How to shake up your summer

Ah summertime. I remain in a gladsome mood despite exams because this season is also the harbinger of the summer cocktail, perhaps the world’s happiest beverage. While silky smooth Manhattans and Martinis may drip with class, the great ‘boat drinks’ – the mojito, the Caipirinha, the Mai Tai – have an insouciant, ever so slightly candied edge that cannot help but bring a merry blush to the cheeks of even the gruffest pint jockey (Hemingway, the toughest bad writer ever, adored his frozen daiquiris). Though much abused in nightclubs and dive bars the world over, the original, well-balanced versions of these tipples are the perfect fusion of simplicity of ingredients and complexity of flavour.

However, before you start shaking up your very own hangover, you’ll need a few standbys in your larder. First off, limes. Lots of limes. But hey, that’s ok, we all need vitamin C. Secondly, you’ll want to make a simple syrup, essentially just a solution of sugar stirred in water. Sugar tends not to dissolve well in cold liquids, so unless you enjoy sucking grit through a straw, use syrup. Gently heat sugar and water in a 2:1 ratio (e.g. 100g sugar: 50ml water), allow to cool and bottle. Third, for most of these drinks, you’ll need crushed ice but, luckily, you can make that too, merely by wrapping up cubed ice and smashing with a saucepan, rolling pin or revision textbook. You should note that your hall mates/ housemates will probably complain at the admittedly terrible racket, but this can be easily solved by glaring at them and doing it anyway. Finally, unless you already have some bar tools, you’ll probably need a few of those too. Supermarkets tend to have some equipment but I recommend getting the Boston shaker set from Amazon.

{{quote Well balanced cocktails are the perfect fusion of simplicity of ingredients and complexity of flavour}}

**The Mojito**
Almost ubiquitous nowadays but so rarely honoured, the three most important tips are to muddle the mint gently, to use fresh-squeezed juice rather than lime wedges and to keep the amount of soda small. If you’re commendably obsessive about authenticity, use a blend of lime and lemon juice to ape the flavour of Cuban limes. As for products, the availability of most white rums in the UK is shameful, so your choice may be a little limited. Most serious rum connoisseurs will decry the flagship Bacardi as undrinkable. In truth, it’s not bad, but it is pretty bland and for the perfect drink, it’s out. Havana Club, either the 3 year or the Anejo blanco, is the gold standard for the classic mojito and will make a qualitative difference. Matusalem Platino is a richer, more challenging rum but also an excellent option.

_Mojito Recipe_
50ml Havana Club
12.5ml lime juice
5ml lemon juice
12.5ml sugar syrup
10-12 mint leaves
Sparkling water
Gently muddle the mint in the bottom of a tall glass, add the juices and sugar and half-fill with crushed ice. Add the rum and more crushed ice and stir. Finish with a dash of soda and garnish with mint (clap it to release the aroma).

**The Mai Tai**
Despite all evidence to the contrary, this drink is not a random mix of liqueurs and pineapple juice but an elegant ‘tiki’ punch, flavoured with orange and almond syrup, courtesy of the great Victor Bergeron AKA Trader Vic. The original 17 year old Wray Nephew he used has been long exhausted but the fruity Appleton rums are a fair approximation (unless you fancy the £500 version at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast, which possesses one of the last remaining bottles). Both the Appleton VX and the 12 year old are widely available. If you can find an agricole rhum from Martinique, try pairing it with one of these Jamaican rums.

_Mai Tai Recipe_
50ml Appleton VX
25ml lime juice
12.5ml Orgeat (almond syrup)
12.5ml Cointreau
5ml sugar syrup
1 dash orange bitters
Shake all ingredients and half a squeezed lime with lots of crushed ice and pour, unstrained, into a chilled rocks glass. Deck with fresh mint.

**The Caiprinha**
Brazil’s national cocktail has been enjoying quite a vogue in Britain for the past few years but its key ingredient has been fairly difficult to find outside bars. Extremely simple but wonderfully flavoursome, the Caipirinha is characterised by the fiery and pungent taste of cachaca, distilled from fermented sugarcane juice. Sagatiba is the most widely distributed example and a good, though slightly more refined, spirit. Leblon is a great boutique cachaca but is significantly more expensive.

_Caipirinha Recipe_
60ml Sagatiba Pura
¾ lime
17.5ml sugar syrup
Muddle lime wedges in the base of short glass with the syrup. Add crushed ice and cachaca and stir. Top with more ice and garnish with a lime wedge. It’s that easy.


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