Though some of the summeriest cocktails from the sunniest places (like Bermuda’s Dark ’n’ Stormy) are made with dark spirits, it’s easy to forget them and reach for the ‘clears’ – or gallons of Aperol. Compounded by some bartenders’ assumption that we want a refreshing drink more than a short sharp shock of liquor, dark spirits cocktails often get abandoned through the summer months. Yet, if you favour darker spirits the rest of the year, there’s no reason to swear off them when the sun comes out.
There’s not much Kevin Armstrong, director of drinks at Hawker House, Model Market, Dinerama and Giant Robot, doesn’t know about what people like to drink in the summer. ‘Some of the best summer cocktails are made with dark spirits,’ he says. One of his favourites is the Jungle Bird (created in 1973 in Kuala Lumpur) – a blend of dark rum, Campari, pineapple juice, lime juice and sugar, served over cubed ice. ‘There are great versions of the Collins cocktail, which are delicious. Try a Morning Glory Fizz – Scotch, lemon juice, sugar, egg white and a tiny dash of absinthe; or the Saratoga Brace Up, which swaps Scotch for cognac.’
Equally, you can’t go wrong with an ice-cold mint julep – traditionally served at the Kentucky Derby – or a Whiskey Smash, which muddles lemon wedges, mint, sugar, American whiskey and crushed ice. It’s even more I’m-on-holiday-ish with chunks of fresh peach.
Need more reasons to crack out the dark stuff this season? We’ve got the whisky, cognac and tequila recipes to inspire you. Here are four superb ways to mix up your favourite dark spirits for summer from the master mixologists at Heads + Tails Bar in luxuriously leafy West Hampstead. Now all we need is some sun.
Ditch your Highball for a Japanese Highball
This cocktail is the fancy name for any spirit and mixer combination. Whisky is the most common base, but take any dark spirit as a starting point and experiment.
50ml Nikka 12, 75ml Sekforde whisky mixer, 10ml orange syrup.
Serve in a highball glass and add ice.
Switch your Metropolitan for a Joie de Vivre
Created at the Waldorf-Astoria in the 1930s, a Metropolitan is brandy, vermouth, syrup and bitters. In a twist, Heads + Tails Bar switches cognac for brandy and quinquina for vermouth.
40ml Hennessy VS, 20ml quinquina, 10ml absenteroux, 5ml chocolate bitters. Stir and strain into a Nick and Nora glass.
Change your Whisky Sour for a Brigadoon
Spirit, sugar and citrus are a holy trinity of refreshment. This fruity take on the time-honoured triptych adds a dash of apricot for a superbly quaffable summer sipper.
40ml Chivas Regal, 20ml apricot liqueur, 20ml lemon juice, 10ml orgeat.
Stir, strain and serve.
Swap your Old Fashioned for a One Last Kiss
You might think of this as a quintessential winter classic, but you can take this cocktail in a more playful direction by swapping bourbon for tequila and serving long over ice.
50ml dark tequila, 10ml rosso vermouth, 5ml allspice-infused sugar syrup, chocolate bitters.
Stir and strain over ice.