10 cocktail recipes that will make you the star of a hot summer party

Image 1 of 7

East Side of the Moon (Fox5NY.com)

After publishing a guide to festive drinks in the winter, I'm back this summer with a sequel: refreshing cocktails to make and enjoy while soaking in the sun and the season's vibe. Better still, if you master a few of these drinks you can confidently share them with your friends at a summer get-together. They will be plenty impressed.

You will not find a standard margarita or sangria in this guide. Not that I don't enjoy them, but I wanted to go beyond the usual warm-weather libations and share something new to me and perhaps new to you, too.

As I did in my winter holiday cocktail story, I reached out to experts at distilleries, a bar, and a brewery in the New York area. I love this process because I meet friendly, talented, and creative folks enthusiastically committed to their communities and customers.

This guide takes you to four businesses in four counties in New York. We start in Kings County.


Van Brunt Stillhouse is a small distillery in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn that began operating about five years ago. It crafts whiskey, moonshine, rum, and grappa. Like all producers in New York operating under a farm distillery license, Van Brunt sources its base grains -- rye, wheat, corn -- from New York farms.

You can visit the tasting room for cocktails, tasting flights, and tours. Mixologist and tasting room manager Andie Sleeman came to Van Brunt after working with the late Sasha Petraske, a renowned bar owner and cocktail innovator, and in fine dining at Chef Daniel Boulud's Daniel.

Sleeman shared her interpretations of some classics.

1. East Side of the Moon

In this take on the East Side, Sleeman uses Van Brunt Moonshine, an unaged malt whiskey, instead of gin. "This is the perfect summertime drink -- just easy," Sleeman said. Do not aggressively muddle the mint leaves because that will release bitter-tasting chlorophyll, she said.

3 slices cucumber
8 mint leaves
1 oz lime juice (scant)
3/4 oz simple syrup*
2 oz Van Brunt Stillhouse Moonshine
1 oz club soda
1 cucumber slice and 1 mint sprig, for garnish

Muddle cucumber in a cocktail shaker. Add mint and very lightly press the leaves so you don't release chlorophyll. Add lime juice, simple syrup, moonshine, and ice. Shake quick and hard to combine ingredients without over-diluting. Strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice, top with soda (but not too much), and garnish with a slice of cucumber and a fresh mint sprig.

2. Van Brunt Mint Julep

"It's really important that this cocktail is made with crushed or chipped ice," Sleeman said. "It is a very strong cocktail so you want [the ice] to keep melting so that you're not slamming it." Sleeman explained that "high and dry" ice refers to crushed ice heaping over the cocktail, creating a mountain "high" of "dry" ice that hasn't been touched by the liquid. That visual is part of the appeal but what really sets this variation apart is the spritz of orange blossom water.

8 mint leaves
1 sugar cube
1/4 oz simple syrup*
2-1/2 oz Van Brunt Stillhouse Bourbon
Mint sprigs and orange blossom water, for garnish

Muddle sugar cube at the bottom of a serving glass or julep tin. Add mint leaves and lightly press at the bottom of the glass. Add bourbon, simple syrup, and crushed ice and push down to pack into the glass. Add more crushed ice above the lip of the glass so that it is "high and dry." Garnish with a healthy portion of mint sprigs and a spritz of orange blossom water for aromatics.

3. Summer Manhattan

Sleeman uses house-made vermouth for this classic. "It's not quite as sweet, it's not quite as dry -- it's kind of in between," she said. "Van Brunt's house vermouth is a dry vermouth with an abundance of aromatics and a hint of caramelized sugar." She recommended making your own with equal parts dry vermouth and blanc vermouth, which is a sweet vermouth with no coloring. This cocktail smells delicious. In fact, Sleeman said you may notice a cardamom-cinnamon nose. Also, you can experiment with different bitters.

2 oz Van Brunt Stillhouse Rye
1 oz house-made vermouth
2 dashes aromatic bitters (about 1 mL)
Orange twist, for garnish

Add rye, vermouth, and bitters in a rocks glass over a large ice cube (preferably a hand-cut rock). Stir to combine, chill, and dilute. Garnish with an orange twist.

4. Port of Spain Sour

This is Sleeman's riff on the Trinidad Sour. "It's definitely a dessert cocktail," Sleeman said. "You're not going to sit on the beach all day and drink it."

1-1/2 oz Van Brunt Stillhouse Rye
1/4 oz absinthe, such as Doc Herson's
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 oz almond orgeat syrup, such as Liber & Co.
1/4 oz aromatic bitters
1/4 oz orange bitters

In a cocktail shaker, add all ingredients and ice. Shake hard and fast to combine and add texture. Strain into a stem cocktail glass.

Van Brunt Stillhouse, 6 Bay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231, 718-887-6012




Port Jervis in Orange County, New York, is a Delaware River town located right where New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania meet. Like many New York communities, Port Jervis saw an economic decline as railroads were rerouted, industries changed or vanished, and small shops shuttered due to the crush of large chains.

But Sean Donnelly and David Krantz, good friends and business partners, are among many folks hoping to help give the town a makeover. Donnelly is a brewer who recently left SingleCut Beersmiths in Astoria, Queens, and Krantz is a marketing expert who spent a decade working with brands and design firms in New York City.

"We had both previously home-brewed and found that we had a similar palate," Krantz said. "We had always dreamed of combining our love for beer and hospitality, but did not know what would come of it."

After he and later Donnelly bought houses in Port Jervis as weekend getaways from New York City, they soon realized that the community could actually be the home base for their dream.

"We also loved that Port Jervis is an urban, walkable community that is accessible from New York City via train," Krantz said. "We loved the downtown area and wanted to be part of its revival."

So they met with the mayor about their idea and bought a crumbling building on Front Street. They are renovating it into a restaurant and brewery called Fox N Hare and hope to open by the end of September.

In the meantime, Donnelly and Krantz shared this recipe for a beer-based cocktail that can be your go-to when you sit on your stoop or in the backyard in the waning hours of a sweltering August day.

5. Long Summer Day

"We have recently added some bees to our workforce, so we thought we would share a recipe containing honey," Krantz said. "This is more of a summer/fall beer cocktail that can be made using very accessible ingredients."

1 oz bourbon
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp honey (or agave)
2 dashes bitters
1 (12 oz) can pilsner
Lemon wedge, for garnish

Squeeze 1/4 ounce of lemon juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Add bourbon, honey, and bitters to the shaker and shake until the honey is dissolved. Strain the ingredients into a pint glass. Fill the remainder of the glass with the pilsner. Garnish with lemon wedge.

Fox N Hare, 46 Front Street, Port Jervis, NY 12771




Music and mood are very important at LetLove Inn in Astoria, Queens. No day drinking here; the bar opens in the late afternoons or early evenings and features live music several times a week in a dark setting with little decor. A couple of years ago, I listened to a self-proclaimed vampire sing covers of Nine Inch Nails, Type O Negative, Billy Idol, and Jace Everett. No, I'm not kidding.

Bartender Mike Brumfield is no vampire but like me, he is a night dweller. I met him at the bar at around midnight on a weeknight so he could show me two of his favorite summer drinks.

6. Death in the Gulf Stream

This is Brumfield's twist on an Ernest Hemingway favorite. Hemingway supposedly liked lots of Angostura and no sugar, but Brumfield has dialed back the bitters and added the St-Germain for a bit of sweetness.

2 oz gin
1/2 oz St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 oz lime juice
2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
Lime twist, for garnish

Add gin, St-Germain, lime juice, and bitters to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice in a highball glass. Wipe the inside and the lip of a highball glass with the lime twist and then toss it in.

7. The Machado

This is Brumfield's take on a Tequila Mockingbird. He named his version after Baltimore Orioles infielder Manny Machado. He said once you taste this you may want to drink it all summer. I agree.

2 oz tequila
1-1/2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz peach schnapps
Lime wedge, for garnish

Add tequila, pineapple juice, and schnapps to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

LetLove Inn, 27-20 23 Avenue, Astoria, NY 11105, 718-777-LOVE




Brian Facquet was a payroll and human resources pro in New York City for many years before deciding to "throw caution to the wind," as he puts it, and become a spirits entrepreneur.

Prohibition Distillery started very small in 2009 by sharing space with another craft distiller. But as the operation grew, Facquet looked for a dedicated space. Roscoe, a tiny Sullivan County fly-fishing hamlet with the nickname Trout Town, "sort of picked us," Facquet said. A friend told him about an old 1929 firehouse that was available.

"I visited and loved it. It had high ceilings that could accommodate our equipment. Perfect," Facquet said. "I love doing what I am doing and have never looked back."

Facquet shared these three recipes by Prohibition's Robert Mack. Each uses a different one of Prohibition's three spirits, vodka, gin, and bourbon.

8. Strawberry Smash

This drink is "summer in a glass," Facquet said. "Fresh local strawberries balance out this cocktail." To make the lemonade used for this drink, combine 1 oz lemon juice, 1 oz simple syrup*, and 2 oz water.

1 local strawberry
1-1/2 oz Bootlegger 21 New York Vodka
Fresh-squeezed lemonade
Mint leaf, for garnish

Muddle the strawberry in a cocktail shaker. Add vodka, lemonade, and ice and shake hard. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with mint leaf.

9. The Screen Door

"This one goes down easy when sitting on our front porch," Facquet said. "The soft note of local honey balances out the lemon and green tea."

1-1/2 oz Bootlegger 21 New York Gin
1 oz local honey syrup (1-to-1 ratio water to honey)
3 oz green tea
1/2 oz lemon juice
Mint leaves, for garnish

In a shaker, add gin, honey syrup, tea, and lemon with ice and shake hard. Strain over fresh ice in a tall glass. Garnish with mint leaves.

10. Gold Rush

"Bourbon is the star in this cocktail," Facquet said. "It is the bourbon version of the Bee's Knees. Use the honey syrup to taste."

2 oz Bootlegger 21 New York Bourbon
1 oz honey syrup
3/4 oz lemon juice
Lemon slice, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, add bourbon, honey syrup, lemon juice, and ice and shake hard. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with lemon slice.

Prohibition Distillery, 10 Union Street, Roscoe, NY 12776, 607-498-4511



So now you have 10 summer cocktails to try before Labor Day. Have fun, but please don't be a jerk! If you make any of these cocktails, take a photo and post it on social media with the hashtag #10nycocktails.


*How to make simple syrup. Combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer three minutes (until sugar dissolves). Remove from heat and cool before using.