Summer Cocktails: Produce Can Make Your Menu Shine

Sweet is a flavor that summer does extremely well, and it can easily be incorporated into summer cocktails. Experiment with seasonal fruit, vegetables, and herbs to enhance the sweetness in your drinks. You'll end up with the advanced flavor profiles and unique craft cocktails that guests demand. If you're not sure where to start, don't worry. Here are a few tips and inspirational ideas to get your summer cocktail menu up and running.

Use Fresh Fruit

Quality fresh fruit is an easy ingredient to incorporate into craft cocktails. For instance, watermelon works well in a variety of drinks. It doesn't require a lot of preparation, it produces a lot of fresh juice, and using heirloom varieties, such as yellow watermelon, can give your guests an unexpected surprise. Try adding smoky mescal watermelon margaritas to your menu. Mixing the sweet flavor of watermelon with lime will have your guests lining up for more summer cocktails.

Watermelon is just the tip of the iceberg. With plenty of fresh fruit available in the summer, you have the opportunity to make all sorts of mixers and juices. When mixing fruit in your blender, make sure you don't blend it too much or incorporate too much air—especially if your juices will be in plain sight. This will end in a separated foamy top and a watery, fruit juice bottom that won't be as pretty as you'd like. Another tool that is indispensable when making fresh juices and purees is a fine strainer. This eliminates pith, seeds, stone fruit skins, and other solids that shouldn't be floating around at the top of a delicious craft cocktail.

Manipulate Fruit to Get Even More Flavor

Are you already making your own mixers and using fresh juices in summer cocktails? That's a good start, but it's time to mix it up even more. Grilling fruit can enhance or even change its flavor. For instance, try blending grilled peaches, straining the mixture, and adding it to a drink. The caramelized sugar flavors will add depth to cocktails, often stumping guests as to what exactly is giving their drink such distinct flavor.

However, use caution with grilled fruit juices; the color of the fruit can turn from a bright, vibrant color to a light brown rather quickly. Adding some citrus to the juice can help that issue, but because grilled fruit is prone to looking not so fresh, try pairing it with a darker spirit. For instance, think about pairing it with a dark cane rum for a tropical twist, or adding a little ginger beer and bourbon for a refreshing and surprising take on a dark and stormy.

Use Veggies and Chilies

Don't hesitate to use vegetables instead of fruit when blending up your juices. Sweet corn can be a pleasant surprise on your cocktail menu, and it pairs well with tequila, mezcal, and even some rums. Rich on the tongue, sweet, and surprisingly complex, a corn cocktail is sure to turn some heads. And corn, at the height of the season is usually inexpensive.

Beet juice is also a lovely addition to cocktails and can go in a variety of directions. The sweetness of the beet really shines when paired with the depth of a bourbon, and the color of the mixture will be outstanding. The sweet, vegetal side of beets comes out when they are paired with a quality gin, and mixing in some muddled blackberries is a great way to add a bit of acidity to balance the sweetness.

If you want to take an otherwise ordinary cocktail and completely change its flavor, add fresh herbs or chilies (sparingly). These additions will completely change the flavor profile and take it to new heights. For example, if your Bloody Mary needs a makeover, experiment with flavorful herbs. You can even whip up a green version and use tomatillos instead of regular tomatoes.

When designing your summer cocktail menu, don't be afraid to experiment. Muddle away, get creative, and make sure to pair fresh produce with complementary spirits. Before you know it, word will spread about your unique craft cocktails, and customers will keep coming back for more.