Hint: the star (and mixer) is the ice cube.

By Alissa Fitzgerald
August 21, 2019
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With Labor Day weekend looming, there’s no doubt that summer zoomed in and then out again almost as quickly as aloe vera flies off the shelf after a day at the pool. Those long, lazy summer nights are dwindling so there’s no time to waste on fussy ingredients and finicky garnishes. August is all about the simple. 

We’re officially cheersing to the last of the sultry summer but with a refreshing twist. The whole point is to sip that happy hour juice without stress or worry. Luckily for us, the cocktail scene has fallen back in love with highballs. So forget about complicated shaken drinks. Time to make your ingredients do all the work.

What are highballs, anyway? Tall frosty tumblers filled with ice, booze, and your favorite mixer. Although, for the fashionable host or hostess, stemless wine glasses are a great swap. We’re not talking college vodka sodas, here, people. Think gin and tonics, fruity, frosty libations, and even a twist on a daiquiri where the clink of ice as you slurp is the only sign you need to know that it’s ready. 

Ice is a key component for any highball and a great way to play with summer’s ripe fruits bursting with flavor. It’s also where the magic happens. By pureeing and freezing your fruit, or the occasional vegetable, you lock in the flavor and up the cute factor. Invest in a silicone tray that produces larger, and prettier, ice cubes. These simple tweaks can elevate any basic highball into a classy patio sipper that tastes as good as it looks. Here are a few tricks to get you on your way.

Note: These cocktails, by definition, have very few ingredients so each one is that much more important. The quality of your liquor and mixer matters. Set a range and chat with your local liquor store clerk and they can steer you in the right direction. Plenty of good bottles exist between $25 to $35.

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Watermelon Cooler 

Hands-on Time: 15 minutes
Hands-off Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes 
Yield: Serves 6-8 

Note: Standard ice trays work well but larger cubed ones make a statement. End of summer watermelon is sweet and juicy, so no need for extra sugar!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups seedless watermelon, skinned and roughly cubed (about 1 pound) 
  • 2 oz portions tequila or mezcal (750 ml bottle)
  • Soda water

How to Make It

Step 1
Cut off the green and white outer edges of your watermelon, checking for stray seeds. Roughly cube and puree until fully blended. Pour into ice trays and freeze. Tap trays against the counter to remove air pockets. Should fill two standard ice trays or 1.5 large ones. Place in freezer for approximately 2 hours.

Step 2
Fill your glass with 1 large watermelon ice cube or 2-4 small ones. Add the 2 oz tequila and top with club soda. Stir to combine. 

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Frozen Bramble

Hands-on Time: 5 minutes
Hands-off Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes 
Yield: Serves 6-8 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups berries (a mix of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 quart Lemonade
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle of gin, divided

How to Make It

Step 1
Combine berries in a mixer. Add ¼ cup water and puree until blended. Pour into ice trays and freeze for approximately 2 hours. 

Step 2
Pour 2 oz of gin into each glass. Add 1 large berry ice cube or 2-4 small ones and top with lemonade. 

Note: The berries are meant to offset the lemonade in the drink and relies on their natural sugars. If you prefer a slightly sweeter cocktail, add 1 tablespoon sugar to the berry mixture. 


Salted Cucumber G & T

Hands-on Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes (plus 2 hours freezing time)
Yield: Serves 6-8 drinks

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cucumber (about 2 English cucumbers or 6-8 regular cucumbers)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 oz Gin per glass
  • 1 bottle tonic water

How to Make It

Step 1
Peel and roughly chop four whole English cucumbers or 6-8 regular cucumbers or about 2 cups. Add 1 tablespoon of water and 1 scant teaspoon salt. Puree until blended. Pour into two standard ice trays and let freeze approximately two hours.

Step 2
Add to tall glasses and pour in 2 oz Gin. Top with with tonic water of your choice. 


Rocky Daiquiris

Hands-on Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 limes
  • 2 cups lime juice
  • Simple Syrup
  • 1 ½ oz white rum

How to Make It

Step 1
Slice limes into rounds. Fill two ice trays with water and slip a small round of lime into each tray. Let freeze approximately 2 hours.

Step 2
In a stemless wine glass, add in 1 ½ oz rum with 1 oz lime juice and ½ oz simple syrup. Stir to combine. Fill glass with lime-y ice and stir again. 

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