Perfect Cottage Cocktails for All-Day Drinking
A step-by-step drinking plan.
By Erin Henderson
Wanna know what I love the most about summer – besides everything?
Cottage getaways. They are totally my jam. I have friends who actually claim to not enjoy the cottage, but I’ve long thought there’s something wrong with them.
In their defence, it takes a bit of seasoning to cottage properly. The uninitiated over-pack, or bring the wrong items … assuming they’ll be showering every day. Pfft.
The key to cottaging like a pro is to pack as lightly, but efficiently, as you can – including your bar selection.
As fully stocked as we may be in the city (pick your poison… gin, vodka, whisky, it’s all here along with all the garnishes and flavours to whip up anything from a dry martini to a spicy margarita) it’s just not feasible to load all that in the car and trek it three hours north.
What I like to do is figure out the cocktails required for the week(s) in question. A few tips on this: lower alcohol works best for day drinking, batch cocktails are your friend, and simplicity is key. Who wants to be stuck behind the bar when the dock beckons? Not me.
Below is my summer cocktail cottage menu, and the step-by-step plan, to take me, and my fellow cottagers, from breakfast eye-openers to after-dinner digestifs.
Breakfast: The Grand Prix
Full disclosure: I completely stole this from the excellent cocktail book, Batch Cocktails: Make Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion by Maggie Hoffman. But she writes that she got it from a bartender in San Francisco, so we’re all drinking buddies here.
Blending up a mix of Campari, cold coffee and grapefruit, this is not only a fantastic wake-me-up, but a nice hair of the dog depending on what day of your cottage vacation you are on currently.
Makes: 10 drinks
Bartender level: moderate
- 2 ¼ cups chilled Campari
- 1 ½ cups cold coffee
- ¼ cup + 2 Tbsp simple syrup
- 3 cups fresh grapefruit juice
- 3 cups cold tonic water
- Sea salt
- Grapefruit twist for garnish
- The night before, I brew the coffee to chill it overnight and stick the Campari in the fridge so they’re ready to go. (Being in the woods brings out the always-be-prepared Girl Scout in me.)
- I also whip up simple syrup if I haven’t already, melting 1 cup of sugar into 1 cup of simmering water and letting it chill overnight, as well.
- The morning of, while various family members start breakfast, I pour the cold coffee, Campari, simple syrup, and a pinch of salt into a large pitcher and put it back in the fridge while I set about juicing the grapefruits. (And I remember to juice extra for later in the day, because I am sooo on top of it).
- Once the grapefruits are juiced and my biceps hardened, I add three cups of the juice to the pitcher as well.
- When we’re called to the table, I fill glasses with ice and ¼ cup tonic, top with the Campari mix and garnish with a grapefruit twist.
- This mixture gives five of us enough for two generous glasses and maybe a splash more.
Afternoon on the dock: Pimm’s Cup
I was introduced to this aristocratic British tipple by an English chef I worked with years ago. During the hot summer months, after a long day of service, we’d discuss "business matters" over a Pimm's. Very posh of us, if I do say so myself.
Considered the official cocktail of Wimbledon, this drink can be served so loaded down with garnishes (strawberries, apples, lemon, orange, basil, mint, cucumber…) there’s hardly room for the drink itself. I keep things simpler because on steamy cottage days I’d rather be drinking than chopping.
Pimm’s, if you haven’t heard of it, is a gin-based liqueur, the colour of burnt terracotta, and has a secret mix of herbs and spices that give it a bitter citrus and herbal note. Coming in at 25% alcohol, but cut by juices or sodas, this is perfect for thirst-quenching day drinking: keeping you hydrated with an element of festivity, but low enough in booze that you make it to dinner.
Pimm’s is traditionally mixed with zesty ginger beer, but you can also use ginger ale or sparkling lemonade, so like the garnish, there’s some flexibility to the recipe. Here’s mine.
- 3 cups chilled Pimm’s No 1
- 3 cups ginger beer
- 1 English cucumber
- 1 bunch of mint
- With a Y shaped vegetable peeler, strip the cucumber it thin slices. (If you were really organized this could be done the night before when making dinner and kept in water until needed. But if you weren't, no shame.)
- Add half the cucumber slices to a pitcher along with a handful of whole mint leaves
- Pour the Pimm’s into the pitcher, lightly pressing on the cucumber and mint and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Change into your bathing suit and pack your beach bag.
- Add in the ginger beer, stirring gently to combine.
- Line glasses (plastic only on the dock, please!) with strips of cucumber and fill with ice
- Pour mixture into each glass and top with a fresh sprig of mint.
Is there anything more civilized than cocktail hour? I think not.
For a proper aperitif, you need something a bit tart and tangy; something to get your mouth watering in anticipation of the grand meal to come.
Served alongside some casually elegant nibbles of salty olives or coconut ceviche this pre-dinner ritual makes me feel like I’m some fabulously bohemian contessa lounging in my Cabo, ocean-front, summer home. What? Like you weren’t thinking it.
- 2 ½ cups chilled white tequila
- 1 ½ cups fresh pink grapefruit juice (smartly squeezed at breakfast)
- ½ cup fresh lime juice
- 1 cup simple syrup
- 2 cups sparkling water
- Tajin or sea salt, for rimming
- Grapefruit rounds
- Dip a rocks glass into a bit of grapefruit juice and gentle dip into the salt or Tajin, lightly shaking off excess.
- Throw in one large cube of ice and line the side with a grapefruit round.
- In an empty pitcher, pour in juices, tequila and simple syrup. Stir well, about 20 seconds.
- Add the sparkling water, and gently stir again.
- Pour into the salt rimmed glass and serve.
Post Dinner: Canadian Espresso Martini
I know what you’re thinking, “Erin, what the heck happened to dinner?!?!”
Well, truth be told I don’t drink cocktails with dinner. I'm strictly a wine girl with meals. There are barkeeps and spirit enthusiasts who insist cocktails can be paired to dinner, but not in my world.
Back to the task at hand.
I'm not a dessert person, so a bracing espresso cocktail that balances sweet and bitter is a satisfying end to any meal, in my books. Here, I replace the coffee liqueur with cream liqueur, for a luxurious spin. You could use Bailey's or another brand, but my sister introduced me to Wayne Gretzky Cream Whisky, and I dare say, sitting by the fire, listening to the loons call and the wind rustle through the trees, this is just about as Canadian as it gets.
- 1 oz Wayne Gretzky Canadian Cream Whisky
- 2 oz chilled vodka
- 1 oz fresh espresso (can be decaf if you're part of the over-40 set)
- While settig the table for dinner, make the espresso and leave in the fridge to chill.
- While washing the dishes post dinner, send someone out to start the fire.
- Get into your cozies.
- Add all the ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and shake until frosty. About 20 seconds.
- Strain into a cocktail glass if you’ve got it, but sice this is the cottage, an enamel coffee mug will do.