Spring is done. She has said farewell to us for the year and her hussy sister, summer, has come for the duration. But there’s one way to beat the heat: Sipping on summer drinks. When it’s 100 degrees out and the sun is beating down on our porch umbrellas, sweat is dripping and sliding from the glass of awesome that you’ve ordered on the patio of your favorite watering hole. You put the glass to your lips, inhale the freshly pressed mint, and pick up hints of the citrus oils that are all over the glass. Taking that first sip puts you instantly in a better place. In fact, it makes everything better.
Many of our favorite drinks were invented in towns with heat like that. The mouth of the mighty Mississippi gives way to one of my favorite towns: New Orleans. It’s hot, humid, somewhat funky smelling, and full of so much character, especially when it comes to imbibing. Some even believe that it may be where the first use of the word cocktail comes from. One thing is for sure, regardless, it is home to the finest libations for beating down that southern torridness. Dixieland gave us the Vieux Carre, the Ramos Gin Fizz, the mighty Hurricane, the Absinthe Frappe, and my personal favorite, the Sazerac. They all take the wind out of the fervor of summer’s sails.
Another one of my favorite cities, Chicago, has the kind of blistering summer heat that makes people sing the blues. In this Midwest city, you can find some of the best bars in the country—with some of the best barkeeps as well. Its greatest contribution to a drink menu is laced in the style of the mojito, but refreshes the soul in a different manner: The Southside is full of summer flavors. It’s comprised of gin (I dig on English gins for this application), mint, lime (sometimes lemon), simple syrup, and soda. Make it as you would a mojito, but remember to not shred the mint. Gently press it to release the oils, not the chlorophyll. It’s crisp, refreshing, and cooling to the bone.
Here in town, our barkeeps have taken note of that very noble list of summer refreshments, sometimes spinning the recipes, but often sticking true to the patterns. Head to Mono Loco if you like different takes on margaritas. Make your way to the Skybar and grab a Pimm’s Cup, or its spin on it, the Pimm’s Punch. Downstairs, Matt Pawlina does an ethereal Ramos Gin Fizz in the Library Bar: gin, citrus, cream, sugar, and a meringue that doesn’t stop. It’s like an adult creamsicle for sipping.
Drop in at Zocalo and let them get creative. I often grab a Rickey (the official drink of Washington, D.C., as that is where it was invented) here and the ice makes it that much more special.
Make your way across the mall to Citizen Burger Bar and nab a table on the patio. Patrick McClure can settle your heat flash with a wonderful recreation of the staple Sazerac—rye, Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe, and a little sugar. Try this one at home, too. Just make sure that you get Peychaud’s bitters, as no other bitters are acceptable in this wondrous elixir. Much like summer, if you’re gonna do it, do it right.
Nick Crutchfield is the bar manager at Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar.