Prep your at-home bar for sunshine and grilling season.

By Kelly Vaughan
May 16, 2019
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Warmer weather and al fresco dining signals spritz season-it's time for lighter, brighter drinks. Rebekah Peppler, the Paris-based author of Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way, shared her tips for stocking a bar (or bar cart) so it's easy to mix up drinks with summer flavor. No need for a major overhaul; Peppler explains how to put a fresh spin on the spirits and wines you have on hand, plus recommends a few of her favorite French apéritif bottles to buy, all of which are worth a spot on the bar cart.

Reaching for Rosé

When summer rolls around, everyone thinks pink. Peppler favors lighter rosés and is especially partial to Provençal wines. She also likes to mix things up, using rosé in a fruit-filled sangria, or infusing it for 24 hours with dried licorice root and orange peel, then serving it ice-cold. Red wine isn't off limits for summer; just look for a very light red that can be chilled, says Peppler. A light-bodied pinot noir, Lambrusco, or zinfandel will pair well with grilled fish or a bowl of plump summer berries. To chill a red wine for summer, place the bottle in the refrigerator for about half an hour or in an ice bucket for 10-15 minutes. To maintain the flavor of the red wine while enjoying the crisp, cool taste, serve it at around 55° to 60°F.

All About Aperitifs

Whether you prefer a classic cocktail or a glass of Champagne, know that either counts as an aperitif if served before a meal. But what makes a good summer aperitif? "Anything [with a low alcohol by volume content] and either very chilled or set over lots of ice is ideal. All you need to add is a bag of chips, some Solo cups, and a spot in the sun," says Peppler. Try the test kitchen's favorite pre-dinner cocktails; Spiced Orange Aperitif, Lillet and Cucumber Aperitif, and Orange-and-Basil Aperitif. All say summer in their appearance and flavor.

Make Room for Mixers

Stock up on a bottle of a French apéritif like Suze, Lillet, Salers, Campari, Byrrh, sweet vermouth, or fino sherry. "Cut it with something bubbly like soda water or sparkling wine (or both and call it a spritz) and serve with add lots of ice," says Peppler. "To me, the combination of bubbles and ice instantly makes a drink feel summery." Prosecco is always a festive add-in, but there are plenty of non-alcoholic mixers that work well such as soda water, ginger beer, and tonic like Fever Tree.

Top It off with Fresh Garnishes

Choose a garnish that will compliment the flavors in the glass. Citrus wedges, sliced cucumbers, or flavored salts can garnish the rim of a glass, or swirl citrus peels or a sprig of a fresh herb like mint, rosemary, or thyme, in the drink. These garnishes are all classics for good reason-and are likely ingredients you already have on hand. But garnishes don't need to be reserved for cocktails only; sliced strawberries add a burst of color and flavor to an easy glass of rosé.

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