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Spruce Up Your Summer Cocktails With Julie Reiner's The Craft Cocktail Party (Recipe)

Julie Reiner is responsible for the success of some of the world's best bars — two of which she co-owns — where her original cocktails are nothing short of a masterpiece. Although these bars are located in New York City, namely, the Flatiron Lounge, the Pegu Club, and the Clover Club, that doesn't mean you can't learn a thing or two about how to make an amazing cocktail. Inspired by the tropical fruits and spices she enjoyed from her native Hawaii, Reiner only seeks the freshest ingredients and top shelf spirits available for her classic cocktails. Reiner's reputation is attributed to her influence on NYC's cocktail scene, all thanks to her days working in cocktail lounges in San Francisco and her mentorship with Dale DeGroff, aka King Cocktail, upon her arrival in NYC in 1997.

Reiner's debut book, The Craft Cocktail Party: Delicious Drinks for Every Occasion, combines everything you would learn in bartending school and more. As one of the top mixologists in the country, Reiner knows how to break down the barriers between beginners and professional mixologists, helping you make cocktails for any season or occasion. Reiner offers a handful of tricks, tips, and techniques to revolutionize your cocktail game, including instructions on batching and infusions, tools to bring out the best flavors, the differences between various spirits, and how to work with what you already have in your home. Whether you only make cocktails for the holidays, or are gearing up to throw a few cocktail parties this summer, you'll be able to surprise your guests when it's time to entertain.

Reiner recommends her favorite cocktail for each season, the spirits that every cocktail enthusiast must have on hand, and some tips for beginners. 

New Times: What's your favorite cocktail for each season?
Julie Reiner:  My summer pick is the daiquiri. There is no cocktail more perfect for warm weather than the daiquiri. It is so simple, yet delicious. The combination of rum, lime, and sugar allows for the drink to showcase the rum you choose whether it be a white rum, aged rum, or a combination of rums. Growing up in Hawaii, I have a great appreciation for this drink. Sunset and a daiquiri, the perfect combination!

In the springtime, you have to drink a Negroni or Margarita. The Negroni is a drink that I love all year round! When spring finally arrives in New York, I am excited to welcome in lighter spirits like gin and tequila. The Negroni is a boozy drink, but it is surprisingly refreshing. I don't usually drink margaritas in the winter time, so come spring, I am ready to hop on the tequila train. Cinco de Mayo is the perfect excuse to launch margarita season!

An Old Fashioned is perfect for the fall. As the cooler weather arrives, I turn to dark spirits. The Old Fashioned is a go to for me. It is a drink that can be made with just about any spirit, but I prefer bourbon, rye, scotch or applejack in the fall. This is another classic cocktail that really showcases the base spirit, and can be altered with different sweeteners and bitters. Nothing says fall like an applejack old fashioned with cinnamon syrup and angostura bitters!

Lastly, the winter is made for a Manhattan. This iconic drink is by far my favorite cocktail to make during the freezing cold winter in New York! One of these, and I can walk blocks without shivering. I don't know what it is about whiskey, but it really does act like in internal heater.

Name versatile spirits that every cocktail enthusiast should have in their home. 
For your home bar, gin, whiskey, rum and tequila are a must. They are versatile spirits that can be used to craft many classic cocktails, but are also fantastic in your own creations. It is always great to have some easy to use modifiers on hand. I recommend Aperol, St. Germain, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, and Cointreau. All of these will add some sweetness and delicious flavors to your drinks. A little bit of fresh citrus and you're on your way to a successful creation!

What is one of the hardest things about crafting cocktails?
I think that often times people try to do too much! Keep it simple, don't use 7-8 ingredients in your cocktail, keep it to 3 or 4 ingredients.

Which cocktail are you most proud of? Why?
That is tough, it's like choosing a favorite child. I guess The Gin Blossom at Clover Club would be on the top of the list. It is a cocktail that never leaves the menu, and is our house martini variation.

What are some neat tricks for beginner mixologists?
Use a tupperware container to make a large block of ice for your punch, but be sure to freeze it 24 hours before your party. The ice will melt slowly into your punch over the course of the party.

If you don't have a cocktail shaker, there are plenty of common kitchen containers that will do the job like a blender or a mason jar.

And if you don't have any fresh fruit on hand, look to jam or marmalade to add a touch of fruit. A spoonful of raspberry jam in a gin gimlet makes for a delicious drink!   

Maria Sin Sangre

Think of this drink as a Bloody Mary on the fly. Forget the canned tomato juice; here, the freshness of summer’s favorite fruit is muddled directly into the drink.

  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces blanco tequila (I recommend El Tesoro)
  • 1/2 ounce dry sherry (I recommend Williams & Humbert medium-dry)
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • Pinch salt and pepper
1 cherry tomato and 1 basil leaf

In the bottom of a shaker, muddle the tomatoes and basil in the simple syrup. Add the tequila, sherry, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and shake with ice until chilled. Doublestrain through a fine-mesh sieve into a coupe glass.

To create the garnish, pierce a small hole in the top of the tomato and insert the stem of the basil leaf like a flag. Make a slit in the bottom of the tomato and perch the tomato on the rim of the glass.

Pro Tip:
To make this drink in larger yields, pulse the tomatoes and basil in a food processor five or six times, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve or a piece of cheesecloth and discard the solids.

Excerpted from the book The Craft Cocktail Party by Julie Reiner with Kaitlyn Goalen. © 2015 by Julie Reiner. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Life and Style. All rights reserved.

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Gillian Speiser
Contact: Gillian Speiser