Thirsty For A SoCal Summer Cocktail? We Have 5 Recipes (Plus Two Mixers) From A Local Bartender

Thirsty For A SoCal Summer Cocktail? We Have 5 Recipes (Plus Two Mixers) From A Local Bartender
Margarita pitchers and glasses at HomeState restaurant in L.A. (Courtesy HomeState)

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

Which is what we're doing. Our current affairs show AirTalk — which you can listen to on 89.3 KPCC — spoke to 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 craft spirits and cocktails. He’s also an advocate for sustainable farming of plants such as blue agave, the plant used to make tequila, and its cousin the maguey plant used to make mezcal, both of which are now rapidly being grown on a large-scale.

Here's what he suggested:

Moscow Mule

Moscow Mule
(Photo by Wine Dharma / Unsplash )

This drink and its iconic copper mug may be the crown jewel of the Los Angeles cocktail scene. Created through one part collaboration and one part act of desperation, it apparently got started in the 1940s when a vodka distributor got talking to the owner of the now-defunct Cock 'n Bull tavern in Hollywood, who had been selling ginger beer. The discussion turned into the Moscow Mule, which has since become a staple at 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 lime wedge

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

Paloma

Paloma’s a drink that Assis considers one of the most exciting drinks in Mexican drinking culture, since its simplicity has allowed folks to make their own personal variations. He's done a series of Tik Toks on 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 cup and apply salt. Add lime juice and tequila
Top off with Squirt or grapefruit soda

Ranch Water

A popular drink in West Texas and an example of the lasting influence of Tex-Mex culture that’s spread far and wide. While its origins are unclear, it's a drink enjoyed by rancheros in the Lone Star State and many others around the country. It requires very little bar equipment and can be made in a mineral water bottle, which makes it great 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’re currently going through a Topo Chico shortage, according to a spokeswoman for its parent company, Coca-Cola. So as you navigate your cocktail-mixing journey, Assis recommends you keep these other Mexican mineral waters in your back pocket to use if necessary: Mineragua and Agua de Piedra, found at 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 love for the sweet citrussy tequila-laced concoction doesn’t run deep in these parts. With its roots dating back to 1930s Baja California, margaritas are enjoyed either blended or on the rocks. Similar to many of the other drinks featured on this list, there are ways you can spice them up, but here's a simple recipe for you to build on.

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

Kentucky Bubble Bath

For those who love lavender, this drink is for you. According to Assis, the drink was created by Matthew Biancaniello, who he trained with at the now-defunct location Plan Check Kitchen & Bar 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 options without alcohol to consider

“For example, when you’re doing fresh juice cocktails, you can always substitute mineral water for tequila," he said. “For something much closer to that tequila taste, you’ll want to use a non-alcoholic spirit like Ritual.”

For those interested in creating syrups with seasonal fruits:

We did mention cucumber and lavender, but there are plenty of options for syrup ideas using fruits and veggies 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 Assis’s version of the Kentucky Bubble bath with this tea-style method, infusing the taste 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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