Spring and summer are the seasons for long drinks—tall, low-alcohol cocktails that may be sipped languidly or quaffed to quench a warm-weather thirst, depending on your circumstances and the mood of your companions. They don’t contain a long list of exotic ingredients, and virtually anyone can make them. Here are some refreshing recommendations.
The granddaddy of summer drinks was first concocted in 1823 by James Pimm, who went on to establish a chain of oyster houses in London. Once hugely popular, the Pimm’s brand declined during the 1970s and 1980s before experiencing a revival about 10 years ago. Today, you’re most likely to find Pimm’s No. 1 Cup—a gin-based blend with a sweet and spicy tang, coming in at around 25 percent alcohol.
The Pimm’s Cup is extremely customizable; you can improvise based on your whims and tastes. The most familiar version comes from Napoleon House in the New Orleans French Quarter: Fill a 12-ounce glass with ice, add 1 1/4 ounces Pimm’s No. 1 and 3 ounces lemonade, top off with 7-Up, and garnish with cucumber.
THE COLLINS FAMILY
Before Tom there was John, though the drinks bearing their names are the same. The John Collins—named for a headwaiter at a London hotel—was first mentioned in 1869. By the time the legendary Jerry Thomas published his Bar-Tenders Guide in 1876, the cocktail was known as a Tom Collins, and the backstory was more titillating: Tom Collins was a political activist who died in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Either way, the preparation is simple. Mix a 3:2:1 blend of Old Tom Gin, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and simple syrup in a tall, ice-filled glass, top with soda, garnish with a lemon slice and a maraschino cherry—and enjoy.
The Pompier (French for “fireman”) swept New York café society in the 1930s and was the forerunner of the Vermouth Cassis. Regardless of what you call it, begin by filling a highball glass with ice and pouring 2 ounces of white Nouilly Prat vermouth. Add half an ounce of crème de cassis, club soda, and a slice of lemon. For a fun variation, swap the vermouth for Lillet Blanc.
You may not have heard of Ngiam Tong Boon, but you’re probably familiar with the cocktail he invented at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel in 1915. It’s not exactly low in alcohol, but man does not live on fruit juice alone. To make it, add gin, Cherry Heering, Cointreau, and Bénédictine to a shaker with grenadine, ice, pineapple and lime juices, and a dash of bitters. (For the “official” recipe, consult the International Bartenders Association) Strain into a highball glass and retreat to the veranda to watch the boats go by.
PORTS IN A STORM
Most of us think of Port as that red, sweet, sticky stuff we drink after dinner. Visit a restaurant in Portugal, however, and you’ll be offered a pre-dinner cocktail of white Port and tonic. Almost all of the country’s major Port lodges produce reliable versions. The standard ratio of tonic to white Port is 2:1, but you’ll want to experiment to find your optimum blend. Make sure to use a high-quality mixer, such as Fever Tree or Q Tonic, and add some citrus or mint leaves to liven things up.