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Balanced cocktails make for smooth summertime sipping

After a long, muddy, and mostly quarantined spring, we’re scrambling to get out in the summer sunshine. In Maine, our outdoor options abound. We can walk in the woods, dip our toes in the sand, catch a tailwind on the high seas, swing in a hammock, or chill in a solo Adirondack chair in a shady spot.


Regardless of how you enjoy your own time in the sun, alone or in pairs, summer is also a great season for casual (socially distanced, if necessary) entertaining. What’s more laid back than a pretty pitcher of summertime cocktails? Since this is Edible Maine’s inaugural women’s issue, we’re focusing on summertime sippers that are well-crafted for a girls’ night gathering.


Here are four perfectly balanced, pitcher-perfect cocktails for summer using gin, white rum, and white wine. We encourage you to try them at home. If you are interested in experimenting behind the bar yourself, we can also offer a bit of advice.


The first step in creating any cocktail is tasting the spirit you want to use. Is it herbaceous like gin? Neutral like vodka? Sweet and toasty like rum? Fruiting like white wine? Once you have a handle on how the base spirit tastes naked, you can begin adding other elements to build the cocktail. First add something sour (like lemon or lime juice) and then add something sweet (often a simple syrup or a sweet liquor) until you hit the balance you like.


When you’ve got the formula for one drink down, you can scale it up to make a pitcher. Take note, though, that pitcher proportions may vary slightly from individual portions because they tend to sit in ice longer. If you will be outdoors on a warm day or in direct sunlight, add a greater proportion of the cocktail ingredients to the ice in the pitcher since they will likely become diluted as the evening progresses.


The recipes for the simple syrups used in these recipes will yield a single pitcher of the respective cocktails. But they can be doubled or tripled easily. Any remaining simple syrup can be kept in the refrigerator for three months or in the freezer for six.


Hibiscus ’75 Pitcher


This pretty-in-pink cocktail is a riff on a classic French 75. Dried hibiscus flowers can be found online through Maine-based spice merchants like Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchants and Skordo.


Serves 6–8


For hibiscus syrup

1 cup sugar

¾ cup water

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

2 tablespoons dried hibiscus flowers


For pitcher of cocktails

1 ½ cups ice

1 ⅔ cups gin

1 cup sparkling white wine

1 cup fresh lemon juice (the peels from 2 lemons reserved and cut into wide strips)

1 cup hibiscus syrup


To make the syrup, combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and hibiscus in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and steep for at least 30 minutes. When the syrup is cool, strain and pour it into a container, then refrigerate until ready to use.


To make the pitcher of cocktails, add ice, gin, wine, lemon juice, and syrup. Stir to combine, pour into glasses garnished with a lemon twist, and serve.


Zippy Earl Grey Pitcher


The scent and flavor of the bergamot in Earl Grey tea lends an understated elegance to this cocktail, while the fresh ginger adds a bit of spice.  

Serves 6–8


For Earl Grey syrup

1 cup sugar

¾ cup water

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

2 Earl Grey tea bags


For pitcher of cocktails

1 ½ cups ice

1 ⅔ cups gin

1 cup Earl Grey syrup

½ cup clementine juice

½ cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 clementines, thinly sliced


To make the syrup, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, add tea bags, and steep for at least 30 minutes. When cool, remove tea bags and pour syrup into a container, then refrigerate until ready to use.


To make the pitcher of cocktails, add ice, gin, syrup, clementine and lemon juices, and ginger. Stir to combine, pour into glasses garnished with a slice of clementine, and serve.


Citrus and Rosemary Sangria Pitcher


In this not-too-sweet Sangria, the differentiator lies in its caramelized, rosemary-infused honey.

Serves 6–8


For caramelized rosemary honey

½ cup Maine honey

1 sprig rosemary, bruised


For pitcher of cocktails

1 ½ cups ice

1 bottle crisp Sauvignon Blanc

½ cup caramelized rosemary honey

¼ cup Cointreau or other orange-flavored brandy

1 blood orange, half juiced and the other half thinly sliced

1 lemon, thinly sliced

1 clementine, thinly sliced

1 lime, thinly sliced


To make the infused honey, combine honey and rosemary in a small pan over medium heat for 6–8 minutes until the rosemary has infused its scent and the honey has darkened slightly. Cool for 15 minutes. Compost rosemary.


To make the pitcher of cocktails, combine ice, wine, infused honey, Cointreau, blood orange juice and sliced fruit. Pour into wine glasses and serve


Cucumber Lavender Mojito Pitcher


The cucumber is fresh, the lime is bright, the lavender is soft, and the mint offers an aromatic punch. White rum is the ideal base, and effervescent soda is refreshing on a warm summer day. Dried culinary lavender can be found online through Maine-based spice merchants like Gryffon Ridge Spice Merchants and Skordo.


Serves 6–8


For lavender syrup

1 cup sugar

¾ cups water

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 ½ tablespoons dried lavender flowers


For pitcher of cocktails

½ cup mint leaves plus 8 whole leaves, reserved for garnish

¼ peeled small cucumber plus thin slices of cucumber, reserved for garnish

2 cups white rum

⅓ cup fresh lime juice

½ cup lavender syrup

1 ½ cups ice

Soda water

1 whole lime, thinly sliced

Dried lavender for garnish


To make the syrup, combine sugar, water, corn syrup, and lavender in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and steep for at least 30 minutes. When the syrup is cool, strain and pour into a container, then refrigerate until ready to use.


To make the pitcher of cocktails, in a cocktail shaker, muddle mint leaves and peeled cucumber with rum, lime juice, and lavender syrup. Shake well. Add about 1 ½ cups of ice to the pitcher. Strain the cocktail shaker ingredients into the pitcher. Pour mixture into individual highball glasses filled with ice. Top with soda and garnish with whole mint leaves, cucumber slices, lime wheels, and lavender.

Dana Moos is the author of The Art of Breakfast: How to Bring B&B Entertaining Home, as well as a former innkeeper and has spent many years dazzling her guests with food and drink.

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