Drink in summer memories

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published July 22, 2015

 Britsky prepares a Gin Rickey on the patio of his Royal Oak home.

Britsky prepares a Gin Rickey on the patio of his Royal Oak home.

Photo by Donna Agusti


METRO DETROIT — It doesn’t take many ingredients to mix up a perfect summer evening: balmy air, a few friends and some refreshing drinks to sip on as the sun sets.

And it doesn’t need to take many ingredients or fancy add-ons to make a tasty warm-weather cocktail either, according to Royal Oak’s Nick Britsky. He’s a blogger who specializes in all things spirits, interviewing local bartenders and researching the best watering holes in metro Detroit. But he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve, too, when it comes to creating great libations.

Britsky whipped up a few cocktails especially for C & G Newspapers and shared the ingredients so that the simple creations could be done at home in a flash. His methodology: Keep them light, summery, and whenever possible, keep the mix-ins Michigan made.

“For the classic Mai Tai, I used rum from New Holland, made in a distillery on the west side of the state. It’s a really, really good rum, and I mixed that with fresh lime juice, orgeat syrup, orange curacao,” he said. “It’s high in alcohol but also fruity. So it bangs you over the head, but you have a good time with it.”

That’s one of Britsky’s stronger formulations. Typically, for summer get-togethers, he opts for drinks that are more “tall,” or lighter on alcohol and heavier on fillers.

“This allows you to kind of sit outside, relax, take your time and not get super (inebriated),” he explained.

Slower sipping seems to be the trend with summer beers, too, said Joe VanderMarliere, co-owner of Baffin Brewing Co. in St. Clair Shores. While some people prefer to get a case of light beer and head to the beach, his customers are looking for something with a little more substance.

The brewery opened up in January, so this is its first summer serving up suds to the city’s booming boat crowd. And the big sellers, he noted, are the beers with citrusy, hoppy flavors.

“Right now, our more popular ones are the mango pale ale and the Saison brew, which both hover at around 7 percent alcohol content by volume.

“There are people who love their stout, and we’ve got that on tap right now, too. It’s a coffee stout, but most people think winter because of the cozy, darker flavor with chocolate and that nutty appeal. But people really want more citrusy notes. When that citrus hits the nose, it’s really refreshing,” he said.

And just off the lake, refreshing seems to be the name of the game, since beers are being served up at Baffin like gangbusters.

“We were curious if sales were going to spike in the summer, and they definitely have,” he said. “We doubled our production just to keep up. We had to get four more fermenters. But it’s steady, too. The craft beer craze is huge in Michigan right now.”

Britsky said he likes to keep things fruity for his warm-weather cocktail recipes. Citrus and mint are two of his favorite ingredients, which are readily available and inexpensive this time of year. But he knows that summer calls for a bit of adventure and fun, so he likes to make sure guests can experiment with their own flavor ideas.

“The last party I had, I set up a full bar and printed up recipes I knew I had ingredients for. I put out all the garnishes, mix-ins, and that allowed people to DIY,” he said. “I had a ton of wine and a ton of beer, but people stayed with the liquor because they thought it was so much fun to get creative and add a little of this or that and change it up.”

For guests who don’t want to partake in alcohol, it can be really easy to combine all those tempting fresh ingredients with a booze-free base like juice or club soda for a refreshing treat.

The key is, no matter what type of beverage you’re craving this summer, it has to satisfy a certain summer craving — whether it’s flavor, hydration, availability or even nostalgia.

“Sometimes when I’m creating (cocktails), I just go from a memory or a feeling or a thought,” Britsky said. “Like the Orange Blossom. I started with the Two James Johnny Smoking Gun Whiskey, and I wanted to play off that big smoky flavor. I added apple brandy, honey syrup, and it just reminds you of walking through a nice flower garden and smelling those great aromas.”

You can visit Nick Britsky’s blog at www.NickDrinks.com. For more information about Baffin Brewing Co., located at 25113 Jefferson Ave. in St. Clair Shores, visit www.baffinbrewing.com or call (586) 218-7990.

Beverage blogger Nick Britsky shares some of his favorite cocktail recipes

Orange Blossom (Nick Drinks Original)

- 2 oz Two James Johnny Smoking Gun Whiskey
- 1/2 oz honey syrup (melt 2 parts honey in 1 part hot water and cool)
- 1/2 oz applejack
- 3 dashes of orange bitters

Add everything and ice to a mixing glass and stir. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with orange peel.

Mai Tai
- 2 oz New Holland Brewing Freshwater Michigan Amber Rum
- 1 oz fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz orange curacao, or triple sec
- 1 oz orgeat syrup

Shake everything with ice and strain into a tall glass with crushed ice and garnish with tropical fruits and a tall straw.

Gin Rickey
- 1 1/2 oz Detroit City Distillery Railroad Gin
- 1 sugar cube
- 1/2 oz fresh lime juice

Build everything in a tall glass, crush the sugar with a muddler and top with soda water. Technically no ice, but for the summer I would ignore this.

Pimm’s Cup
- 2 oz Pimm’s No. 1 Liqueur
- Top with ginger beer or ale
- Fill glass with ice, add Pimm’s, then top with ginger beer. Garnish with cucumber, mint and citrus. Give a quick bottom-to-top stir.

Moscow Mule
- 1/2 oz American Fifth vodka
- 3/4 oz lime
- Top with ginger beer or ale

Fill a copper mug (or any mug) with ice, add spirits and lime, then top with ginger beer. Give a quick bottom-to-top stir.