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Back in the mix: cocktails for outdoor meet-ups

Posted on Apr 14, 2021

What cocktails are good to make for a gathering outside?
Jess, Bath

The key to park-time drinking (in moderation, of course) is keeping things chilled. “Warm cocktails are one of the worst things in the world,” says Claire Strickett, co-author with Bert Blaize of Which Wine When. Salvation, though, comes in the form of a vacuum flask: “Obviously it keeps things cold, too, so make a cocktail, put it in the fridge and then into the Thermos.” One such drink could be a cosmopolitan, or, as Strickett puts it, a Cosmos. “I’ve spent lockdown rediscovering Sex and the City, so I’m back into them.” She shakes 30ml Chase vodka, 30ml triple sec, 50ml cranberry juice and 20ml lime juice per person, chills overnight, then transports in her trusty flask and garnishes with a slice of lime on arrival.

If the weather’s on your side, a frozen strawberry daiquiri will have you embracing park drinking with gusto. “It won’t freeze solid,” Blaize says, “because of the sugar and alcohol, but by the time you walk to the park, it should be slushy.” For eight people, he infuses 700ml Bacardi Carta Blanca rum and 100ml water with 350g strawberries for 12 hours. “Muddle [that’s barkeep-speak for ‘squash’] the strawberries slightly to extract some of the juice, then strain the liquid [save the fruit solids for a dessert].” Blaize then adds 250g lime juice and 300ml sugar syrup to the rum mix, pours it all into a bottle and freezes – “A soft container is best, so you can squish up the ice and make a daiquiri slushie.”

For Richard Godwin, author of The Spirits: A Guide to Modern Cocktailing, it’s all about the base. He mixes equal parts Campari and Italian vermouth at home, then tops with fizzy water at the park for an americano. “It’s a good elixir that’s quite versatile.” Case in point: top with prosecco to make a sbagliato or neat spirits for a negroni.

Max Venning, co-owner of Top Cuvée, Three Sheets and Little Mercies in London, also subscribes to this mantra. Americano aside, happy hour could include a tom or elderflower and fennel collins: “You want drinks that are longer, lower in alcohol and refreshing.” Venning finely slices a fennel bulb and adds to a bottle of elderflower cordial or liqueur. Then, at your outdoor destination, add 25ml-50ml to a cup/glass filled with ice and top with soda water or sparkling wine.

If you’re mixing in the garden, you can’t go far wrong with a tea-based punch. They tend to have a lower ABV, which, says Ryan Chetiyawardana, AKA Mr Lyan, “won’t knock you out but still feels celebratory”. Godwin makes cold brew tea by infusing loose-leaf darjeeling, earl grey or jasmine in a jug of water overnight (you could also add citrus peel, “Pimm’s-like things” and spices, too). “Strain, add some sweetness, booze – dark rum is best - and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to round it out.” Chetiyawardana adds a big block of ice to keep the punch fresh, but it’s also good warm.

Other warming things include a manhattan hip flask, for which Venning mixes two parts whisky to one part vermouth, a dash of bitters and a teaspoon of sweet liquor (maraschino, orange curaçao, bénédictine). Alternatively, go for a chai latte laced with a little brandy: “That’s good for colder days.”

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