On a hot summer day, is there anything better than sitting under a patio umbrella and sipping a nice cool cocktail? Well, yes there is, having that cocktail being served to you by a scantily clad attractive person of the gender of your choice. But, until I can talk my husband into allowing me to hire a houseboy, I’ll have to make and pour my own. Here are a few recipes to make any sweltering day more bearable. Each recipe will provide at least four cocktails, or a small pitcher. Almost all of these can be made into a mocktail by substituting or eliminating the alcohol portion of the recipe. At the end of each recipe, a substitute is suggested.


Simple Syrup

Many of these recipes call for simple syrup, which you can find at any liquor store, but it is simple enough to make your own. I give a recipe here for plain simple syrup, but you can always infuse it with a flavor by simmering an extra ingredient (I use chunks of peeled ginger, but orange, grapefruit or lemon rind work just as well) and then straining it out at the end.

2 cups filtered or spring water

2 cups sugar

Place water and sugar in a saucepan, place over medium heat, bring to just below a boil so that the sugar crystals dissolve completely, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until slightly less than the consistency of maple syrup. Allow to cool slightly, strain into a cruet or jar. Stored in the refrigerator, it will keep up to six months. Allow to come to room temperature before using in recipes.


Watermelon Margaritas

4 cups fresh, seedless watermelon

¼ cup sour mix

¼ cup simple syrup

¼ cup Grand Marnier or Cointreau

½ cup tequila

Ice cubes (about 2 cups worth)

Puree watermelon in a blender, strain to remove any seeds or pulp. Place back in blender with remaining ingredients and puree until slushy. Serve with a salted rim and garnish with a slice of watermelon. For a non-alcoholic version leave out the liquor and replace with additional watermelon juice and the juice of a lime.


Lemon-Ginger Coolers

12 oz. lemonade

¼ cup vodka

¼ cup Canton ginger liqueur

12 oz. ginger beer

Combine lemonade, vodka and ginger liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well blended. Pour over ice in a tall glass, add about 2 oz. ginger beer for fizz and garnish with a sprig of mint and a slice of lemon peel, or candied ginger on a swizzle stick. Non-alcohol version: eliminate the vodka and liqueur and add more ginger beer.


Cucumber Mojitos

1 cucumber, peeled and seeded

½ cup light rum

4 limes

¼ cup simple syrup

fresh mint

6 oz. club soda

Puree cucumber in blender, strain. In a tall pitcher mix cucumber liquid, rum, the juice of four limes, simple syrup and mint. Muddle the mint. Add club soda and stir to mix. Serve over ice in rocks glasses, garnish with a sprig of mint and a slice of cucumber. For non-alcohol version, eliminate rum and double the amount of simple syrup.


Raspberry Pisco Sour

1 cup Pisco

¼ cup fresh lime juice

2 oz. simple syrup

¼ cup fresh raspberries

Angostura Bitters

¼ cup beaten egg whites

Add Pisco (a South American liquor), lime juice, simple syrup and raspberries to a cocktail shaker, muddle the raspberries. Add a few drops of bitters (to taste) and egg whites. Add ice and close shaker, blend vigorously until the egg whites have emulsified. Strain into chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with fresh raspberries. Eliminate Pisco and add an equal amount cocktail sour mix for an alcohol-free version.


Blood Orange Mimosas

6 blood oranges

1 bottle champagne (or sparkling white grape juice)

Squeeze the juice of a blood orange into a champagne flute, top with chilled champagne or sparkling grape juice. For an even more festive touch, freeze additional blood orange juice into ice cubes and place one in the base of each flute.


Hawaiian Gin & Tonic

8 oz. gin

8 oz. coconut water

8 oz. tonic water


Blend gin and coconut water; pour into tall glasses filled with ice. Top with tonic water, stir until blended. Add a squeeze of lime and garnish with a lime wedge. Eliminate gin and increase other ingredients for a non-alcoholic version.


White Sangria

This is what I serve at every party and it gets raves. Don’t waste a lot of money on an expensive wine — with the juice added nobody can tell. I actually use a box of Chablis. For extra fun, put the fruit on bamboo skewers and add one to each glass.

1 large bottle or box of dry white wine

2 liters tamarind soda (available at any Latin American grocery)

1 quart white grape juice

assorted fresh fruit

1 additional quart of white grape juice, (freeze the second quart of the juice in cups to make giant cubes, which will keep the sangria cold longer)

Mix wine soda and juice, add cut up fruit. Allow to chill overnight. Add large frozen juice “cubes” to pitcher or jug before serving. For virgin sangria sub club soda or sparkling grape juice for wine.