Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer Anthems with Summer Cocktails

Hi Friends –

Join me in resisting the back-to-school ads and Fall wardrobe catalogs - at least for a few more weeks - because Summer is certainly not yet over.

I love the California Summer. After work, you can head to a sunny roof-top patio restaurant with friends (for Z, the Peninsula Hotel) or to the beach for a quiet evening constitutional (for Z, Manhattan Beach). And, CA Summer weekends are mini-vacations… BBQs, water sports, lazing around in the sun, dining al fresco (all so fun, but can give a terrible case of "the Mondays…").

If the last couple days are any indication, it looks like more sunny days are on the way. So let’s soak it up with the best of Summer anthems through the decades paired with Summer cocktails Rockin' Foodie style.

From Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's slow 1950s melodies to present pop diva daisy dukes-wearin Katy Perry – the below playlist captures the best of Summer themes.

Before we dive into the pairings, a huge thank you goes out to Malena Casteel - the creative mixologist and drink historian who was integral in creating these recipes. As a side gig, Malena bartends private events so if you are interested in her skills -

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The 50s

SUMMERTIME – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong (1957) – Originally written by George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward for the 1936 opera, Porgy and Bess, this has become the quintessential Summer standard recorded over 15,000 times. I love the 1:32 slow horn intro… then enter Ella’s gorgeous voice with the long drawn-out syllables of “Summertime and the living is easy” – Summer is captured right there in all of 6 words.

Such a leisurely and evocative standard requires a slow drinking Summer cocktail straight out of the 50s and before – the Gin Martini, but with added sweetness. I never thought I could drink a gin martini because I don’t like gin, but this martini has made me a convert.

Here is what you do: Combine equal parts Hendricks Gin and St. Germain Elderberry Liqueur with a dash of simple syrup (buy it or just bring to boil equal parts water and sugar, and then cool it down). Combine in shaker with ice and then pour into a martini glass and sip sloooowly.

As a tip - Bev Mo sells almost all liquor used in these recipes in very cute small bottles.

The 60s

SUMMER IN THE CITY – The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966) – A Billboard #1 Hit in the US, this song is NOT about lovely beach romances or cool summer breezes – nope – this pays homage to sticky Summer nights. This ditty is all about getting the hell out of work, changing into something fun, and going out for the evening – dancing, drinking, throwing a few darts - getting it all in before the morning grind begins the next day – very Norma Rae.

This drink has no frills – no umbrella, no juices, no pinky colors – it’s simply a beer poured into a tall glass, but with a Summer twist by adding a dash of Sprite, and then followed with a tequila shot. Simple, clean, does the job.

The 70s

IN THE SUMMERTIME – Mungo Jerry (1970) – This British pop song became a world wide hit in the early 70s climbing up UK, US, and Canadian charts. Celebrating the carefree days of Summer – In The Summertime, is my fav easy, happy, Summer tune. Besides images from the movie "Wedding Crashers", this song reminds me of Summer picnics. When the weather is fine, Z loves to picnic– and why not go big and bring the bubbly for a fancy champagne basil and strawberry cocktail that you can drink right out of a picnic paper cup. This is my current fav drink.

Here is how you make it: Muttle strawberries and basil with simple syrup in the bottom of a glass, add some ice, then add champagne, and top it off with a dash of Sprite. To make it picnic ready, pre-muttle your basil and strawberries with the simple syrup and store in a container. Pack a bottle of champagne and a can of Sprite. Once you are nice and settled on your blanket, add the muttled strawberry basil mixture to a paper cup and then top with the champagne and Sprite. Easy, breezy, and elegant!

The 80s

KOKOMO – The Beach Boys (1988) – The Beach Boys (originally from So Cal) scream SUMMER – "California Girls", "Surfin USA", "Surfin Safari", and of course Kokomo. Kokomo, as a single, was actually released to coincide with the Tom Cruise movie, "Cocktail" (appropriately titled for the Rockin Foodie this week!).

As child of the 80s, my elementary school’s 1989 talent show was replete with girls lip-synching to Kokomo (not me – I played the piano). This is the perfect classic beach and flip-flops song, and thus it must be paired with the classic beach cocktail – the Mai Tai. Since there are many different Mai Tai recipes, the brilliant Malena (who occasionally goes by the nickname, May) helped me come up with a simple home version that doesn’t require a lot of specialized ingredients- we call it the May Tai. 

How to make a May Tai: In a tall glass with ice add a heavy pour of coconut run, then a splash of grenadine, pineapple juice, and OJ (in that order for a pretty layered effect) and then float Myers dark rum on the top. The back-scratchers photographed here are from a Hawaiian Mai Tai enjoyed by my mama bear in 1988.

The 90s

SUMMERTIME – DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (1991) – This song has the distinction of being the only Grammy winner of this playlist! Cross colors, rayon, bad hats, and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air – for me that encapsulates the 90s. I love when Will reminisces about the Summers of his youth. This song is infectious and makes me want to play Will Smith’s “Welcome to Miami (bienvenido a Miami)” and watch my brother’s play basketball.

So in conceptualizing this cocktail, I wondered “What does Will Smith drink? Per Eve Mendes, Sir Smith can’t hold his liquor and likes girly drinks – but its ok Will, I didn’t pair you with a pina colada, instead it’s a Summer vodka cocktail with a nod to basketball – A Melon Ball.

Here is what you do: Combine equal parts vodka & Midori (the green stuff), then top with OJ and a cherry.

The 2000s

ALL SUMMER LONG – Kid Rock (2008) – A mash-up of Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama", this is Kid Rock’s biggest single yet. This hit rounds out our list because it’s a bit country and gives a nod to taking the boat out on the lake with your buddies – This song is made for Whiskey! As Mr. Kid Rock says himself, he was “sipping whiskey out the bottle, not thinking 'bout tomorrow” but the Rockin Foodie requires we put that whiskey in another vessel before we get on that boat (don’t want the Coast Guard to chase us down!). And since we are talking "Sweet Home Alabama", here is the Rocking Foodie take on an Alabama Slammer mixed with lemonade that you can throw in a water bottle and take out on the lake.

Here what you do: Combine equal parts Southern Comfort whiskey, Amaretto, and lemonade and just drink it over ice or out of a sport bottle shirtless.

The Summer of 2010 baby!

CALIFORNIA GURLS – Katy Perry (2010) – Indeed Lady Katy - you got this nailed – we Cali girls are unforgettable, fine, fresh, and fierce. Off the “Teenage Dream” album slated for official release by EMI/Capitol August 24, this first single is, hands down, 2010's Summer anthem (followed closely by Unkle Kracker’s great tune “Good To Be Me”). Everything from the adult Candyland video to the frisky lyrics, make me want to stand up in a convertible with the top down (my top up, of course) and just have a good time. And since Katy mentions it and it's Z’s fav cocktail going back to college, I have to pair this 2010 anthem with the Rockin' Foodie version of a Sex on the Beach.

Here is what you do: Combine equal parts vodka, coconut rum, and peach schnapps, add a splash of pineapple juice and cranberry juice and enjoy over ice...mmmm… it’s the grown up gurls’ melted Popsicle.

Follow Z on Twitter! @therockinfoodie


  1. "Your daddy's rich and your mommas good lookin'." The concept and imagery of that song take me to a place that I wish I could go to. Somewhere in the south.....maybe if I make your drink it will take me there....