Thirsty for a SoCal summer cocktail? We have 5 recipes from a local bartender

Thirsty for a SoCal summer cocktail? We have 5 recipes from a local bartender
Margarita pitchers and glasses at HomeState restaurant in L.A. (Courtesy HomeState)

It's summer. The sun is out and it's time to relax with friends, drink in hand, enjoying the beautiful weather. You can get fancy with complex cocktail recipes, or you can keep it simple and turn to time-tested crowd pleasers.

What are we doing? Our current affairs show AirTalk, which you can listen to on 89.3 KPCC, spoke with local mixologist and bartender Lucas Assis to get some of his recommendations.

Assis is best known for his TikTok account, where he regularly shares his knowledge of spirits and craft cocktails. He is also an advocate for sustainable farming of plants like the blue agave, the plant used to make tequila, and his cousin, the maguey plant, which used to make mezcal, both of which are now rapidly grown on a big scale.

This is what he suggested:

Moscow Mule

Moscow Mule
(Photo by Wine Dharma / Unsplash )

This drink and its iconic copper mug may just be the crown jewel of the Los Angeles cocktail scene. Created through part collaboration and the part act of desperation, it apparently began in the 1940s when a vodka dealer talked to the owner of the now-defunct Cock 'n Bull tavern in Hollywood, who had been selling beer from ginger. The discussion turned to the Moscow Mule, which has since become a staple in bars across the city and beyond.

Recipe:
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1-ounce lime juice
  • Ginger beer
  • Lime wedge

Mix lime juice and vodka
Top off with ginger beer
Garnish with a lime wedge

*Note: Assis also recommends the Oaxacan Mule (replace vodka with mezcal) and the Jalisco Mule (replace vodka with white/silver tequila).

Paloma

Paloma is a drink that Assis considers to be one of the most exciting drinks in Mexican culture, as its simplicity has allowed people to make their own personal variations. He has made a series of Tik Toks in the different Palomas found throughout Mexico. This recipe follows a variation that Assis picked up from Baja California.


Recipe:
  • 2 ounces tequila or mezcal
  • ¾ ounce lime juice
  • ¾ ounce grapefruit juice
  • Mexican Squirt or your choice of grapefruit soda
  • Salt

Rub lime around the rim of the mug and apply salt. Add lemon juice and tequila
Top it off with Squirt or Grapefruit Soda

Ranch Water

A popular drink in West Texas and an example of the enduring influence of the Tex-Mex culture that has spread far and wide. While its origins are unclear, it is a drink enjoyed by ranchers in the Lone Star State and many others across the country. It requires very little bar equipment and can be made into a mineral water bottle, making it ideal for kicking back and relaxing with friends.

Recipe:

Topo Chico* or your choice of Mexican mineral water
2 ounces tequila
1-ounce lime juice
1-ounce cucumber syrup (optional)

Mix Topo Chico, tequila, and lime juice
Add and mix in cucumber syrup (optional, see recipe below)

*Note: We are currently experiencing a shortage of Topo Chico, according to a spokeswoman for its parent company, Coca-Cola. So as you navigate your cocktail-mixing journey, Assis recommends that you keep these other Mexican mineral waters in your back pocket to use if needed: Mineragua and Agua de Piedra, found in most local grocery stores and Mexican markets.

Margarita

Margarita
(Photo by Brianna Tucker / Unsplash )

While the origins of the margarita aren't specific to Los Angeles, that doesn't mean the love for the sweet citrus concoction laced with tequila doesn't run deep in these parts. With roots dating back to the 1930s in Baja California, margaritas are enjoyed mixed or on the rocks. Like many of the other drinks on this list, there are ways to flavor them, but here's a simple recipe for you to develop.

Recipe:
  • 1-ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • 2 ounces tequila Blanco
  • Lime wedge (for garnish)
  • Salt
  • 1 ounce of cucumber syrup (optional, see recipe below)

Rub lime around the rim of the cup and apply salt to the rim
Mix lime juice, Cointreau, and tequila and add to a cup
Add cucumber syrup (optional)
Garnish with a lime wedge

Kentucky Bubble Bath

For lavender lovers, this drink is for you. According to Assis, the drink was created by Matthew Biancaniello, with whom he trained at the now-defunct Plan Check Kitchen & Bar location on Fairfax Ave.

Recipe:
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1-ounce lavender water (see recipe below)
  • 1-ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ounce Cynar (artichoke liqueur)
  • simple syrup or agave syrup

Mix bourbon, lavender water, lemon juice, and Cynar
Strain using a fine-mesh strainer or cocktail strainer

Parting Tips:

For Non-Alcoholic Drinkers:

Assis says there are some great non-alcoholic options to consider.

“For example, when you make fresh juice cocktails, you can always substitute seltzer for tequila,” he said. “For something much closer to the taste of tequila, you'll want to use a non-alcoholic liqueur like Ritual. ”

For those interested in creating syrups with seasonal fruits:

We mentioned cucumber and lavender, but there are plenty of options for syrup ideas using fruits and vegetables from your local farmers' market.

Cucumber Simple Syrup

Recipe:
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cucumber

Add ingredients to a small saucepan
Over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and stir in sugar to help it dissolve
Add to a blender, along with cucumber
Blend for 1 minute
Strain the mixture twice

Lavender Water

Try the Assis version of the Kentucky bubble bath with this tea-style method, infusing the flavor of lavender into your cocktail.

Recipe:
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2-3 tablespoons of lavender flowers
  • Add water to a small saucepan, bring to a boil
  • Remove from heat, add lavender to the water, and cover for 2-3 minutes
  • Strain the mixture

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