5 Sips of Summer: Think Pink Cocktails

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Summer Cocktails: Cucumber Rose Cooler, White Peach Bellini, Pink Sangria, Pirate Jenny, Sandia
Summer Cocktails. Back row, from left: Cucumber Rose Cooler, White Peach Bellini, Pink Sangria. Front row: Pirate Jenny, Sandia

Sip on These This Summer

Sweltering, melting: that was the rest of the country last week, while on the top of Bernal Hill we were waving hello to Karl the Fog. Not that we get fogbound here, high up on the sunny side of the hill, but we like to watch our buddy Karl blanketing the rest of the city as the crochet hook of Sutro Tower pokes up through that wooly afghan of low-hanging cloud unrolling eastward from Ocean Beach.

And now that we all know that Ruth Bourdain is some guy from New Jersey and retired-soldier-turned-detective-novelist Richard Gilbraith is really J.K. Rowling, is it only a matter of time (and Twitter tip-offs) before Karl's mastermind is outed? I hope not, actually; I like greeting Karl every time I cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and I don't think I can handle another JT LeRoy, even just a meteorological one.

At least, not without a drink. And not just any drink, but a pink drink, a perfect-for-summer drink, a cool-down, sun-down cocktail for warm summer weather wherever you can find it: on the shores of Tahoe or Clear Lake, along the Russian River, or under a tulip tree in your own Oakland backyard.

Pink wines, of course, are my first go-to drink of summer, no matter how these snooty industry types may roll their eyes. Here in the city, of course, we can keep drinking rosé right through October, since according to the thermometer, we can count the weeks before Halloween as a little extra summer, gracefully bestowed upon us for shivering through Fogust's chill.


Readers who've been following me here for the past few years know my fondness for local pinks, including Sinskey Vin Gris, Unti Rosé, and Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare. But these days I've got a new shady-table favorite, Scherrer Winery Dry Rosé 2012. Now in its second release, it's a perfect white linen suit of a wine, the first bottle to empty at every get-together I've thrown this summer from a Fourth of July barbecue to an al fresco birthday party.

Having spent a good chunk of this year writing The Art of Vintage Cocktails (which will be published this fall), I also can't resist the lure of a good mixologist. There are rosy drinks worth a sip on the new "aperitif hour" menu at Range, including the Spanish Bramble made with a housemade blackberry shrub (a tart, vinegar-based fruit drink) as well as the Paris to Milan, featuring Cocchi Americano Rosa, the pink version of this cult-favorite vermouth.

You can ferment your own Watermelon Mint Soda, or whip up a slushy Sandia from frozen watermelon and lime sugar, with or without a healthy slug of tequila. Pink Sangria is braced with Lillet Rose, another pink vermouth, and a Cucumber Cooler misted with rosewater, tastes like the essence of a summer garden afternoon. With white peaches filling the farmers' market, now's the perfect time to make a real Venetian Bellini--Lake Merritt has gondolas, doesn't it?

And finally, this being San Francisco, there's the Pirate Jenny, perfect for snuggling up under a summer blanket, binging on Orange is the New Black and listening to the foghorns moan.

Sip #1: Pink Sangria

There's red sangria, white sangria--why not pink sangria? If you're making this ahead of time, wait to put the fruit in until just before serving, so that it won't get squishy and soggy. Use a proper but not pricey rosé, preferably one of Spanish provenance. Lillet Rose is a French aperitif, similar to vermouth; recently added to the Lillet product line, it's the delicate, rosy-hued little sister of the more commonly seen Lillet Blanc.

Makes 6-8 drinks

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) dry rosé, chilled
  • 1/2 cup Lillet Rose
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, divided
  • 1 orange, cut into thin rounds
  • 2 white peaches, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 1 pint raspberries, loganberries, or blackberries
  • Soda water, if desired

In a large pitcher, combine wine, Lillet, and orange juice. Add half the lime juice and taste for balance, adding remainder if needed. Chill until needed.

Just before serving, add a handful of ice cubes. Stir in the orange slices, peaches, and berries. Top with a generous splash of soda water, if desired.

Sip #2: Sandia

This is deliciously refreshing twist on the sandia agua fresca served in big waxed-paper cups at every taqueria this time of year. It's deliciously refreshing, with or without the tequila. (If you're not a tequila drinker, use chilled vodka instead, or leave it out entirely for a nonalcoholic version.) The trick to getting the texture right--slushy but not too solid--is to freeze the watermelon until it's just beginning to solidify. Don't let it get rock-hard, otherwise your drinks will be too thick.

Makes 4-6 drinks

  • 6 cups watermelon chunks, seeds removed, partially frozen
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup tequila, as desired
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/3 cup lime sugar (see recipe below)

In a blender, puree the watermelon chunks, tequila, lime juice and lime sugar. Serve over ice.

Lime Sugar

This makes more than you need for the recipe above, but face it: you're going to be making several rounds, so you might as well have extra on hand.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 limes

Using a microplane, finely zest the 3 limes, i.e., grate off only the colored part of the rind, leaving as much as possible of the white pith behind.

Mix the lime zest into the sugar, stirring vigorously until the sugar is completely impregnated with the lime. Store in a jar with a tightly fitting lid until needed.

Sip #3: Cucumber Rose Cooler

On a singularly balmy evening last month, I walked into Blackbird on Market Street craving a long, lime-tinged drink cool as a cucumber with a bit of fizz. Hearing my request, the bartender shook up this cucumber cooler, adding a touch of summer perfume by spritzing the glass with a mist of rosewater before pouring in the drink. Lovely. Hendrick's gin, with its subtle overtones of rose and cucumber, makes a perfect match.

  • 2-inch piece of cucumber, roughly chopped
  • 2 oz Hendrick's gin
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp simple syrup, optional
  • Rosewater, in a spray mister if possible
  • Soda water
  • Lime slice and cucumber wheel, for garnish

In a shaker, muddle the cucumber chunks with lime juice and simple syrup, if desired. Add gin and a handful of ice cubes. Shake vigorously.

Mist or rinse a chilled Collins glass with rosewater. Half fill with ice cubes. Strain into glass. Top with soda. Garnish with lime slice and cucumber wheel.

Sip #4: White Peach Bellini

Peach season opens the window for making authentically Venice-worthy Bellinis. Yes, they were a mid-20th century invention at Harry's Bar on the Lido, but did you know the name came in honor of 15th century Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini? Made with white peaches and Prosecco, the delicately creamy-pink drink was meant to evoke the luscious flesh tones in Bellini's paintings. A little culture to go with your aperitivi!

  • 1 bottle Prosecco, chilled
  • 3 ripe white peaches, peeled

Puree the peaches. If desired, push puree through a fine mesh strainer for extra smoothness.

Add a splash of Prosecco to each glass. Spoon in a generous spoonful of peach puree. Fill glass with Prosecco, pouring slowly since wine will fizz up when it hits the puree.

Sip #5: Pirate Jenny

And finally, what's an appropriately warming San Francisco summer drink when the fog horns are moaning and the winds are whipping along Clement Street? This rum-based cocktail gets its complexity and island spice from two Caribbean-inspired liqueurs: Velvet falernum, a classic rum-based liqueur from Barbados that's scented with lime, cloves, ginger, almond, and vanilla (which I can describe only as smelling, gorgeously, like God's own aftershave) and artisan distillers Jack from Brooklyn's Sorel Liqueur, which gets its tang and ravishing magenta color from hibiscus flowers, known in Jamaica as sorrel.

  • 1 1/2 oz aged golden or dark rum
  • 1 oz Sorel Liqueur
  • 1 oz velvet falernum
  • 1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 dash bitters


Fill an old-fashioned (rocks) glass with several large ice cubes. Add ingredients and stir well.