5. Collins cocktails

Collinses are a versatile cocktail mixing your favorite kind of liquor with lemon juice, sugar and carbonated water. They’re as refreshing as a glass of lemonade and twice as strong. For this drink you get to pick your poison, but first you’ll have to make a batch of simple syrup. Don’t worry, it’s easy, and you’ll be using it later too.

To make simple syrup, combine roughly equal parts white sugar to water in a pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved. Let cool, then add a teeny splash of vodka to the mix. Pour into a sealable container and refrigerate. If you make a big batch, the vodka ensures the solution won’t go bad.

Combine the following into a collins glass filled with ice:

– 2 oz gin (or vodka, whiskey, rum, applejack, brandy, whatever)

– ¾ oz simple syrup

– ¾ oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice, or juice from a lemon wedge

Top with club soda, about 5 or 6 oz. Use the lemon wedge as a garnish.

There. Don’t you feel like Jay Gatsby?

* Bonus recipe: you can use simple syrup to sweeten your coffee or tea.

4. Mojito

A mojito is a close cousin to a collins, made with rum and lime juice, and mint to mix it up. The drink was supposedly a favorite of Ernest Hemingway, who drank them at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana. They’re dead simple to make and you’ll never have to worry about bad breath when drinking one.

– Fill a collins glass about ? full with fresh mint leaves, unpacked.

– Add 1 T granulated sugar, and a tiny splash of soda to moisten it.

– Using a wooden muddler, carefully macerate the leaves with the sugar, mashing it all together to release the minty oils. Don’t get too vigorous, you don’t want to break the glass.

– Add ¾ oz fresh lime juice or the juice of half a lime, leaving the spent half in the glass. Some recipes call for a splash or two of aromatic bitters, but the oils in the spent lime give just the right amount of bitter accent.

– Add 2 oz Cruzan light rum (or a light Cuban rum, if you can find it).

– Top with 2-3 oz club soda.

3. Pimm’s Cup

What’s cooler than cool? Ice cold! A cucumber! If the mint julep is the patron spirit of the Kentucky Derby, then the Pimm’s Cup is the liquid symbol of next month’s Wimbledon. The gin-based liquor is only 25% alcohol, and the combo of cuke and ginger tastes delightful, so feel free to enjoy more than one No. 1.

– Fill a collins glass ¾ with ice.

– Dice about ¼ of a cucumber and place the pieces on top of the ice in your glass so the rest of the ingredients can trickle through them.

– Add 2 oz Pimm’s No. 1.

– Top off with 2-3 oz Ginger ale, and a splash of club soda.

– Garnish with a lemon wedge.

* Bonus recipe: add chopped up cucumbers to your favorite plain gin or vodka, and let sit in the fridge for a few days for a refreshing sipping spirit.

2. Strawberry basil margarita

A fancy-pants spin on an old favorite. You can even use ingredients from your summer garden. Below is the recipe from Houston’s Day of the Dead-themed bar, Under the Volcano.

You’ll want to prep some of this ahead of time to make sure the strawberries aren’t too sour. Buy a nice ripe pint, and cut the berries into slices about ¼ inch thick. Put them in a Tupperware or similar container with a tablespoon or two of granulated sugar. Shake up a bit to spread the sugar around, then refrigerate a day or two.

Combine these ingredients in a cocktail shaker:

– 1 ½ oz light tequila

– 1 oz triple sec

– 5 fresh sweet basil leaves

– 1 oz of the sugared strawberries

– ½ oz fresh squeezed lime juice

– 1 ½ ounces simple syrup

Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass or margarita glass. No need to salt the rim, this one has plenty of flavor as it is.

* Bonus recipe: those sugared strawberries go great on top of ice cream.

1. Daiquiri

I know what you’re thinking…but a daiquiri was not originally meant to be frozen, and it’s never supposed to be sickening sweet. In fact, the drink is a variation of a sour, a category of drink with a magic ratio of 1:2:8, according to the 1948 bartending guide The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David A. Embury. Just to clarify, that’s 1 part sweet, 2 parts sour, and 8 parts booze. It’s the difference between a cocktail and a mixed drink, and this cocktail is not for the faint of heart.

It was another supposed favorite of Hemingway, who consumed it at La Floridita in Havana when he was sick of hanging out La Bodeguita. Use a floral light rum, the flavors of which will be enhanced by Embury’s magic proportions. And for Papa’s sake, don’t blend the damn thing.

– 1/4 oz simple syrup, which you made earlier. You might not remember that after the nine previous drinks.

– 1/2 oz lime juice

– 2 oz rum

Shake vigorously with cracked ice until shaker gets frosty, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

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