Springtime sippers
Sit back, relax and have a drink

Springtime  sippers
Sinjin Eberle - 05/05/2022

Between the gale-force winds and the Animas River taking on the appearance of a leftover Wendy’s Frosty, it would appear that spring has finally decided to hang around for a while. Which tells me that it’s time for us to have a conversation about springtime cocktails!

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a stiff Manhattan or a full-bodied Syrah as much as the next person, but at some point, the combination of being teased by warmer weather and a bottled-in-bond rye just wear out their welcome. Time for something lighter, brighter and sassier – less brooding and moody. Don Draper needs to move down the bench for a few months.

Naturally, I have some thoughts, and to cover all the bases, let me submit to you some less obvious but still ideal springtime sippers, if you please. Gin, rum, tequila and some bright, chilled wine ideas (no vodka … ’cause it’s lame) to help ease you into summer, with some maybe less well- known, but still delicious and refreshing options – all of which are under five ingredients and can be found at most bars in town.

With all the juniper pollen flying through the air, it would be inappropriate to not start with gin, and whether you lean toward a classic, juniper-heavy London dry gin like Tanqueray or Oxley, or a more citrus, American-style gin like Hendricks or Denver’s Leopold Brothers, the Last Word is literally always my first choice in gin-based cocktails. It’s simple – gin, maraschino liquor, green Chartreuse and lime juice – shaken due to the citrus. It has a bright, barely herbaceous but full-bodied and extremely sippable character that will beckon for a second round (since the first one will go down like candy!) But be aware of this one – Chartreuse clocks in at 55% alcohol, and while there is less than an ounce in each cocktail, it packs a boozy punch.

My favorite summer cocktail, though, is one of the easiest to create, especially in the field. The caipirinha (kyp-ar-in-yah) is easy to create with only three simple ingredients and is far and away my favorite cocktail to make on river trips. Rum (or traditionally, Cachaça) simple syrup (equal parts water and white sugar) and a half lime per drink – that’s it. Take the half lime, cut it into quarters and muddle in a vessel with an ounce of simple syrup. Throw a handful of ice on top, with 2 ounces of rum, and shake vigorously. Dump that into your buddy’s river mug and cheers! Think about it – a bottle of rum, a couple of cups of sugar, and 10 limes and you are set for 20 delicious warm weather cocktails and a cadre of happy boaters!

On the tequila side, call me basic, but it’s hard to argue with a great margarita, and I still contend that Taco Libre’s Tamarindo Margarita is the perfect patio drink (and now that bump outs have returned to our sidewalks, it’s time to get out there and get after it). Like the other two drinks, the ingredients are pretty standard (tequila, lime, orange and agave) but that base perfection gives a solid platform to build and experiment from. Jalapeno? Sure. Rosemary margarita? I’ll take two! Mint it up? Who wouldn’t? If you really want to make it exciting, switch out the tequila for a solid mezcal, change out the lime juice for grapefruit, and you have a refreshing Paloma – that slightly bitter and smoky kick easily keeps things exciting and eye-catching among your swanky, sophisticated friends.

If strong spirits aren’t your thing, it’s cool – I got you. They don’t call it Rosé all day for nothing, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a crisp, fruit-forward, tingly Rosé on a patio (Primi has a couple of great ones and of course their patio is spacious and perfectly situated away from some of the Main Avenue madness.) If a glass of pink wine isn’t your jam, let me suggest a remarkable Roussanne or Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Barbara County, or if cougar juice is your thing, a Kim Crawford Pinot Grigio from New Zealand might just be the way to go. Regardless, patios were made for white wine, and whatever you choose will likely be as great as the company you are with.

To further thread the needle, I would be remiss to not mention one of my favorite swanky drinks, which features both bubbly and booze, the French 75. Nicely balanced with Champagne or Prosecco, a hit of gin, simple syrup and lemon, this mixture takes your elegant and sophisticated outdoor drinking game to the next level. It’s tough for me to ever turn down a French 75 when they appear on summer drink menus.

Finally, and this may come as a surprise, but I have been enjoying a really great non-alcoholic option for when you are taking it easy, or if you are just not into the booze scene. I recently discovered Seedlip Non-Alcoholic spirits substitutes, and two of their varieties are actually quite “gin-like.” Seedlip is fully macerated, distilled and blended like any other spirit, but without the alcohol. Their Grove 42 has a Hendrick’s gin vibe, while the Spice 94 version is more akin to a London Dry, and both can be purchased at Star Liquors (pro tip: The Garden 108 is terrible – you were warned). I most commonly enjoy these in a gin and tonic setup, although the Spice 94 can hold its own in a martini, and of course you could tone down a Last Word with this, offsetting the boozy hit from the Chartreuse while still nailing that essence.

Whichever solution appeals to you, it’s all good. Look, you made it through winter, and now the river is running again, the trees (and bump outs!) are blooming, and your sundresses and linen trousers can re-emerge from the dark shadows of your closet. Patio season has arrived, and I for one am here for it – let’s cheers to that!

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