Summer Sipping: While Away The Hours with a Signature Cocktail
By Ryan Frisch
lands in Vermont with a buzz as we celebrate the season with outdoor parties,
festivals, and trips to the river. In gardens and farms across the state,
berries ripen and flowers bloom during the long, northern days, and the
Burlington Farmers’ Market overflows with heirloom tomatoes and sweet corn.
It’s an exhilarating time, but the most lingering impressions of Vermont’s warm months can be of a deep stillness—evenings when the warm air softens every sound, trails are shaded by thick foliage, and that midsummer moment when time slows down for a week of unbroken heat.
We asked our favorite Burlington-area bartenders for a few seasonal recipes, and they shared cocktail ideas for summer’s two sweet sides. Blending bottles of Vermont-made spirits with locally grown fruit, bright citrus, and aromatics, these are flawless signature cocktails for a summery garden party or a lakeside picnic, but they’ll be just as sweet sipped on your front porch as you watch the first stars appear on a warm, quiet evening.
Back to the Garden
Michael Dunn, Misery Loves Company, Winooski
- 1 1/2 oz Stonecutter Spirits’ barrel-aged gin
- 1 oz cucumber-celery syrup (see recipe below)
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- Soda water
Combine the gin, syrup, and lemon juice in a tall glass filled with ice. Top with soda water (or tonic) and garnish with a cucumber wheel.
- 4 cups sugar
- 4 cups water
- 1/3 cup celery seed
- 4 Kirby cucumbers or 2 English cucumbers, peeled and cubed
Combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Add the celery seed, remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature. When cool, strain the celery seeds out of the syrup, and then blend with cucumber until smooth. Store for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
Neil Goldberg, Mad River Distillers, Burlington
- 2 strawberries
- 3 sage leaves
- 3/4 oz simple syrup
- 2 oz Mad River Distillers First Run Rum
- 1 oz fresh lime juice
Muddle strawberries and two sage leaves with the simple syrup in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker, then add rum, lime juice, and ice. Shake for 30 seconds and double strain (combining a traditional cocktail strainer with a fine-mesh sieve) into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with the remaining sage leaf.
Matthew Marrier, The Archives, Burlington
- 1 1/2 oz Barr Hill Gin
- 3/4 oz pale ale
- 1/4 oz Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
- 1/4 oz simple syrup
- 3/4 oz fresh grapefruit juice
Combine all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake for 30 seconds. Double strain (combining a traditional cocktail strainer with a fine-mesh sieve) into an old- fashioned glass, and garnish with a maraschino cherry. Matthew uses the super-rich brandied cherries from Luxardo.
Niall McMahon, The Gryphon, Burlington
- 2 oz Smuggler’s Notch vodka or gin
- 1 oz fresh lime juice
- 1 oz simple syrup
- 2 slices of cucumber
- 2 basil leaves
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass, and gently muddle the cucumber and basil. Add ice and shake for 30 seconds, then double strain into a chilled martini glass.
DIY! Summer Cocktail Tips from Behind the Bar
- Use produce in season: Fresh herbs and flowers are a great way to enhance an otherwise simple cocktail. MLC’s Mike Dunn regularly uses mint, tarragon, basil, sage, cilantro, hyssop, verbena, and oregano.
- Experiment with savory elements: Juiced asparagus, fennel, peas, carrots, and beets can all be exciting elements in drinks, and are year-round stars of the MLC cocktail menu.
- Prolong the life of seasonal items: Bartenders enjoy summer flavors year-round with sweet syrups made fresh from the garden. The Archives’ Matthew Marrier loves chili, cucumber, grapes, and hops, while Neil Goldberg opts for fresh herbs and flowers.
- Update a classic: If your favorite drink is a gin and tonic or mint julep, Mike Dunn recommends substituting or adding something you have on hand to the classic recipe.
- Don’t be afraid to fail: Good bartenders mix up plenty of flops—but once you’ve found a great recipe, you can serve it with pride.
Jennifer Rose Smith