Local bartenders share their favorite early summer drinks
Early summer ushers in a season of backyard hangouts, grilling, evening boat cruises and waterfront sunsets. These activities call for good company and a cold drink in hand. It’s warm again, which means breaking out the clear spirits and shelving the dark stuff or the next round of bonfires and nor’easters.
If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to grow comfortable— complacent even—making or ordering the same drink at every evening gathering I attend. Restaurants with knowledgeable bartenders, however, open the gateway to a world of new beverages and variations. They see what sets well with other people—from classic drinks to trending concoctions—and expand my palate with new, refreshing choices.
With summer setting in and countless opportunities for outdoor gatherings, it’s the season to get creative as we uncork bottles and tinkle ice in our glasses. Bartenders at Outer Banks restaurants happily shared favorite seasonal cocktails as late spring transitions into early summer. Better yet, you can easily recreate these minimalist drinks right at home.
The Blue Point’s French 75
When choosing between wine and cocktails, the French 75 fuses the best of both worlds. Sparkling wine lightens the nature of this gin cocktail, making it an appropriate beverage for early evening. “It’s sophisticated! The bubbles feel like you’re celebrating spring weather and being outside again,” Simon Kaufmann says, beverage director at The Blue Point. No need to reach for the good Champagne with this drink. Crémant or Cava work wonderfully.
1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Lemon juice
½oz. Simple syrup (sweeten to taste)
Cava or any dry French sparkling wines
Shake the first three ingredients in a tin with ice, and strain into a champagne flute or martini glass. Top with bubbles, and garnish with a lemon twist.
Ocean Boulevard Bistro & Martini Bar’s Rosy Cheeks
Ocean Boulevard serves the Rosy Cheeks martini year-round for good reason—it won the Outer Banks’2018 Martini Games. This lemon-rosemary cocktail traditionally gets served up, but bar manager Christina Stiff offers a personal recommendation: Try it on the rocks. The ice balances the booze, and it feels almost like sipping grown-up lemonade.
3 oz. Absolut Citron
1 oz. Rosemary syrup
½oz. Lemon juice
Shake ingredients and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon twist and rosemary sprig.
Trio Restaurant & Market’s Trio Lemon Lavender Fizz
Trio springs to many minds for its extensive by-the-glass wine list and tap beers, but they shake up the standard wine bar scene with a menu of mixed drinks.
“Wine cocktails and mock tails have been very popular for us, ”Kenny Hyman says, owner and managing partner of the restaurant. “Our pick for our favorite nonalcoholic drink is our Trio Lemon Lavender Fizz.” Serve these at brunch or a picnic for a classy beverage that doesn’t require naptime afterwards.
1½oz. Lemon juice
3 oz. Lemonade
¾oz. Blueberry-Lavender Syrup
Combine all ingredients in Collins glass and stir. Top with ice and soda water. Garnish with frozen blueberries
Outer Banks Distilling’s Kill Devil Dune Shine
If you could only have one spirit in your Outer Banks bar cart, why not choose local rum? It emanates summertime vibes and gives a nod to the area’s pirate history.
Outer Banks Distilling’s bartender and cocktail coordinator Matt Joyner brings fresh additions this summer that can easily be recreated at home. The new Kill Devil Dune Shine, in particular, excites him. This kombucha cocktail uses JuneShine, an organic, low-sugar hard kombucha brand.
“It’s simple enough to where it’s just rum, mint and lemon, and then it has this artisanal edge with the craft kombucha.” Booze and probiotics! What more could we want!
1½oz. Kill Devil Silver Rum (or any silver rum)
¾oz. Mint syrup
½oz. Lemon juice
JuneShine Blood Orange Mint Kombucha
Shake the first three ingredients with ice, and strain into a highball glass. Top with kombucha, and garnish with fresh mint.
*A note about simple syrup: While you can find plain and flavored simple syrups to buy, they come together easily at home with few ingredients.
Combine equal parts sugar and water (by volume) in a pot over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. If you want a flavored syrup, add your choice of herbs or fruit to the heated syrup, cover and steep. Let cool to room temperature, then strain out the additions before using.