Favorite Summer Cocktails

These classics withstand the test of time and refresh both body and soul.

Coastal Pimm’s Cup. (photo courtesy Meadowood Napa Valley)

Summertime cocktails lean heavily on copious use of ice, fresh tonics and juices to balance out the spirits we tend to enjoy this time of year. They serve as accompaniment to days on the beach or by the pool, and old-fashioned games of croquet or badminton on the lawn. These classics withstand the test of time and refresh both body and soul.

Gin and Tonic: An essential part of summer, the gin and tonic is designed to refresh and relax. An inventive take on the classic is a garden-inspired cocktail called Ocean, made by bartender Pamela Bushling at Madrona Manor in Healdsburg. It combines Death’s Door gin, Lillet Blanc, oyster leaf (named for its briny aroma) and estate-grown lemon juice. At girl and the fig in Sonoma, try the Ginny Rose, with New Amsterdam gin, Jack Rudy tonic, elderflower and rose pressé, soda water and a lemon wedge.

Margarita: Made properly, the Margarita balances the triangulation of sweet, sour and salty. Farmstead in St. Helena makes a Farmstead Margarita that’s a blithe blend of Azul tequila blanco, homemade sour, agave nectar and lime, with a salt rim. Healdsburg’s Campo Fina also serves a worthy one, from El Jimador blanco tequila, Del Maguey mezcal, lime, agave nectar and chile salt.

Tom Collins: A refreshing combination of gin, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, club soda and an orange and cherry for garnish, the Tom Collins is easy to make, easy to drink and easy to love. For the ultimate Wine Country twist on the classic, head to Goose & Gander in St. Helena for a cooling Cucumber Collins, a combination of Square One Cucumber vodka, yuzu, lemon, fresh and pickled cucumber, huckleberries and seltzer.

Pimm’s Cup: James Pimm was a Londoner and oyster bar owner who started making what he called the “house cup” in 1823, a gin prettied up with fruit extract and an array of liqueurs. That became Pimm’s No. 1 and before long, the cocktail-hour expression “Pimm’s o’clock” was common. Today Pimm’s No. 1 is traditionally combined with lemon-lime soda or lemonade and topped with Champagne and a cucumber spear or apple slice for garnish. It’s synonymous with summer. Stop by Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena for a leisurely game of croquet and a Coastal Pimm’s Cup, which features ginger beer. Or try Barndiva in Healdsburg for Play the Cat, a classic gin-based Pimm’s Cup with mint syrup and three citrus juices.


Coastal Pimm’s Cup
Courtesy Scott Beattie, Beverage Director, Meadowood Estate Events
Serves 1

1½ ounces Pimm’s No. 1
½ ounce St. George Terroir gin
¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 ½ ounces Bundaberg ginger beer
thin cucumber slices
wild bay laurel leaves

Add all ingredients except the ginger beer to an empty mixing glass. Fill with ice, seal the glass and shake it a few times. Unseal the glass and add the ginger beer. Swirl the mixture and add it to a 12- to 14-ounce Collins glass. Garnish with cucumber slices and bay laurel leaves.