Break out the umbrella cocktail picks, lavish fruit and fancy glasses for spiked libations — it’s summertime.
“What I love about summer cocktails is you get all the freshness from the garden. We take local strawberries off of M-204 and from that we make strawberry daiquiris and strawberry lemonade vodka slush,” said Margaret Lott, bar manager at Northern Latitudes Distillery in Lake Leelanau.
The distillery’s Manitou Passage Rum is used in the daiquiri and its Deer Camp Vodka is used in the lemonade vodka slush. It also has menus full of summer drinks, all made with its spirits.
“I think it’s really nice that we can offer with so many of our spirits in a Moscow Mule,” Lott said. “You can do it with our Moonshine gin, rum or our bourbon. Our typical Moscow Mule is vodka based. You just add fresh lime juice and ginger beer. You’ve got a great refreshing summer drink.”
Bar owners, brewers, cider makers and distilleries across Northern Michigan all draw up lists of drinks for anxious guests who want a taste of the region.
“There’s no place in the world like northern Michigan in the summer,” said Nick Lefebre, who owns Ethanology distillery with his wife Geri Lefebre. “In order to embody that laid-back nautical lifestyle we have here, you have to have cocktails that are as complex as what northern Michigan offers.”
Ethanology offers a multitude of infused cocktails in the summer, all filled to the brim with ingredients harvested within a 30-mile radius of the distillery, located in Elk Rapids.
Nick Lefebre particularly likes two cocktails his distillery serves in the summertime.
The SummerTHYME Sipper is made with rhubarb shrub, Eros wild-foraged Summer Gin, thyme syrup and thyme tincture. “It’s a very easy sipping, laid-back summer cocktail,” he said.
The Geminus is served in a cherrywood smoked glass with Ethanology Mel, raw honey, aromatic and oak bitters and a muddled orange peel, and garnished with a dehydrated orange.
It’s a neo-traditional take on a smoked Old Fashioned,” he said, noting that his Ethanology Mel is distilled from local honey. “With that cocktail, we cold-smoke a glass with a cherry chip.”
The abundance of special ingredients found on various farms, from local growers and along rivers provide unique recipes for everyone, said Jen Viren, owner of Taproot Cider House in downtown Traverse City.
The cider house has 17 ciders on draft and a menu full of specialty drinks, many of which are mixed with cider.
“I get really excited about our summer cocktails,” she said. “I like to showcase fruit of the season and herbs of the season, and I have a lot of fun cultivating ingredients for featured cocktails. I cultivate elderflowers while kayaking the Betsie River.”
For example, she’ll take the elderflowers and infuse them into a syrup and mix it with a local gin, a slice of lemon and top it with a little house cider.
“We also have an elderberry cider. You get to see it from the flower to the berry,” she said.
Taproot uses cherries throughout the summer to showcase summer drinks and ciders, and it also has a Blueberry Lavender Lemonade, with lavender-infused vodka, wild blueberry syrup and fresh lemon topped with lavender hard cider and garnished with a cinnamon sugar rim.
“We also have a Rhubarb Appletini,” Viren said. It has lemongrass-infused gypsy vodka, rhubarb simple syrup, fresh lemon, topped with a splash of dry cider.
“I’ve grown up in the food industry and combining food flavors is really fun,” Viren said. “That’s the fun thing about being in the cider industry. It’s really fun to incorporate all of the essences of every fruit or vegetable or herb.”
An easy summer cocktail that’s great for the beach or on a boat is grabbing a cucumber and muddling it in local botanical gin, lime juice and homemade simple syrup.
“For fun you can add lavender stalks from your garden or from the market that has culinary lavender,” Viren said.
Cherrywood smoked glass, Ethanology Mel, raw honey, aromatic and oak bitters coalesce in this neo-traditional take on a smoked Old Fashioned. Delightfully light and savory, and the perfect punctuation to a summer day.
Chill rocks glass with ice water until the glass is ice cold.
Heavy torch 2 to 4 cherrywood chips and cover glass over flaming chips for smoke infusion.
Muddle orange peal in bottom of rocks glass
Carefully add 5 drops aromatic and oak bitters and 1/4 oz. honey.
Add ice, then 2 oz. of Ethanology Mel.
Stir 30 revolutions with cocktail spoon, and garnish with dehydrated orange wheel.
Rhubarb shrub, Eros wild-foraged Summer Gin, thyme syrup and thyme tincture are folded into this complex and refreshing libation, making it the perfect summertime sipper.
This cocktail is topped with sparking water for a tart and significantly refreshing libation.
In collins glass add:
1 oz. Rhubarb Shrub
1/2 oz. thyme simple syrup
3 drops of thyme tincture
2 oz. Eros Summer Gin
Add ice and top with sparkling water
Garnish with fresh thyme sprig.