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Summer Sparkle

Cocktails that tame the heat

Andria
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Catharine Faulconer and Kim Martin

PRETTY IN PINK Catharine Faulconer and Kim Martin shake up cocktails, including their Rose Queen, a cranberry-vodka drink named for the Tyler Rose Festival (Catharine and Kim grew up in Tyler, Texas together), and their Queen Bee vodka. (Photo: Chris Bailey Photography)

A little bit of summer’s what the whole year’s all about. – John Mayer, “Wildfire”

Looking for summer in a glass? Try one of these favorite hot-weather cocktails. Any one of them is sure to hit the spot and make you wish for summer all year long.

Friends since their days growing up in Tyler, Catharine Faulconer and Kim Martin (now longtime Houstonians) have always had a lot of fun together, whether they’re taking a girls’ trip or experimenting with cocktails behind Catharine’s bright, glittering bar. Through lots of the latter, they’ve come up with a favorite new cocktail: the Rose Queen, aptly named for their beloved Tyler Rose Festival and their new Queen Bee brand of vodka that they’re making from honey. This sparkly refresher couldn’t be simpler – or more perfect for a summer afternoon.

Rose Queen

Makes 1

1 ½ ounces vodka (such as Queen Bee Osmia)
½ cup Fresca
½ cup cranberry juice
Soda (such as Perrier or Topo Chico)
Lime for garnish

Fill a lowball glass with ice. Add the vodka, Fresca, and cranberry juice. Stir to combine. Top with soda and garnish with a lime wedge or wheel. If you’re feeling fancy, Catharine and Kim suggest garnishing the drink with rose petals.

Rose Queen

Rose Queen, a cranberry-vodka drink named for the Tyler Rose Festival (Catharine and Kim grew up in Tyler, Texas together), and their Queen Bee vodka. (Photo: Chris Bailey Photography)

It seems there is always a new fruity, frozen concoction that will be the “It Drink” of the summer. Frosé anyone? This summer may or may not be the year of the Mangonada, but that really doesn’t matter when you have a slushie this delicious in your repertoire. It can be yours and yours alone, or it can be the thing that brings everyone to your backyard. 

Chamoy is a Mexican condiment made from chiles, lime, and fruit that is all at once sour, savory, and sweet. Layered in a Mangonada, chamoy not only foils the sweet mango, it also gives the drink its bands of jewel red. A sprinkle of tajin – another sour, savory, sweet condiment, this one in a dried seasoning form – ups the zest factor. 

Mangonada

Makes 4

4 cups mango cubes, cut from 2 ripe mangoes
Juice of 2 limes
¼ cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups ice cubes
3 ounces tequila blanco (such as Casamigos)
Chamoy
Tajin
Tamarind candy straws

Place all but ¼ cup of the mangoes and the lime juice, sugar, and water in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the ice and tequila and blend to a slushie consistency. Taste, adding more tequila if you like. Pour into a lidded container and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

To serve, spoon a tablespoon or 2 of chamoy into the bottoms of each of four glasses, then sprinkle with a pinch of tajin. Pour about ½ cup of the mango slushie on top. Repeat with another tablespoon or 2 of chamoy, tajin, and mango slushie until the glasses are full. Top with another sprinkle of tajin. Garnish with the remaining ¼ cup mango cubes and tamarind candy straws.

Mangonada

A frozen Mangonada (pictured, bottom photo) marries sweet and spice. (Photo: Andria Dilling)

The late Southern writer Julia Reed offered a recipe for a Strawberry Basil Mojito in her book Julia Reed’s New Orleans: Food, Fun, and Field Trips for Letting the Good Times Roll. The Garden & Gun columnist and author of eight books on hospitality and the quintessential Southern life knew a few things about traditions, cooking, and entertaining, so much so that the Mississippi Arts Commission named her a cultural ambassador for the state. In Julia Reed’s New Orleans, she wrote: “I use the word ‘mojito’ fairly loosely here, as I substitute lemon for the usual lime juice and basil for the mint. By any name, this is a refreshing cocktail that makes excellent use of the bounty of berry season.” 

Strawberry Basil Mojito 

From Julia Reed’s New Orleans: Food, Fun, and Field Trips for Letting the Good Times Roll

Makes 6

2 cups white rum (such as Old New Orleans Crystal Rum)
2 cups Strawberry Basil Syrup (recipe follows)
Club soda
Strawberry halves and basil sprigs for garnish

In a large pitcher, stir the rum and berry syrup together to mix well. Pour into highball glasses over ice and top each one with a splash of club soda. Garnish with two or three strawberry halves and a leafy sprig of basil.

Strawberry Basil Syrup:

4 cups strawberries, washed, stemmed, and halved
Juice of 2 lemons
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 bunch basil

Place the berry halves in a large bowl and crush them using a potato masher (or pulse briefly in a food processor). Place the crushed berries in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes until the fruit is very soft.

Strain the mixture into a medium saucepan, pressing as much juice from the berries as possible with a ladle. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar is just dissolved.

Remove from heat and add the basil. Let steep for about 20 minutes. Remove the basil and strain the syrup into a pitcher. Any leftover syrup can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Strawberry Basil Mojito

Julia Reed's Strawberry Basil Mojito (pictured, top photo) is a summery take on the classic. (Photo: Andria Dilling)

In recent years, Ranch Water has emerged as the unofficial cocktail of Texas. Some say it originated in the ’20s when Alfred Gage, the West Texas rancher who opened the Gage Hotel in Marathon, needed a cold drink as a foil to a hot, dusty summer. Others say the drink came about later, maybe concocted by an Austin bartender in the ’90s. Any way you see it, Ranch Water is a current luminary in the world of cocktails. 

Spicy Ranch Water

Makes 1

2 ounces tequila blanco
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 to 3 slices fresh jalapeños
Crushed ice
Topo Chico

Stir the tequila and lime juice together in a highball glass. Add the jalapeño slices and stir again. Fill the glass with crushed ice and top it off with Topo Chico and another stir.

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