From fizzy drinks in the park to cooling sundowners, Max and Noel Venning's book makes flavourful cocktails easy to prepare ahead
As summer is here, it's time for summer parties, and outside summer parties at that.
And what you don't want to be wasting time doing while hosting is making lodes of stuff.
We're all fans of preparing dishes before your guests arrive for a dinner party, so why not prepare the drinks too?
Pear and pastis
The distinctive aniseed notes in this drink may divide opinion, but it’s a lovely, tall, refreshing number to kick back with in the early evening, and those who enjoy the grown-up flavour of pastis will absolutely adore it.
100ml pear liqueur
100ml/ 2:1 sugar syrup
285ml fresh, strained lemon juice
Jug, at least 1 litre
Sterilised bottle, at least 1 litre
Lemon slices, to garnish
Bottle: This is so easy to knock up in the afternoon before an evening occasion. Mix all the liquid ingredients in the jug. Transfer to the bottle. Store in the fridge to chill. It will keep for 24 hours.
Glass serve: Fill some highballs with ice. Pour 75ml of the cocktail into each glass and top with soda. Give it a quick stir and garnish with a lemon slice.
Tips: If you are not a fan of pastis, this drink will work without. If pear is not your favourite flavour, another fruit liqueur can be used – peach or apricot both work well. To add a fun bit of spice, it can also be topped with a good-quality ginger beer instead of soda water.
Tarragon and grapefruit collins
The bittersweet, mildly aniseed flavour of tarragon teams up well with the acidity from the pink grapefruit in this drink, and it’s a perfect refresher to sip on a warm weekend afternoon in the park. It’s also more than a match for spicy food. This recipe should make enough for about 10 people.
150ml 2:1 sugar syrup
75g fresh tarragon
Tupperware-type or other lidded container, large enough to hold the 2:1 sugar syrup and tarragon
Sterilised bottle, at least 150ml
150ml fresh, strained grapefruit juice
100ml fresh, strained lemon juice
150ml tarragon syrup
Jug, at least 2 litre
Tarragon stems or slices of grapefruit, to garnish
To make the tarragon syrup
Combine the sugar syrup and tarragon in the container, seal and leave to infuse overnight, or for a few hours at least, in the fridge. Strain through a sieve. Transfer to the bottle and seal. It will keep for quite a while in the fridge, 2 months is a good guideline.
Batch: A couple of hours before you want to serve, add all the ingredients to the jug and put in the fridge.
Jug serve: Fill the jug with ice and top with soda water, giving it a quick stir to combine everything. Fill some tall glasses with ice and pour from the jug. To garnish, take some tarragon stems and give them a slap to release their aroma, then slide one down the side of each glass. If you only bought enough tarragon to make the syrup, a nice slice of grapefruit is equally as pretty.
Tip: The combination of the aniseed notes from the tarragon and fresh citrus means this drink can be made with a couple of different spirits. Vodka amplifies the herb and grapefruit, while blanco tequila’s tangy flavour is good too.
Fennel and elderflower fizz
This is perfect for a picnic and really easy to prep the day before. The savoury note from the fennel means this pairs well with light food. Along with the prosecco and a few fronds of fennel to garnish, it makes for a very sophisticated summer tipple.
Elderflower and fennel cordial
200g bulb fennel
500ml elderflower cordial – Belvoir is really good
Plastic tub or bowl, at least 750ml
25ml elderflower and fennel cordial per serve
100ml prosecco per serving
Fennel slices and fennel leaves, to garnish
To make the elderflower and fennel cordial:
Slice the fennel very thinly – if you have a mandoline use that, otherwise use a sharp knife and go as fine as you can. Keep some of the sliced fennel for garnishing, plus the leaves if they’re there. Place it in the tub, pour the elderflower cordial over, cover with a lid or cling film and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. Keep the empty cordial bottle: you will need it later. Alternatively, cook the fennel and cordial sous vide for 30 minutes at 52ºC/126ºF, then allow to cool. Strain through a coffee filter into the empty cordial bottle. It will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Glass serve: If you’re taking this to a picnic, fill a cool box with ice and put in the prosecco and the cordial. If you’ve saved leaves from the fennel, wrap them in damp kitchen (paper) towel with the fennel slices to keep them fresh, and place them on the ice. To serve, put some ice cubes in each wine glass and add the cordial. Top with prosecco and stir. Add the fennel leaves and slices to garnish.
Everyone has either heard of or drunk plenty of the Lagerita: it’s a refreshing tequila and beer-based cocktail that is perfect for long afternoons in the sun. Here’s our take on it – we took our favourite beer and came up with this simple and delicious long drink that a group of our regulars refer to as the Desperado!
250ml silver tequila of your choice
200ml fresh, strained lemon juice
100ml 2:1 sugar syrup
Jug, at least 1 litre
Plenty of your favourite lager/pale ale/saison
Lemon slices, to garnish
Batch: Combine the tequila, lemon juice and sugar syrup in the jug. Give it a quick stir and keep, covered, in the fridge to get it nice and cold, or until you are ready to drink it. It will keep for 24 hours.
Jug serve: Add loads of ice to the jug and to your glassware. Pour 50ml from the jug into each of the glasses. Top with the beer and garnish with lemon.
Tips: The beer will have a massive effect on the final flavour. A darker, hoppier beer will create a more bitter drink, whereas a lighter, citrussy beer will lead to something more refreshing.
Also, you can add another dimension by replacing half the volume of sugar syrup with your preferred fruit liqueur.
Batched & Bottled by Max and Noel Venning (Quadrille, £18) is out now. Photography © Ola O Smit