Each month, we pitch a new question to our staff and readers. If you have a question you’d like us to answer, email it to us. This month we asked: What is your favorite patio beverage?
I am a middle-aged, middle-class Englishman from middle England. Therefore I drink real ale. On ordinary days, a pint of London Pride will be a comforting reminder of times past. On special occasions, I’ll buy something more interesting like Tribute (from Cornwall) or Butcombe (from Somerset) or 6X (from Devizes, just down the road) or Barbury Castle (from my local pub). All of them deliciously round, mellow ales with a strong flavor that lingers. Throw in a sunny evening, and that just-finished-a-10-mile-walk feeling, and you have perfection.
Go to Spain and order a sangria, and they’ll know you’re from somewhere else. Order a tinto de verano, and they’ll probably still guess that you’re from somewhere else, but they’ll appreciate you for ordering something Spaniards drink, rather than what foreigners think Spaniards drink. On a patio, on a beach, it’s tinto de verano, which sounds a lot sexier than the sum of its ingredients—cheap red wine and Sprite. It’s terrific for a late-afternoon lunch after a sunstruck morning on a Mediterranean beach, with trays of garlicky, lemony octopus, squid, and incomparable grilled sardines, with bread and croquetas, and pinchitos of chicken and pork. Wash it all down with another tinto de verano, and hey, how about another? There’s a reason Spain invented the siesta after lunches like these. Sweet dreams.
I recall fondly the outdoor drinks of my youth: the iced tea and vodka in a Poland Spring bottle, gin and juice in a Nalgene. Innocuous clear containers with their vastly mismatched contents—”I swear, officer, it’s just water, flavored, tinted water”—smuggled into public parks and sweltering outdoor concerts. Now that I’m of age, outdoor drinking comes courtesy of Day-Glo wristbands that grant me access to plastic cups of Bud Light. The thrill is greatly diminished, though the impulse to pair the outdoors with alcohol never fades. Kind of like the harsh scent of cranberry juice and liquor clinging to my collegiate Nalgene.
Springtime in Denver means a few things. First, we’re still probably going to get a couple more feet of snow interspersed among the glorious 60-degree days. Second, all sorts of crazy crap will start blowing through the air causing allergy problems you never knew you had. Most important of all, it is the perfect time to head over to Lime on 6th Street with good friends and drink a few pitchers of margaritas on their patio. Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats that first sip of tequila-y, lime-y, salty goodness that signals the end of the worst of the weather and the beginning of warm spring and summer evenings spent outdoors. I don’t know if the folks there add in fairy dust or LSD or something to make them the perfect ambassador for the renewed optimism of spring, and maybe I don’t want to know. Whatever it is, they need to keep doing it. Those margaritas are divine.
We invented Bodega Sunsets out of desperation and they are delicious. Take one early spring day, a housewarming party, and a slightly desolate neighborhood. Add six parts of steady all-day drinking in new apartment to remove all spirits except gin from the house. At 8:00 p.m., when you should really go home to sleep off the early hangover, add one part group excursion into new desolate neighborhood. Shake with multiple closed bodegas. Find the only open market for blocks, and discover they are out of ice and most all fizzy mixer-type beverages. Buy five bottles of Mexican grapefruit soda. (Jarritos Toronja is the green bottle with the yellow label). Mix with the three bottles of gin (?!) and add a couple drops of whatever pink stuff you have. Bitters are nicest, but only enough to smell the floral part of them, not taste them. Mmmmmmmm. Drink ‘til midnight.
My friends Brent and Pearl recently served me “summer beer” at their house. I’ll be drinking this all summer, and not driving afterward. I asked Pearl for the recipe. She wrote: “Summer beer, hmm. One shot of vodka, 1/3 of a light beer, and an equal part lemonade. So nice, so refreshing. Enjoy!” For the beer, I recommend a hefeweizen or a pilsner.
If you live down by the Gulf coast, nothing heralds the upcoming swelter of summer more appropriately than leftover blueberry bounce from the back of the fridge. First, it’s a perfect no-fuss, fruity cocktail to enjoy on the deck while watching migrating birds and swatting hovering carpenter bees looking for mates. Second, there is only a month to drink the remnants before you need the empty mason jars to make more. Overindulge and you’ll experience the omnipresent hum of Stravinsky’s contrabassoon and Fantasia-esque hallucinations for a truly memorable rite of spring. Blueberry bounce consists of half a quart jar of blueberries (rabbiteye preferred over southern highbush, which tend to get mushy) and one cup sugar. Add spices tied in cheesecloth including whole cloves, whole allspice, roughly chopped nutmeg, a broken cinnamon stick (approximately 1/2 teaspoon of each), and maybe a couple cracked cardamom pods or orange peel twists. Add more blueberries and another cup of sugar before filling the jar with potato vodka. Chill for at least six weeks. Sip neat and cold from lowball or cocktail glasses so you can eat the berries.
Last summer I visited a friend in Mexico City, and instead of the totally animal-tastic Micheladas Cubanos that my companions enjoyed, I exclusively ordered palomas, which consist of tequila and Squirt, plus lime wedges (everywhere in the Distrito Federal you get lime wedges, no matter what you order—it is genius), served on the rocks in a salt-rimmed glass. They are simple, they are delicious, they serve them everywhere, and even an idiota like me who refused to take Spanish in high school because it was “too popular” can successfully order one. Or three.
I haven’t had the chance to test this on my patio yet, but I’m sure it will be excellent. Some time ago, I got a bottle of Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber Liqueur, but it just sat around while I wondered what to do with it. Finally, I made a vodka tonic, with 1/2 oz. of the Thatcher’s added in (one ounce North Shore Distillery vodka, 1/2 oz. Thatcher’s Cucumber, juice of half a lime, shake with ice and strain into glass, top with tonic). The result was delicious, but didn’t suit my winter mood. If the weather is nice enough this weekend, I’ll finally be able to mix this drink in an appropriate setting.
Hands down the Tom Collins: Hinted with lime, stiff, crisp, and—after a few—hazy…like all summer days should be.
If someone else has poured it for me, it’s in a glass, and I’m sitting outside, chances are I will sing its praises for the rest of the day—even if it’s nothing more than a diet soda over ice. The ones that stand out, however, are as follows: homemade peach sangria on my parents’ porch; fresh-squeezed orange juice on my neighbor’s terrace; a brandy-heavy concoction one warm Halloween in college; something tropical-sounding on the front lawn; and anything, anything, on the deck at a TMN staff retreat.
When the sun shines and I’m drawn outside, there is something compelling about the Dark & Stormy. Perhaps the drink is the yin to the weather’s yang (or vice versa—who really knows?) Maybe I just like a drink with ginger beer and fine rum. The Perfect Dark & Stormy, roughly as described (prescribed?) in a spring issue of GQ in about 2008, consists of: one tall and sturdy glass, filled with ice, Zaya 12-year dark rum (or other fine rum of your choice, but really, just get the Zaya), fine ginger beer or ale (my preference is Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew), one lime.
Fill the glass with 1/2 rum and 1/2 ginger beer. Throw a few crushed lime wedges on top. Stir. Consume. Repeat.
Living in the land of eternal springtime—where such things are taken for granted—and hailing from a culture that frowns on patio-sitting idleness has limited my expertise in recommending such beverage. Still, my last lazy summer taught me the joys of Southern iced tea, just like my best friend’s Georgian grandmother made it. Water, three tea bags, as much sugar as you want, and just watch it change to a beautiful, amber-colored liquid that makes the most delicious crackling noise when poured over ice. The real magic is that it tastes wonderful every single time, no matter how sloppily the ratios are measured.
I always think of Kurt Vonnegut—Vonnegut’s Uncle Alex would say, whenever they sat outside drinking, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” Uncle Alex was drinking lemonade, but I like to think the idea is still the same, and that’s an idea that’s perfect any time of year.
I prefer the Bee’s Knees, which I discovered via Portland, Oregon’a great mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler. It’s a spring-into-summer drink with an autumn nail driven into it, which serves to remind the sipper that although the weather outside may be citrus right now, seasons change and nothing lasts for long. Some might decry this dash of metaphorical bitters in their sunny patio concoction, seeing as we only recently escaped the drab. But I would submit that the clove maketh the blossom all the sweeter.
2 oz. Pyrat XO rum
1 oz. honey syrup
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a double-rocks glass full of fresh ice. Stud the peel of a quartered orange with clove and float on top of the ice peaks.
Lauren Frey Daisley
Let me put my weight behind a golfer who’s not currently causing scandals: Arnold Palmer. He was married to his first wife, Winnie, for 45 years until she died in 1999. Incidentally, he proposed to her three days after he met her. Now there are hospitals in both their names. Less importantly, but more ubiquitously, there’s also a drink in his name. Nothing bad can be said about sipping an Arnold Palmer, a half and half mix of lemonade and iced tea. Whereas a beverage named after Tiger Woods would be a combination of baking soda and vinegar that turned into a messy, undrinkable volcano, the ingredients in the Arnold Palmer are a perfect marriage.