CL: What spring and summer cocktail trends are you seeing?
AV: Along with seasonality and libations featuring beautiful, fresh fruits and ingredients, spring and summer are hands down the best seasons for aperitifs. Aperitif-style cocktails are a strong trend in the US right now; when I say “aperitif-style” cocktails, what I mean are drinks that are light, low-proof and refreshing that have been quite common in Europe for centuries. Originally intended as a drink to wake up the palate before a large meal, aperitif-style drinks have also become celebratory cocktails, used to celebrate life! Much more nowadays than just a simple glass of Champagne, these drinks feature ingredients like sparkling wine and playful floral and citrus notes that are very vogue.
CL: Any particular flavors or beverage ingredients that are making a comeback?
AV: Floral and citrus are definitely making a comeback. In the US, there is a craze for elderflower in cocktails, and we have products like St-Germain to thank for that! Elderflower has been used for centuries in Europe, both medicinally and ceremonially but the first liqueur bottling of these beautiful, delicate flowers was St-Germain, a must-have for your home bar. The best bartenders in the world have gone as far to call it their “ketchup” or “salt and pepper”-I would call that a comeback for the elderflower, for sure!
CL: Let’s talk at-home bartending and DIY cocktails. How can you easily enhance your at home bar, so that you’re not stuck shaking all night, and guests can make their own cocktails?
AV: Adding some liqueurs to your home bar can easily take that Margarita, Manhattan or spritz you’ve been making for years to the next level. Using St-Germain in place of simple syrup in cocktails can truly enhance your drinks and wow your guests. I call it the perfect host or hostess gift. It’s truly a secret weapon for your home bar and will have your friends and family asking what you’ve done to spruce up their cocktails. A home bar should also be a fun place to hang out with your guests so adding some fun decor, like this Bottle Glorifier Display, will also add to your hosting and cocktail-making experience.
CL: What types of cocktails work best for an outdoor event?
AV: No matter the occasion, I think the theme for every party should be the joie de vivre or the celebration of life! For your next garden party, picnic or sunset soiree you should feature cocktails that scream celebration. A recipe I recommend is The St-Germain Cocktail, which is 1 ½ part St-Germain, 2 parts sparkling wine and 2 parts sparkling water. Serve that over fresh ice in a tall glass, with a big twist of lemon and you have a truly celebratory cocktail, perfect for elegant outdoor sipping all day long, straight into the sunset.
CL: Garnishes and cocktail herb gardens are all the rage right now. How can you use fresh herbs like mint, basil, or rosemary to elevate a drink?
AV: I find both professional culinary experts and mixologists alike keep at home herbal gardens, no matter their size. At home I drink a lot of Elderflower Gin & Tonics, but to switch it up, I am constantly changing the garnish. Sometimes I’ll add a lavender sprig to it, or other times I’ll go with a purple basil sprig. You’d be surprised how easy it is to transform a cocktail by simply changing the garnish. This allows you to really cater to your guests’ preferences, which makes you a hero of a host or hostess!
Elderflower Gin & Tonic
- 1 ½ parts Bombay Sapphire Gin
- 4 parts Fever Tree Tonic Water
- ½ part St-Germain artisanal French elderflower liqueur
Served over ice with a lemon wheel, add an herbal garnish of your choice to personalize the drink.
Recommendations: lavender sprig, lemon verbena sprig, spearmint sprig or purple basil sprig
CL: Is there any drink that’s ‘out’ for the season, or just needs to go to the back of the bar?
AV: With spring and summer being all about fresh budding fruits and juicy, popping flavors, I would save your Manhattans and Old Fashioned cocktails for around the fireplace and the cooler months. Stick with light, fresh squeezed citrus juice and garnishes to enhance your cocktails and celebrate the season!
CL: Creative drink names are always fun for parties. Any tips on how to create a memorable cocktail-in name, as well as taste?
AV: It’s a little known secret that creating a name for a cocktail is the hardest part-even for the most professional mixologist or bartender! Go with what inspires you, think of quotations from your favorite movies or books. Think of the history and heritage of the ingredients you’re mixing for inspiration. Allow yourself to be inspired by your surroundings. Keep it simple!
Here’s the recipe for one of my favorite named cocktails, an elegant spin on a classic Sangria, the “Sangria Flora”.
- 1 bottle dry white wine or Sauvignon Blanc
- 2 cups St-Germain artisanal French elderflower liqueur
- 2 fresh peaches
- 5-6 fresh strawberries
- 6 fresh raspberries
- 1 small bunch fresh grapes
This preposterously refreshing cocktail requires some preparation, but it rewards accordingly. First, stir all the above ingredients in a pitcher, then allow fruit to sit for 3 to 8 hours. Serve in an ice-?lled glass.