Consider these easy, delicious ways to take your drinks to the next level.

June 11, 2019
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Justin Walker

Bartenders use fruit and herbs as cocktail garnishes and also as ingredients in drinks. You too can add freshness to spritzes, coolers, big-batch drinks, and other cocktails by incorporating fresh, seasonal ingredients. Here are some recipes, both classic and new, plus suggestions on how to combine fresh produce and liquor to make great drinks. Be sure to use ripe fruits as they will add most flavor and sweetness.

Gin

Gin is a distilled alcohol flavored with juniper berries. Lots of other botanicals are sometimes used in gin including coriander, cardamom, anise, rose, lavender, orange, lemon, or grapefruit peel. Classic drinks such as the Gin and Tonic, Gin Rickey, and Gin Gimlet are flavored with lime, but gin also pairs well with other citrus including orange, lemon, and grapefruit. A wide variety of fresh and savory flavors such as cucumber, jalapeño, and mint also work well with gin.

John Kernick

Rum

Rum is made from sugar cane and has roots in the Caribbean and Latin America so it's not surprising that it pairs well with all kinds of fruit. Classic fruit and rum combinations include the piña colada with coconut and pineapple and the Daiquiri with lime.

Con Poulos

Tequila and Mezcal

Tequila and mezcal are made from agave, but tequila is made only from blue agave. Both tequila and mezcal come from Mexico and pair well with tropical fruits including pineapples, mangoes, and passionfruit. They also pair well with citrus. Classic fruit and tequila drinks include the Margarita with lime and the Paloma with grapefruit. With smoky notes, mezcal complements sage, cucumber, mint, rosemary, cilantro, jalapeño, and chipotle chiles.

Bryan Gardner

Vodka

Vodka is a clear distilled alcohol that has very little flavor, making it extremely versatile for cocktails. Classic fruit and vodka drinks include the Cape Cod and cosmopolitan with cranberry juice, the Screwdriver with orange juice, the Bloody Mary with tomato juice, the Greyhound, Salty Dog, or Sea Breeze with grapefruit juice, and the Lemon Drop with lemon. Herbs that pair well with vodka include basil, rosemary, and lavender.

Paola + Murray

Whiskey & Bourbon

Whiskey and bourbon are made from fermented grain mash and aged in wood casks. They are produced primarily in Scotland, Ireland, the United States, Canada, and Japan. Both these types of distilled alcohol take on flavors from both the grains they are made with and charred wood casks they are matured in. Classic cocktails that use fresh fruits or herbs with whiskey or bourbon include the Whiskey Sour with lemon, the Mint Julep with mint (or mint and lemon), and the Whiskey Smash with mint and lemon. As well as mint, herbs that pair well with whiskey and bourbon include thyme and rosemary. Fresh fruits that pair with whiskey and bourbon include peaches, blackberries, and cherries.

Armando Rafael

Wine Aperitifs

Vermouth (a category of aperitif), and the brands Dubonnet and Lillet are some of the best known wine-based aperitifs. They are lighter in alcohol than distilled spirits and are used in drinks along with distilled alcohol in classic cocktails like the martini and Manhattan, or on their own with juices and mixers. Wine aperitifs pair wonderfully with a variety of citrus, stone fruit, berries, melons, and herbs including basil. And don't forget cucumber, it's remarkably refreshing in summer drinks like this aperitif with Lillet.

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