Keep it simple

We’ve been treated to an early burst of sunny weather over the last week or so and it has got me thinking about summer drinking. Obviously there are plenty of bars and pubs with terraces or beer gardens, but sometimes there is nothing better than inviting friends over, firing up the bbq and having a few drinks in the garden!
The problem I always have is that I tend to over complicate things when it comes to the drinks side of entertaining, but not this year! I have vowed to keep it simple this summer, so despite having an outside bar that I could stock up with every cocktail ingredient imaginable, I intend to limit myself to a few simple ingredients that I can make pitchers of drinks with.
I’ve always liked the idea of keeping it simple, even if I have usually failed to do so myself. So on my mission to simplify my entertaining I am going to keep a stock of a few mixers, use whatever fruit I find on offer at my local supermarket and maybe keep a couple of bottles of liqueurs on hand just for variety. Beyond that it comes down to choosing a couple of spirits that offer me the most versatility and sticking with them instead of raiding the bitters&twisted drinks cabinets!
There are some obvious drinks that just cry out to be made by the pitcher; caipirinhas laced with whatever tropical fruit you can lay your hands on, mojitos with or without the addition of red berries and of course margaritas (proper ones with no need for a blender mind!) to name just three. As great as these are though, I’m going to be adding a few even simpler drinks to my list just to make my life easy.
I’ve laid in a supply of soda water, ginger ale and ginger beer to get me started and I’ll be keeping a bottle or two of Beefeater gin to hand as well as some Sagatiba Velha and El Dorado 3 year old. I’m sure from time to time I’ll feel the need for tequila or bourbon, but for now I’m sticking to my guns and just stocking up on those three spirits. I have a couple of bottles of Merlet crème de mure and crème de fraise as well, and as long as there are a handful lemons and limes in the fruit bowl that should be all I need for some great summertime drinks.
The possibilities are almost endless even with these simple ingredients, but here are some ideas to get your mouth watering. Just phone a few friends, fire up the Barbie, stock up on ice and let the summertime socialising begin!
Sagatiba Velha is one of my favourite cachacas so I’ll be pouring 250 ml into a pitcher full of ice and adding 100 ml of crème de fraise and the juice of a couple of limes before giving it a good stir. Top it off with plenty of ginger ale and more ice and give it a last stir to mix it up before sharing it out with guests. If you feel like making the extra effort you can add some quartered strawberries to it just to dress it up a bit!
One of my favourite gin drinks is the bramble, as it is simple, sharp and refreshing with bags of flavour! Usually I would make it with crushed ice, but as the theme is simplicity I will be sticking with cubed ice and adding a bit of soda just to lighten it up! Juice 4 or 5 lemons and pour it into a pitcher along with 60 ml of gomme and 250 ml of Beefeater gin. Add plenty of cubed ice and give it a nice long stir to chill it down before topping with more ice and a good splash of soda. Instead of adding a float of Merlet crème de mure to the pitcher, I prefer to serve it with the mure over each drink to finish them off. No garnish required for this one as it looks perfect just the way it is!
There are few spirits that call out to me more than rum when the sun is shining so I’ll be using the rich full flavoured El Dorado 3 year old matched up with a couple of my favourite fair weather ingredients. I’ve noticed raspberries are plentiful in the supermarkets at the moment so that’s what I’ll use this weekend. Take a handful of raspberries and muddle them with 40 ml of gomme and the juice of 4 limes. Add about 250 ml of El Dorado 3 and plenty of cubed ice and give it all a good long churn to mix it up. Top it up with more ice and a generous splash of ginger beer, give it one last churn to mix it up and share with good friends.

Yep, I’m feeling pretty confident that with just a handful of ingredients I’ll be able to mix up enough variety of drinks to see me through the whole of the summer. Now I just need a plan for keeping the cooking simple too! 


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