a break and consider sipping on a fresh berry cocktail while hanging out or sitting at your favorite bar for happy hour. Enjoy.

Uncle John’s Hendrick’s Gin & Fever-Tree Tonic
1½-2 ounces of Hendrick’s Gin
Fever-Tree tonic
Lime twist

Fill a tall glass with ice. Mix and pour over ice.

Priya’s Summer Hummingbird Twist Cocktail

2 oz. Prosecco
1 oz. ST-Germain
2 oz. soda water
Splash grapefruit juice
Large grapefruit twist

Mix and pour over ice.