Summer cocktails for your next patio session

Pour a cold one and enjoy every drop of our short, sweet summer

Bar manager Luke McInnes with a Coa Swizzle on the patio at the Blue Water Cafe. Dan Toulgoet photo.

After what seems like the longest, wettest, dreariest winter in history, it is finally patio season. We’ll see you indoors again come September.

This year, we’re especially excited for patio season because it seems that Vancouver is finally opening up outdoor spaces that serve excellent craft cocktails along with the fresh air and fine food.

Where not long ago the best you could hope for was an indifferent margarita or mojito, now there are exceptional and exciting cocktails to be had on deck at Ancora, Reflections, Chill Winston (while it’s still open), Vij’s, Chambar, Earls and Blue Water Café in Yaletown.

In fact, the patio cocktail has become something of a creative mission for Blue Water’s new bar manager, Luke McInnes.

“I lived in Bergen, [Norway], which is the rainiest city in Europe, and now I live in Vancouver. I’ve come to realize that when you’ve got a short, focused summer, you’ve really got to enjoy it,” says McInnes, who is originally from sun-drenched Australia. “You don’t have the time not to.”

He’s also come to realize that not every cocktail makes a good patio cocktail. Sure, there will always be people who want a deep, rich, spirit-forward cocktail no matter the season. But in summer, for the most part, it’s best to lighten things up just a little. And that includes the drinks you’ll be making at home for all your barbecues and pool parties.

You want your patio cocktails to be refreshing and “not overly boozy,” says McInnes, who’s just released his first cocktail list at Blue Water: a selection of fresh, flavourful drinks lightened up with soda and sparkling wine because, he says, “bubbles are fun.”

“Utilizing lower-alcohol spirits, like vermouths, is important,” he says. “You need to be able to drink down a few of them and still be able to walk away afterwards.”

The summer heat makes us thirsty, but adding alcohol can create a dangerous cocktail. Sun exposure and rising temperatures heighten the effects of alcohol, including impaired balance, co-ordination and judgment. Plus alcohol is a diuretic, so even though you’re consuming liquid, you’re actually becoming dehydrated, which makes things even worse.

That means it’s wise to skip the spirit-forward Sazeracs and Manhattans and opt instead for long, thirst-quenching drinks such as a gin and tonic or Tom Collins. And always have water alongside whatever you’re drinking.

“Mouthwatering acidity really helps,” McInnes says. “And it needs to be cold; super cold.”

Citrus is a summertime classic, but don’t restrict yourself to lemons and limes – this is the time to take advantage of all the terrific seasonal fruits arriving at the market, including watermelon, rhubarb, berries and tree fruits such as cherries, peaches, apricots and nectarines.

It’s also the season for the fresh, clean taste of white spirits rather than the rich, fruity, woodsy flavours of aged whiskies, rums and the like.

“Gin, vodka and white tequila get a time to shine for sure,” he says.

Alternatively, you can opt for fortified wines and aperitifs, which are lower in alcohol but are powerhouses of flavour. Think: Aperol, Campari, Lillet Blanc, vermouth and the whole family of amaros.

Additional flavour can be added with seasonal herbs like mint, thyme, basil and lavender. Transform herbs and fresh fruit into syrups, tinctures or infusions and it becomes easy to add their flavours to whatever you’re mixing up.

And that’s the most important thing of all: It’s summer, and the living is easy, or at least it should be. Same goes for your patio cocktails.

After all, McInnes says, “You’ve got the whole rest of the year to do über-complicated drinks.”

—by Joanne Sasvari

Make Luke McInnes’ Coa Swizzle.


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