The Artisanal Kitchen: Summer Cocktails

Refreshing Margaritas, Mimosas, and Daiquiris—and the World’s Best Gin and Tonic


By Nick Mautone

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With their thirst-quenching profile, crisp acidity, and vibrant fruit flavors, juicy summer cocktails are pure refreshment and just what we crave, whether lounging poolside or working the grill. And here, from expert mixologist and hospitality maven Nick Mautone, are over 45 no-fail recipes for the very best of them, from classics like the piña colada and the Tom Collins to the perfect margarita and a killer mojito. Includes cocktails with wine, like peach sangria, and even fruit-forward alcohol-free cocktails like virgin watermelon punch. Oh, and that world’s best gin and tonic? The secret is ginger syrup.


Gin is a distillate of cereal grains, especially corn and barley, although wheat and rye are also used. It is distilled three times (rectified), and during the distillation process, aromatic herbs and spices called botanicals are infused into the base neutral spirit. All gin includes juniper, and most gins contain six to ten different botanicals (like coriander, angelica, orange peel, and cardamom).

The two most prominent styles of gin are Dutch and London dry. Dutch gin is 70 to 80 proof (35 to 40 percent alcohol) and is made from rye, corn, and barley and distilled in pot stills and aged in oak casks. This gin is excellent on its own or as a mixer. London dry gin is higher in alcohol than Dutch gin. The botanicals are added during the distillation process when the base spirit is actually in a vapor form before recondensing. This is a perfect martini gin or great as a mixer.

Singapore Sling

Makes four 7½-ounce drinks

If you look up this recipe in a hundred different cocktail books, you'll get a hundred different versions. Some recipes call for the addition of ½ ounce Bénédictine (an aromatic French cordial) or ½ ounce Cointreau to each serving for sweetness and complexity. Others call for a dash of pineapple juice or bitters. There are even some that call for all of the above.

Ice for serving

8 ounces gin

2 ounces Cherry Heering (see Straight Up) or cherry brandy

2 ounces fresh lemon juice (from approximately 2 lemons)

2 ounces Simple Syrup, Pineapple Syrup, or Ginger Syrup

16 ounces club soda

4 orange slices for garnish

4 maraschino cherries, homemade (recipe follows) or store-bought, for garnish


4 highball glasses

Fill the highball glasses with ice.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the gin, Cherry Heering, lemon juice, and syrup. Shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker is thoroughly beaded with sweat and is extremely cold to the touch.

Strain into the glasses and top each with 4 ounces club soda. Garnish each with an orange slice and a cherry and serve.

Straight Up

Cherry Heering is a Danish cherry liqueur invented in the late nineteenth century. It is easy to find and quite delicious. If you cannot find Cherry Heering, use cherry brandy instead.

Maraschino Cherries

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cherries

This homemade version of the traditional "cocktail cherry" requires very little effort. Though it is used sparingly, the grape juice adds body and complexity to the syrup, enhancing the flavor and color of the cherries and balancing out any unripe undertones. The star anise adds a hint of the exotic; if it's unavailable, cardamom or cinnamon can be used instead. Almond, a traditional pairing with cherry, adds a mellow roundness to the cherries. The melding of these flavors happens during the long steeping in the refrigerator. During the winter when fresh cherries are not available, substitute frozen cherries.

1½ cups water

½ cup red grape juice (use 100% juice)

1 cup sugar

3½ ounces fresh lemon juice (from approximately 3 lemons)

Pinch of salt

1 whole piece of star anise

1 pound sweet cherries, pitted

1 teaspoon almond extract

Planning Ahead
The cherries can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in the refrigerator. The cherries are ready as soon as they are cool but are better if steeped at least 24 hours.

Combine the water, grape juice, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and star anise in a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture until the sugar has dissolved, approximately 5 minutes.

Add the cherries and almond extract. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until the cherries have exuded some of their juice and the syrup has taken on a distinctly cherry flavor. Be careful not to overcook. The point is not to actually cook the cherries but to heat them in the syrup just long enough to bring out their essence.

Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the cherries and the syrup to a bowl, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid, cover tightly, and refrigerate. The longer the cherries steep, the more flavorful they will become.


Quick Maraschinos: When fresh cherries are at their ripest and juiciest during the summer, you can easily prepare quick homemade maraschinos. Sprinkle a handful of pitted cherries with a teaspoon or two of sugar, stir, and refrigerate for 1 hour before using.

Simple Syrup

Makes 2 cups syrup

This recipe for plain sugar syrup provides the base for most of the syrup recipes that follow. For a lighter syrup, omit 1 cup of sugar and proceed as directed.

2 cups sugar

1 cup water

Planning Ahead
The syrup can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and stored in a very clean container in the refrigerator.

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool. Transfer the syrup to a container with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.


Berry Syrup: This variation can be made up to 1 week in advance and yields 2¼ cups syrup. After bringing the sugar and water mixture to a gentle boil, add 1 pint berries, rinsed and stemmed, and reduce the heat. Simmer until the syrup has taken on the color and aroma of the berries, about 10 minutes. Once the syrup has cooled, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing the berries to extract their juice, and store as directed above.

Ginger Syrup: Add one 3-inch length of gingerroot, peeled and cut into six ½-inch pieces, and 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from approximately 1 lime) to the sugar and water mixture. After removing from the heat, discard the ginger pieces and store as directed above.

Mint Syrup: Add 1 bunch mint, approximately 3 ounces, rinsed, with roots trimmed, to the sugar and water mixture. Simmer for 5 minutes instead of 3. When the syrup has cooled, remove the mint and store as directed at left.

Pineapple Syrup: This variation can be made up to 1 week in advance and yields 3½ cups syrup. Cut a small pineapple into 1-inch chunks and add it to 3 cups sugar and 1½ cups water. Simmer for 15 minutes instead of 3, until the pineapple has a glossy, candied look and has exuded its juice. Once the syrup has cooled, strain out the pineapple and store as directed at left.

Vanilla Syrup: After combining the sugar and water, split a vanilla bean in half lengthwise. With the back of a small knife, scrape out the seeds and add the seeds and the bean halves to the saucepan. After removing from the heat, let the syrup cool, remove the vanilla bean halves, and store as directed at left.

Pineapple Sling

Makes four 7½-ounce drinks


On Sale
Mar 30, 2021
Page Count
112 pages

Nick Mautone

Nick Mautone

About the Author

Nick Mautone has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 35 years, most recently as the managing director for the iconic Rainbow Room in New York City. He previously managed restaurants, including New York’s Gotham Bar and Grill and Gramercy Tavern. Mautone and his cocktails have been featured in the New York Times and Food & Wine and on CBS’s The Early Show. He lives in Seattle with his wife and children.

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