It's Island Time: How to Make the Ultimate Summer Cocktail

Photo by: Anjali M. PInto ©Lettuce Entertain You Inc

Anjali M. PInto, Lettuce Entertain You Inc

If a beach escape isn’t in the cards this summer, ramp up the tropical factor with some island-themed snacks and perhaps a tiki cocktail, to take advantage of the warm weather. The tiki masters behind Chicago’s popular Three Dots and a Dash shake up to 2,000 rum-centric drinks on a typical night.

Beverage director Diane Corcoran oversees the menu of fruity, potent and often flaming combinations, including the classic Mai Tai, the coconut-based Painkiller and the smoky-sweet, summer-ready Bikinis After Dark (recipe below).

“The key to great tiki cocktails is keeping it balanced,” she says. “Use fresh juices — pineapple, lemon and lime — and get flavors from things that aren’t syrup. You can use a lot of fresh fruit and purees without added sugar to get that fruit flavor.”

For an easy, customizable summer party bar, Corcoran recommends a DIY daiquiri bar. “A great daiquiri is just rum, lime juice and superfine sugar, ” she says. “Make a big batch, then add in whatever fruit you find.” She recommends grilling strawberries, peaches, pineapples and other summery fruits, then letting guests shake their choice into the premixed cocktail to add seasonal flavor. “It’s refreshing and gives you the fruit essence without making a host create each cocktail to order.”

If you don't have plans to fire up the grill, get in the spirit with the Bikinis After Dark, which muddles grilled or broiled just-charred pineapples with a three-rum medley, and dream of far-off beaches.

Bikinis After Dark

Adapted from Diane Corcoran of Three Dots and a Dash


4 pineapple chunks, plus additional for garnish

1 ounce agricole rum

1 ounce dark Jamaican rum

1/2 ounce 151 proof rum

1 ounce orgeat (almond-flavored) syrup

1 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup


Lightly char pineapple under a broiler, just until slightly darkened.

Put one chunk in each glass, and muddle to release juices. Add crushed ice.

In a shaker, combine the rest of the ingredients over ice. Shake for 10 seconds.

Strain into the glasses. Garnish with additional pineapple.

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

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