The Perfect Summer Mix(ology)

P1070540While Austin is getting a near-miraculous amount of rain this week, it’s only a matter of time before the temperatures climb back up into the triple-digits. Eater is launching an interview series with Austin’s best bartenders on how to drink the heat away. Superstar mixologist Jason Stevens of Bar Congress starts us off with recommendations for drinking vinegar and advice on how to achieve the perfect frost on a rum swizzle.

P10705861. What, in your opinion, is the ideal flavor profile of a great summer drink? 
Ideally a perfect summer cooling cocktail, especially for all day drinking, should contain several elements; It should be low in sugar, low in overall alcohol content, crisp, highly refreshing, and ultimately when you finish it, you want another.  Beyond that, choose spirits and ingredients you like. Rye whiskey, pickled peaches, white port, citrus, mint? Yep. Islay scotch, lemon and ginger beer? Of course. Gin and tonic? Classy. Grapefruit vodka and soda? It’s your party.
We’ve seen a big resurgence drinking vinegars, and it’s a fantastic ingredient to use to make simple, flavor driven and refreshing summer cocktails. At Bar Congress we make our own in house, but it can be time consuming. Fortunately you can either purchase drinking vinegars on-line (I’m a big fan of the Pok Pok brand out of Portland, Or) or pick up imported brands from Asian markets around Austin. Locally purchased Hong Cho blueberry vinegar, St. George Terroir gin, cracked ice with soda and lime takes seconds to make and is immensely satisfying.


2. Is there a spirit you avoid in the summer? One you like to highlight?

P1070562There’s really no spirit I particularly avoid during the summer, just about everything can be mixed to create a great summer cocktail. Typically gin, rum, tequila, and vodka takes the center stage, but American whiskeys, scotches, grappa, and eau de vies all make incredible bases for drinks. I often reach for aperitif and aromatized wines  (vermouths, sherries, ports, pineau, etc) before heavier spirits when making cocktails during our super hot Austin summers. One of my favorite things to drink when the temp cracks 100 is simply Cocchi Americano over ice with a top of topo chico and citrus peel. It’s a BBQ session cocktail at its finest.

P10705293. Which house cocktail on the Bar Congress menu do you recommend for July?
My current favorite Bar Congress warm weather cooler is our Flora and Dora. It’s a combination of beautiful raspberry wine from Washington, Nardini cedro grappa, ginger, and lime. Tall, simple, and very refreshing.


4. Which classic cocktail do you associate most with summer? Any lesser-known classics you think more people should be sipping on in hot weather?

P1070576No classic cocktail says summertime to me more than a rum swizzle. It’s typically aged dark rum (Demerara rum preferred), velvet falernum, lime, a dash or two of bitters, mint, and nutmeg. Sounds straightforward, but what makes this drink incredible is the swizzling itself.  Swizzling is a drink mixing technique with the goal of creating a super cold, completely integrated, and minimally diluted drink. The cocktail is first built in a large tall thin-walled glass (or even a small flower vase), the glass is then packed with crushed ice, next a bar spoon or swizzle stick inserted with the handle of the spoon/stick in-between your palms. Rub your palms back and forth rapidly for 15 seconds or more, moving slowly up and down, pausing to add more crushed ice every 5 seconds or so. If you’ve swizzled correctly, the outside of the glass with cover with a thick frost and almost be painful to touch, it’s a beautiful sight.


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