(RNN) - Even though we’re nearing the end of July, it doesn't mean summer is even close to being over - for adults, that is. So go ahead, grab your favorite mixer and check out these tips to making the ultimate summer cocktail.
We spoke with Justin Owens, the bartender at Central, a premiere restaurant in Montgomery, AL that is known for using fresh local ingredients. That philosophy extends to the restaurant's drinks.
“The freshest fruits and veggies are always going to taste better,” Owens said.
Even a fresh twist to the popular Moscow Mule will give it an edge.
“You’d be surprised what a little fresh ginger, fresh lime and ginger syrup can do and how well it tastes when compared with the ginger beer,” Owens said.
But it’s important not to go overboard when mixing a fresh cocktail. Owens couldn't stress enough the importance of keeping it simple.
“Don’t overcomplicate things and stick with what you like. If you or your guests like vodka, stick with it because there are so many different things you can do,” he said. “Keep the ingredients fresh and simple. Know what you like and find the common blend.”
Here is Owens' cheat sheet for what makes a good blend when making cocktails:
Now that you have your fresh ingredients and your favorite liquor, the next and best option is to muddle the fresh ingredients and add it to your liquor.
If you want to try making a simple syrup of a second ingredient, it isn't as difficult as it sounds.
Simple syrup is comprised of 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. Combine the two in a small saucepan and bring to a boil using medium heat. Continue boiling until the mixture is clear, creating a rich syrup. It's important to continuously stir the mixture while cooking in order to prevent it from burning.
To add a flavor to simple syrup, bring the sugar, water and about a 1/2 cup of whichever extra ingredient you choose (lavender, basil, vanilla, ginger, etc.) to a boil using medium heat until the mixture is clear. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve and pour into a container suitable for storing. Then your simple syrup is ready.
And if you aren’t a huge fan of the flavor of straight liquor, they make flavored versions for that.
“One of my signature cocktails uses bourbon with a honeysuckle vodka - it’s basically an adult version of an Arnold Palmer,” Owens said.
But the main thing to remember when creating your own cocktail is to have fun. You may not get it right on your first attempt, but it’s all about trial and error. And the possibilities are endless – even for those whose profession is to create the next best flavor.
“I never want to stop learning, I want to keep building the craft and I love finding new ways to do things,” Owens said. “I could get told I have another hundred years on this Earth and I still couldn’t learn it all. “
Two of Owens’ specialty drinks are a cucumber gin-based Berry Basil Smash and a honeysuckle vodka and bourbon-based Southern B.V.T. (Bourbon Vodka Tea). Check out the recipes below and drink up before the next arctic vortex is upon us.
Berry Basil Smash
1 1/2 ounces of homemade infused basil syrup
3/4 ounce of lemon juice
Fresh muddled strawberries (5 to 6 pieces)
2 ounces of Hendricks gin
Shaken and then strained over fresh rocks (ice)
Southern B.V.T. (Bourbon Vodka Tea)
1 1/2 ounces of Clyde Mays bourbon
3/4 ounce of Cathead honeysuckle vodka
3/4 ounce of lemon juice
3/4 ounce of homemade honey syrup
Topped with choice of either sweet or unsweetened tea
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