Let's raise a glass to summer: Refreshingly different drinks
When the sun is high, only something long and cool will do, says Gillian Orr.
We can all agree that so far the summer has been a total washout, but that's not to say it can't turn around. And as for those sporadic days of sunshine, you'd be a fool not to want to spend them outside, a nice glass of something-or-other in hand. But just as the clothes we wear and the food we eat change in the warmer months, so does what we want to drink.
And while summer boozing can be a more casual affair – at what other time of year is a plastic cup appropriate for entertaining? – there are also unnecessary rules that many people find themselves sticking to (if you think you have to say goodbye to your beloved red wine until October, it's simply not the case). After all, there should be more to summer drinking than a jug of Pimm's.
Sancerre is an obvious choice, but there is good reason why it is plenty of people's go-to summer white: it is wonderfully fresh and a great, light accompaniment for dining. If you're interested in serving up something a little different, why not try a Pouilly-Fumé, which is situated just across the river from Sancerre. "Their wines have a slightly more smoky character but are no less appealing than Sancerre," says Gus Moore Danowski, wine curator at online wine retailer Lot18. "They are really fun but so often get overlooked." Don't fall into the trap of over-chilling your white either. Keep it in the fridge for no longer than half an hour. "I think it's tragic when people serve white wine far too cold," he says. "If you chill a wine too much it kind of shuts down. When wine has nice freshness and a balance then you don't want to obscure those qualities. Although it is a wonderful trick to hide a cheap wine's shortcomings."
Nothing says summer quite like sharing a bottle of rosé iwith friends, and the obvious region to choose them from is Aix-en-Provence. "We all know everyone adores rosé but I think it's a shame that everyone goes straight to rosés from there," says Moore Danowski. "I would urge people to try out rosés from the Tavel region. They've got this lovely sandy soil that gives the wine a freshness that you don't always get with generic Aix-en-Provence. I think with summer wines people want things that have freshness and a good acidity that's well integrated."
In the same way that some people opt for a white dress or trousers in the summer, so many instinctively reach for the white wine. But red wines shouldn't be ignored. It's barbeque season after all; what else are you going to enjoy with your sirloin? "It's really fun to find reds that you can chill a little bit," says Moore Danowski. "Look out for reds that have been fermented in a steel tank as opposed to oak so they don't have such pronounced tannins." Suggested reds for serving a little colder are Grenaches from the Languedoc and Beaujolais, which should be chilled for no longer than 10 minutes.
There are some wonderful golden ales that can be served a bit cooler than their darker relatives, which can be more pleasing in the warmer weather. There has been a huge surge in golden ales recently and although they can be consumed all year round, they are very much seen as a summer drink. Some breweries only produce them in the summer.
Harvest Pale was voted Champion Beer of Britain in 2010 and is widely available. "Like all golden ales it has a great deal of floral herbal hop character but it's not going to punch you in the face with hop bitterness," says Roger Protz of the Good Beer Guide.
If it's hot, chances are you'll want to drink a couple more pints than usual so you might want to stick to beers with a lower ABV. Loweswater Gold is another golden ale that Protz recommends. The other thing to bear in mind is the revival of IPA, or India Pale Ale. "It was a beer style of the 19th century, which virtually disappeared in the 20th, but now it's back in a big way," says Protz.
"It's good for summer because it was originally brewed for the British Raj in India, who were demanding refreshing beer, they didn't want stout or mild, so brewers developed this new style of beer that was designed and developed for hot-weather drinking." One to look out for is Worthington's White Shield, which is bottled and sold in most supermarkets. For lagers, you can't go wrong with a refreshing pilsner.
Don't be afraid to make up your own cocktails in the summer; often, anything goes. Gin, vodka and rum are popular base spirits and then it's just a case of experimenting with fusions, mixers and juices. "One of the basic rules is always to keep it simple; keep it enjoyable and easy to drink," says Erik Lorincz, head bartender at the American Bar at The Savoy. "You don't want it to be a heavy cocktail for heavy palettes. It should be a cocktail that can be enjoyed at any time so we like to focus on fresh ingredients such as herbs and fruits. Seasonal fresh herbs are great to try out. Citrus flavours are wonderful in summer. Good quality ingredients are a must. And have a good balance between sweet and sour and the strength of the alcohol and the dilution, which can be any kind of infusion or juice."
If you're entertaining a number of people then a punch can not only be an easy way to fill everyone's glass but also an impressive centrepiece. For the Diamond Jubilee, Lorincz made one that included gin with an orange and grapefruit shrub, and an Earl Grey tea fusion, before being topped off with champagne. If you prefer to stick to a well-known classic then you can't go wrong with a caipirinha, the Brazilian favourite. Sometimes the simplest ones really are the best.
The Perfect Caipirinha
from Cabana by David Ponte
One and a half limes, cut into rough cubes
3 teaspoons golden caster sugar (white or granulated can be used)
Put the limes and caster sugar into the bottom of a tumbler, and muddle together using a muddler or the end of a rolling pin/end of a serving spoon. Add the Cachaça and crushed ice, giving it a light stir. Top the glass with more crushed ice.
from the American Bar, The Savoy by Erik Lorincz
50ml Tanqueray No 10 gin
Three drops of celery bitters
Four leaves of fresh basil
25ml fresh lemon juice
20ml sugar syrup
Dash of egg white
Shake in a cocktail shaker, double strain, serve in a Martini glass.
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