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Summertime Sippin'

By Joe Nolan

Some of Nashville’s best cocktail craftsmen share their favorite dog days drinks

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W hile we hope for a mild season in Nashville every year, summer in the South inevitably means heat and humidity. Of course, that also means river floats, swimming holes, patio umbrellas and cold drinks. While many of us are still finishing up our spring cleaning and getting the last of our gardens in the ground, it’s also the time of year when thoughts of green vines heavy with red tomatoes turn to daydreams about the perfect bloody Mary, and strawberry season inspires decadent daiquiris bursting with the taste of summer.

* quote Tequila is awesome in the summer, and all drinks with fresh fruit juices are great thirst quenchers...

Thirsty 3st

Local Table recently talked warm-weather libations with 3st of the Month founder Jesse Goldstein. Goldstein’s events take place on the third day of every month, regardless of what day of the week that may be. Goldstein and Mountain creative agency launched his “monthly drinking holidays” last August and each event has had a different theme, location and cause. Their Tres de Mayo event at the Nashville Farmers’ockqote class Market featured 14 brands of tequila along with various mescal and vodka varieties.

“Our June event–Juniper June–will be at Riverwood Mansion. We’ll be focusing on gin drinks primarily,” says Goldstein. “We’ll have food from Lavender Lane and the ticket sales will benefit On Target 4 Veterans.” Goldstein is the owner of Food-Sherriff.com and he specializes in recipe development and branding.

“Each month, we create tons of different recipes on our website that pertain to the products in the event,” he explains. Local Table asked Goldstein for a summertime favorite and his first thought was perfectly peachy:

Prairie Peach Cocktail

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Prairie Organic Gin
.5 oz. Peach brandy
.5 oz. Peachcello liqueur (or peach schnapps) 
2 Dashes of peach bitters
Fresh peach
Fresh basil
Splash of club soda (optional)

Add 2-3 basil leaves and 1/4 of a fresh peach to the bottom of your cocktail shaker. Muddle to release flavors before adding gin, brandy, peach liqueur and peach bitters. Fill with ice and shake vigorously to chill. Strain into a chilled rocks glass with a few ice cubes and garnish with a slice of peach and bit of basil. If you prefer, top with a splash of club soda.

Going Dutch

When we think of cocktails in East Nashville, the Holland House is always at the top of our list. Bartender Nate Hernandez took the time to chat with us about summertime drinking.

“I think about things that are refreshing,” he says. “Mint julep is number one for me—I love that cold tin you drink it out of. Peaches are also a big one for summer cocktails—I love to use peach bitters and liqueurs.” Hernandez waxed about how a cool cucumber can pair with various liquors and stated that anything with rum tastes great in the summer, but then he threw a curveball.

“People don’t think about it, but absinthe is a great drink in the summertime. The anise and fennel and nettles all have a really refreshing and cooling affect on your palate.” Hernandez gave us the step-by-step on Holland House’s classic preparation of the infamous drink:

“We do a traditional absinthe drip. We have a reservoir full of ice water with these taps that can control the drip. The ice water dilutes the absinthe, which is like 130 proof. You put an ounce of absinthe in the glass [and] lay the slotted absinthe spoon on top with a sugar cube. As the sugar melts and the water drips through the spoon into the absinthe, it creates these milky swirls in the green liquid called a ‘louche.’ Once the sugar is dissolved, it’s ready to drink. You’re looking for about a mix of 4:1, water to absinthe.

For home mixologists, absinthe spoons can be found at liquor stores and are readily available online. Hernandez recommends a bottle of St. George Absinthe Vert, the first American absinthe legally available after the ban on selling the drink was lifted in 2007. This absinthe boasts a deep green color and it’s available at Woodland Wine Merchant in East Nashville.

Stone Cold Cocktails

We’ve featured the garden-fresh food at the Stone Fox in our pages before, but the West Nashville restaurant/music venue is also a good place to grab a great drink when the days get longer. Daniel DeArmas started as a “lowly brunch barback” at the Fox, but now he’s the bar manager and the man in the know when it comes to keeping it cool on the city’s west side.

“You want something light and sweet, and summertime is more about clear liquor and lighter beer,” says DeArmas. “Tequila is awesome in the summer, and all drinks with fresh fruit juices are great thirst quenchers.”

And DeArmas ought to know from thirsty: The Stone Fox will host its annual Nashville Outlines live music block party in August. The Fox also hosts seasonal markets and caters satellite bars at off-premises events and venues like Third Man Records.

“Our patio is off the hook in the summer,” says DeArmas. “We’re very dog friendly and it’s a great place for day-drinking when it’s warm out.” We asked DeArmas for a recipe from the Stone Fox's summer menu and he sent along a wicked tequila recipe that was created by fellow bartender Matt Button and named by the Stone Fox’s founder and owner, Elise Tyler.

“Elise named the drink ‘Touch of Evil.’ She’s done a lot of work in films and there’s an old Orson Welles movie called Touch of Evil. The movie takes place in Mexico and I think the tequila was the inspiration,” says DeArmas.

Touch of Evil

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. El Jimador Tequila
.5 oz. Aperol
.25 oz. Simple syrup
.5 oz. Lemon juice
3 Drops of ghost pepper sauce

Shake ingredients. Muddle half of an orange slice, half of a lemon slice and a cherry in a rocks glass. Leave fruit in glass, fill with ice and strain ingredients over ice.

Getting Social

As the beverage director for go-to local sipping spots like Pinewood Social, Patterson House and Merchants, Matt Tocco has a lot to say when it comes to pairing sunny days with delicious, refreshing cocktails.

“Of course, I immediately think of a daiquiri. You take rum and lime and sugar and see what you can do. And what one rum can’t manage, three of them usually can.”

“There’s a drink at Pinewood we make with a rum from the Dominican Republic, which is drier than most rums. It also includes rum from Venezuela, which has…a funkier taste because it’s brewed in a copper pot–it’s a fuller, richer rum,” says Tocco. “We add lime juice to that, along with Lyle’s Golden Syrup—it’s something bakers use a lot; it’s an inverted sugar that won’t crystallize in the drink.” An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy is named for a Lyle Lovett song:

An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy

Ingredients:

1.0 oz. Brugal Anejo Rum
1.0 oz. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva
.75 oz. Lyle’s Golden Syrup (3 parts Lyle’s to 1 part water)
.75 oz. Fresh-squeezed lime juice

Shake ingredients and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a floating lime wheel drizzled with Angostura bitters.

A good rum drink immediately conjures visions of exotic island locales, and part of the daiquiri’s appeal is its mysterious provenance.

“There are stories that it was invented by an American man living in Cuba, but something tells me that the Cubans probably thought to put rum and sugar and limes together first,” says Tocco. “But, you know what they say, ‘You should never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’”

We’ll drink to that.

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