Margaritas, Mojitos & More

Jessica Strand's new summer-beverage book will instantly make you thirsty

Margaritas, Mojitos & More

by Jessica Strand, Chronicle Books, 120 pp., $16.95

Summertime and refreshing cocktails, with alcohol or without, go hand-in-hand around these parts. And during this season of backyard barbecues, picnics, and outdoor parties, nothing beats a big pitcher of ice-cold tropical-flavored drinks to liven things up. Entertaining expert Jessica Strand's new little book captures the essence of summer cocktails in an easy-to-read style, illustrated with gorgeous color photographs by Frankie Frankeny of freshly prepared drinks that make you instantly thirsty. Recipes range from poolside classics such as Cuba libres, piña coladas, and frozen daiquiris to modern fusion drinks that incorporate unique ingredients. All are easy to make and, as far as my experiments have gone, absolutely delicious.

The book starts with a bar-basics section, including utensils, liquors, and garnishes to stock up the summer bar – an excellent reference guide for beginning mixologists – as well as recipes for various homemade flavored syrups (basil, ginger, lemongrass, and rosemary-lemon, to name a few) that are used in recipes throughout the book. The chapters that follow include "Classic Cocktails," "Margaritas," "Mojitos," "Modern Cocktails," and "Calming Coolers," a nice selection of easy and delicious nonalcoholic drinks the whole family can enjoy.

Fruity drinks are best when they taste fresh instead of cloyingly sweet, and Strand's recipes prove the point beautifully. She acknowledges our very own Saba Blue Water Cafe as the source of inspiration for her Lemongrass Margarita, one of my favorite local cocktails. However, the ultra-refreshing Basil-Lime Margarita and the spectacularly flavored Watermelon-Ginger Margarita are the new favorites at my home. The Cucumber-Lime Saketini and the Blackberry Vodka Gimlet will soon follow. I have enjoyed hibiscus-flower margaritas at popular Mexico City bars, and Strand's recipe for a Hibiscus Mojito proved to be outstanding.

Best of all, Strand's book is as much an excellent basic guide for beginners as a launching platform for advanced drink-makers who want to experiment with their own cocktail variations. Get that shaker out, and put it to good use this summer!

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MargaritasMojitos & More, Margaritas, Mojitos & More, Jessica Strand, summer beverages, Cuba libre, piña colada, daiquiri, mojito, margarita, Saba Blue Water Cafe

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