Coolers, Lemonades, Sangrias and Slings
These are not your father’s summer drinks.
Maybe global warming is the only thing that can stop the onslaught of Alternatinis, the up-glass beverages that are driving the cocktail revolution.
‘Lectric Lemonade, Great Performances, NYC
But not the greenhouse gas-caused type of temperature rise; we’re talking the annual warming that comes to the northern hemisphere each June and stays through September, the kind of heat that builds powerful thirsts, creating a customer demand for long, tall and quaffable drinks, instead of those brightly colored modern Martinis packed with alcohol.
You don’t have to be a genius, of course, to recognize what many restaurant and bar operators have known since the first weary wanderer stepped into the cool, dark confines of a roadside inn: iced spirits, made slightly sweet or bubbly, can cap a customer’s day, and embolden them to order one or two more, especially those that are relatively low in total alcohol content.
Operators have long witnessed the annual summer sales spike in beer, fountain drinks and iced teas. In the 1980s and 1990s, bottled waters and frozen drinks also took great leaps forward, too. Now, operators are witnessing growth in what are classically known as a group as long drinks.
“The fact is, when the weather gets hotter we like to gulp instead of sip, so longer drinks, with a lower percentage of alcohol, make sense,” says Cheers columnist and spirits writer Gary Regan. “However, we are seeing homemade versions of long drinks just as much as we’re seeing the same in cocktails. Bartenders are returning to their roots.”
Until the cocktail revolution of the 1990s, summer restaurant drinking in the spirit sector mostly meant Vodka Tonics, Gin and Tonics, Fuzzy Navels and Sea Breezes simple drinks that were really just contemporary variations of the Screwdriver and Highball. Still serviceable, these beverages are the default order for an older generation, but not necessarily the sort of beverage that can attract the 21st century cocktail consumer and keep them away from trendy craft beers in the summer.
Eben Klemm, master mixologist for B. R. Guest Restaurants (operations total 16, including two Dos Caminos in NYC, Blue Water Grills in NYC and Chicago and Fiammas in NYC and Las Vegas) says that customer response to long drinks in the warm months may signal a return to classics like the Sling, the Rickey and the Collins.
“We shift over our emphasis in the summer to long drinks, mostly because it makes sense they’re more refreshing.” Klemm’s version of long drinks includes popular creations for the Blue Water Grill like the Persa, made with mango- and rhubarb- infused vodka topped with Moscato d’Asti sparkling wine. “I’m a big fan of Moscato, especially the way its low alcohol and melon and strawberry flavors work with spirits, but I couldn’t believe how well the Persa was going at first.”
“It’s sort of an evolution from the Martini-type drinks to long drinks, which you can adapt by adding some soda to the basic recipe,” Klemm says. For instance, he suggests that Margarita lovers might be inclined to switch to the Paloma, made with tequila, grapefruit soda, lime and a pinch of salt, in the hotter months.
IF LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS…
The most popular long drinks today are variations of three kinds: those made with lemonade; those topped with sparkling wine or soda; and variations on Sangrias.
As David Nepove, aka Mister Mojito and bar manager at San Francisco’s Enrico’s says, “Take any great spirit and put it into fresh lemonade and you have a great cocktail.” In NYC, a summer favorite is the ‘Lectric Lemonade, a tangy summer potion created by Great Performances, a catering and events company which manages Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.
The Blue Bayou, Cobalt, Hotel Monaco, New Orleans.
At the 250-plus Lonestar Steakhouse and Saloons, this is the summer of lemonade and Long Island Tea variations, with the company promoting them served in 16 oz. mini- pitchers. The promotion includes Mango Lemonade (Bacardi O Rum, Cointreau and Island Oasis Mango), Green Shade Melonade (Stolichnaya Vodka, Midori, sweet and sour, orange juice and Sprite) and Just Peachy Lemonade (Jim Beam Bourbon and DeKuyper Peachtree Schnapps), as well as three others – Razzberry Tea (Stolichnaya, Beefeater, Bacardi Razz Rum and Chambord), Texas Tea (Stolichnaya, Sauza Gold Tequila, Bacardi Superior Rum and Coca-Cola) and Red Passion Tea (Absolut Vodka, Bacardi Superior Rum, Remy Red Cognac and Cointreau).
Other chains are introducing and promoting hot weather beverages this summer. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville units launch this month their Cruzin’ to Margaritaville Cruzan Rum-Coca-Cola program which promotes six new drinks and ties it Carnival Cruise Line prizes. The drinks, like the Ocho Rios Rum Rita and the Key West Colada, are long, fruit juice variations on well-established beverages.
In regions where the summer is long, hot and humid, long drinks area tradition. At Adelaide’s Swizzle Stick, a new New Orleans operation in the Loews New Orleans Hotel directed by the Commander’s Palace Family of Restaurants, the summer menu is filled with such drinks as the Adelaide Swizzle, made with New Orleans Amber Rum, lime juice, bitters, soda and a secret ingredient; and the Belladonna, made with Charbay Blood Orange Vodka, orange cordial, sour mix, lime juice and cranberry juice.
In another part of New Orleans, at Cobalt in the Kimpton Hotel’s Hotel Monaco, this summer’s menu means tall drinks like the Blue Bayou, made with Bacardi O, Bacardi 151, blue cura