Whether it’s a fruity concoction or a refreshing soda, the holiday season is all about having a good time. The season generally sees margaritas, mimosas, mojitos and spritzes come out on top. But bartenders can also draw inspiration from Tiki cocktails, where rum-based drinks like piña colada turn out to be bigger is better.
Hospitality talks to Evan Stroeve of Re-, Abby Roennfeldt of Hades Hula House and Josh Stevens of Lily Blacks and New Gold Mountain about making summer menus and the role seasonal plays in drinks plus their tips for creating the ultimate thirst quencher.
It is difficult to choose the perfect summer drink, but freshness, sweetness and spice are all basic. Now the weather is on the warmer side, drinkers steer clear of booze-heavy cocktails and move towards icy, more fertile numbers.
The shift sees whiskey and bourbon swapped for gin, vodka and spicy rum along with a slope towards carbonated and fruit juices.
Creating a balanced drink is a must all year round, and is simply about what’s in the shaker. Re-Bartender Evan Stroeve ensures that harmony is always in front of his head.
“Taste balance is the most important aspect of any drink, whether it’s summer or winter,” he says. “Finding a balance between sweet and sour, spicy and bitter and umami is really important as well as working with temperature and texture.”
Stroeve says the defining elements of summer drinks are “bubbles, liveliness and bubbly” and predicts lower ABV options will be a hit. “When I think of summer, I think of sessions where I sit outside in a beer garden or an outdoor area. [having] a part and it’s made [possible] at low-ABV opportunities, ”says the bartender.
At Hades Hula House in Adelaide, owner Abby Roennfeldt follows the motto “light, bright and fresh”. As a Tiki-inspired bar, the majority of Hula House’s menu is aimed at products found in tropical climates, which means that the more fruity, the better.
“We are definitely looking for super-fruity, super-stocky [cocktails], ”Says Roennfeldt. “We use the whole fruit so there is pulp in our juice and you get the velvety mouthfeel of a whole fruit juice as opposed to an extract or flavoring.”
Australia is spoiled for choice when it comes to summer products and local spirits, giving bartenders a huge advantage in terms of variety. One could argue that a cocktail can use any kind of fruit, but for Roennfeldt there are some that are hard to ignore.
“Of course there are things that are not going to change; you will always see fresh lime and that sort of thing, ˮ she says. “Then you have things like lychee and passion fruit, which are definitely tropical summer fruits.”
In the spirit of Tiki cocktails, Hades Hula House goes big on citrus and melon and puts their own spin on popular drinks.
The Lemon Drop gin cocktail uses Stone Pine Lemon Drop gin and Mad Monkey saccharum as a base. Another looks spicy, spicy flavor with a melon and lemon. “One of my go-tos is Busted Thong, which contains Karu Distillery Morita chipotle vodka,” says Roennfeldt. “We shake it with a slice of jalapeño, so we have a subtle warmth from the vodka and a lasting warmth from the chipotle.”
Up in Melbourne, Josh Stevens does a bit of everything at Lily Blacks and New Gold Mountain, but also tumbles with Tiki flavor profiles in the summer. The bartender chooses rum in Caribbean style with the addition of strawberries. “Remember to Dawn that New Gold is a great Tiki-like drink,” says Stevens.
“It has falernum, which is like one [Caribbean-] style spicy syrup and remember agricole rum. I pair it with strawberries, apple juice and a little strawberry fermentation. ”
A common thread among venues is waste reduction, which can be achieved through a changing seasonal menu. This approach allows venues to change their offerings and be creative with what is available. “Our menu changes to suit what fruits are in season,” says Stevens. “I have rock melon and mint heading into the season and all the chilies too, so I have a jalapeño-based drink.”
A change of season encourages bar staff and operators to think about sustainable practices through well-thought-out planning. Re-s menu is described by Stroeve as “the definition of seasonal”, and the second iteration Never Wasted delivers on its name. “A lot of the products we use are in surplus in the market,” he says.
“We have eight different cocktails with eight iconic Sydney producers. We had a conversation with each of them and narrowed down what waste items they produce in their production processes, then used these items as hero ingredients in each cocktail.”
A representation of Re-‘s waste minimization ethos is Market and Growers, a mango cocktail consisting of Tanqueray gin, ancho chili, orange and mango. The drink uses every part of the mango from the skin and the meat all the way down to the pit.
“The meat is obviously beautiful, light and fresh and is the epitome of summer,” says Stroeve. “We make a honey-soy-mango chip from the skin, and we open the seed (which most people would not think of using) and use the small seeds inside, which are really bitter. We use them as a bitter remedy for vermouth. “
There are many important factors to keep in mind when building summer drinks: two of them are ice cream and volume. A Hoshizaki ice machine is a staple of many bars, including Hades Hula House.
Roennfeldt uses filtered water to make clear cubes. “As a general rule, we shake all our drinks with a large format cube, and then we sip over fresh ice cream,” she says. “Sometimes we strain over shaved ice depending on the drinking style.”
At Lily Blacks, ice blocks are hand-cut to fit the on-site glassware. Ensuring a slow dilution rate is the main focus of Stevens, who uses a large-format ice cube in stirred drinks. “It’s really important to have a big cube because there’s a lower ratio of surface area to volume,” he says. “It does not dilute the drink as quickly, which is important in the summer, when it is diluted much faster. The second option is crushed ice, which gives you a self-fulfilling drink. “
For both practical and visual purposes, Stroeve uses ice cream from Bare Bones Ice Company, which produces crystal clear ice cream. Different shapes are used to accommodate glass shapes and cocktail styles. “We use longer ice balls and larger blocks,” says Stroeve. “It’s really aesthetic, and it slows down the dilution rate.”
Longevity is the name of the game when it comes to summer drinking. Consensus among bartenders is that higher drinks with lower alcohol content are perfect for hot weather. “You get dehydrated in the summer, and when you feel hot, you will constantly sip your drink,” Stevens says. “With a longer drink, you get a little more for your money and you do not get drunk so quickly.”
Although larger quantities seem to be the most practical choice for the summer, there is also room for hard-hitting short sips. “I always love a short drink, so it has to be Corpse Reviver number two,” Stevens says. “It’s an absinthe rinsed glass and then you have gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc and lemon juice. Taste-wise, it is quite sour without being too sweet. Cointreau adds a little bit of sweetness to balance it, and if you choose the right gin for it, it’s out of this world. “
Warmer skies provide the ideal window to experiment with spirits, ingredients, ice cream and volume. Bartenders are increasingly aware of the ingredients they use, which is a sign of what needs to come next.
“The Australian summer is amazing; it is one of the best seasons in the world, ”says Stroeve. “We have access to all this amazing tropical fruit; everything from mango and pineapple to passion fruit, berries and stone fruit. All these iconic cocktail fruits thrive, so we showcase them as best we can – it’s modus operandi for the summer. “