By mid-June of every year, I've usually settled into a general notion of what I'll be drinking during the hot summer months. The libations that make the cut are usually dictated by one of three factors: One, undying allegiance to certain summer classics (Southside, etc.); Two, the appearance of attractive new products perfectly suited for summer sipping; and, Three, fate. By that last item I mean liquors suggested to my mind and thirst by whatever assignments I happen to be working on around Memorial Day Weekend.
Much of my past month's drinking has been framed by articles-in-progress about the Pimm's Cup, Cachaca and Old Tom Gin. As a result, there are a number of bottles of said spirits sitting around the house, making it a safe bet that there will be more Pimm's Cups, Caipirinhas and Old Tom drinks in my future. The former would have my made summer cocktail list anyway; it always does. But the addition of Old Tom to the menu in unexpected. I doubt I would have devoted much of the summer to the Old Tom Tom Collins if I hadn't been conducted some "research" into the new/old spirit.
As I did last year, I'm dividing the list into two parts: "Classics," summer drinks that appear on my sideboard year after year: and "Newbies," fresh balms to my parched throat.
Southside. One of the rules of thumb of summer drinks is they should be easy to make. No one likes to work hard during the Dog Days. The Southside is an exception to that rule. It's not the easiest. You have to make the simple syrup; juice the limes (or lemons); muddle the mint; shake and strain the drink well; not to mention, you must have all the necessary ingredients on hand. But it's all worth it. Few drinks simultaneously calm and stimulate the way a Southside does.
Pimm's Cup. Owing to research for a New York Times feature on this timeless British refresher, I am in position of a number of recipe variations on Pimm's Cup, concocted by bartenders from across the country. I will probably give a few of them a spin. But, on the most scorching days, I'll likely fall back on a simple Pimm's-Ginger Ale-Cucumber formulation. Whatever floats your boat, you should go for it. All Pimm's Cups end up tasting like Pimm's in the end. For a liqueur with such an easygoing reputation, it has a flavor backbone as tough as steel.
Gin and Tonic: As always. I make my G&Ts with either Plymouth or one of the classic London Dry Gins (Beefeater, Bombay, Tanqueray, etc.), and with Brooklyn-made Q Tonic. I love homemade tonic, but the task of making it is too arduous, so I generally leave it to the experts. This summer, I might quaff a few G&Ts made with the newly available Navy Strength Gins, like Perry's Tot. Even though I know that's not exactly advisable, given the higher alcohol content, I'm a sucker for the novelty and the flavor of the stuff.
Old Tom Tom Collins: The simple Tom Collins is a perfect warm-weather drink. But the Old Tom Tom Collins—switching out the spiky London Dry for some soft and sweet Old Tom (Hayman's, preferably)—is perfection upon perfection. I do 1 1/2 oz. Old Tom, 1 oz. syrup, 3/4 oz. lemon juice, shaken and topped with soda. This drink is disarmingly smooth. Take care, or you'll down three before a half hour has passed.
Wire and String: This is a Pimm's Cup riff devised by bartender Maks Pazuniak. You can either visit the Counting Room in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where Maks works, and order one; or make the drink yourself. It's quite easy: 1 1/4 oz. Pimm’s, 1 1/4 oz. Campari, 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice and 1/2 oz. pineapple syrup (juice pineapple, measure, add equal parts sugar and stir to combine). Add all the ingredients to a shaker and shake vigorously, but briefly. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and top with soda. The blend of bitter and sweet is bracing and tasty.
Byrhh: Byrrh is a French aperitif, a 125-year-old red-wine-based quinquina that thrived in the early 20th century. It was created by two brothers with the poetical names of Pallade and Simon Violet, and initially marketed as a health drink and sold in pharmacies. It's popularity declined after World War II, despite an heavy ad campaign. This year, it was returned to the American market. Gentle by quinquina standards, it's best drunk cold, straight or on the rocks.