Chefs' Picks: Summer Cocktail Favorites

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Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.

With summer in full swing, it’s time to dine outside, in the sun, with a refreshing adult beverage. Here’s some inspiration for drinks that will keep you sipping all through the season. We asked four top toques around the country for their top summer cocktail picks.

Rum Punch

Gavin Pera, Chef de Cuisine, Burlock Coast, Fort Lauderdale

Pera is a hot-weather aficionado. Before manning the stoves at the Ritz-Carlton’s Fort Lauderdale restaurant, Pera spent a year in the Caribbean, where his neighbors had trees laden with tropical fruit growing in their yards. That’s where the chef fell for the cooling effects of an infused rum punch.

“They would buy aged rum from St. John and infuse it with the fruit in Mason jars throughout the week,” says Pera. Now that’s he’s back in South Florida, the chef likes to infuse his cocktails with fresh passion fruit, coconut and pineapple, mixed with rum and poured over ice with a splash of mango nectar.

Get creative with other revitalizing riffs on rum punch, like Geoffrey Zakarian’s version that combines watermelon puree with orange and lime juices.

Flavored Margaritas

Marcus Woodham, Executive Chef, Tujague’s, New Orleans

As the chef of New Orleans’ second-oldest restaurant (currently celebrating its 160th anniversary), which is both the home of the oldest stand-up bar in America and the birthplace of the grasshopper cocktail, Woodham knows a thing or two about mixed drinks. After a shift at Tujague’s, Woodham likes to reenergize with the Minor Swing Margarita at Three Muses, prepared by mixologist Kim Patton-Bragg.

“It’s a really light, refreshing cocktail,” Woodham says of the drink, which features hibiscus- and-jalapeno-infused Cabeza tequila, Solerno blood-orange liqueur, lime, and grapefruit soda with a spiced salt rim. “I love the aromatics of the hibiscus and the tartness from the grapefruit soda,” Woodham explains.

Mix up other spins on this spicy-and-sour combination with recipes like Geoffrey Zakarian’s grapefruit margarita rimmed with chipotle salt and Bobby Flay’s trio of ginger, grapefruit and tamarind margaritas.

Large-Batch Lemonade and Mojitos for the Masses

Troy Guard, Chef/Owner, TAG Restaurant Group (TAG, Bubu, TAG Burger Bar, Guard and Grace, Los Chingones, Lucky Cat, Sugarmill), Denver

Denver may have mild summers compared with the South, but Guard still likes to cool down with fruit-forward drinks incorporating fresh ingredients. His favorites are kumquat-jalapeno mojitos and strawberry-cucumber-vodka lemonade. “I make these at home, whether I’m entertaining for a crowd or just hanging out with my family in the backyard,” he says.

Mix up your own restorative pitchers of liquid refreshment with recipes like Bobby Flay’s mojito limeade, Nancy Fuller’s spicy mojitos and Tyler Florence’s vodka lemonade.

The Dark (Liquor) Horse

Jason Rea, Executive Chef, W San Francisco

Mark Twain once famously said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” That may be why Rea isn’t as much into the sweeter, fruitier drinks. His favorite cocktail, no matter the season, is the Boulevardier, which combines equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth and bourbon (“with maybe a little extra bourbon,” he says). Rea ensures his version is extra-cold by shaking it well with ice and serving it in a glass from the freezer. He livens it up by adding the essence of orange on the top at the end. “At home, I like to keep it easy,” says Rea. “This Boulevardier is easy to remember and comes together quick.”

If you don’t have bourbon and Campari on hand, swap in another type of whiskey and some bitters for a Manhattan like this one from Ted Allen.

Go cocktail crazy and try these recipes:

5 Jelly Shots You May Not Be Ready For

Summer Sangria Recipes

Fruit-Filled Cocktails

If you're hosting:

Summer Drink Cheat Sheet

Minor Swing Margarita photo courtesy of Three Muses