As a child, there are two surefire things for staving off summer's swelter. Thing one: Turn on the hose and squeal while scooting through arcs of droplets. Thing two: Listen for the ice cream truck, beg quarters and race the drips down your arm.
When you're a grownup, add a third thing: Pack a metal shaker with ice cubes, liquor and something fruity; shake and add a plastic mermaid or a tiny paper umbrella.
The summer cocktail goes deeper than quenching your thirst; it somehow gets to your arid, sun-bleached soul.
As we approach the doggiest days ahead, we perused local cocktail menus for the best ways to wet your whistle.
Edison: Food+Drink Lab
912 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa (813) 254-7111
Finally, the mixology lab at Edison: Food+Drink Lab is up and running. It has always been chef Jeannie Pierola's plan to offer a full bar at the restaurant she opened last year, but the legal cogs have turned slowly.
On June 21, they debuted a cocktail list that fits in seamlessly with the restaurant's edgy, world-beat sensibility.
All right, the bartender still needs his cheat sheet while crafting drinks, but these things are complex: The Tea in Lima ($10), a creamy, lush concoction, features TeBella Jasmine Silver Needle-infused pisco (a traditional grape brandy), lemon, honey syrup, egg white and a dropper of something in a mysterious tiny blue glass bottle.
Mixologists' arms get a serious workout in the making of drinks like the Southern Telegraph ($11), a beguiling mix of French rum muddled with fresh cherries and jalapenos, then shaken with agave nectar and mint. The heat of the jalapenos is just barely detectable, more a sensation of warmth. And here's one that embodies the summer spirit: a luminous pale yellow drink that marries mescal with pureed yellow heirloom tomatoes, basil and smoked sea salt. Think of it as a nuevo Bloody Mary, the heirloom tomatoes adding a fruity lightness. The most seasonally appropriate part? It's called the Shirt Soaker ($13).
Mise en Place
442 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa (813) 254-5373
Mise en Place's new head mixologist Audrey Grounds has launched a number of innovative summer quenchers (longtime bartender Nate DeWitt moved to Texas last year). Some border on mad-scientist wacky (the Mr. Butterworth's After Work Old Fashioned features bourbon, orange bitters, bourbon barrel aged maple syrup and smoked maple ice cubes) and others are pure refreshment on a hot Tampa night. A classic Italian greyhound, which they call the Herbal Remedy, showcases gin with Amaro, fresh squeezed grapefruit juice with rosemary simple syrup, served on the rocks in a Tom Collins glass with a sprig of rosemary as a garnish — where bitter meets fragrantly herbal. Cocktails are in the $10 to $12 range.
1202 N Franklin St., Tampa (813) 275-5000
Not far away, dynamic bartender Dawn Heidemann and the other mixologists at Fly Bar are following suit with summer-suitable quaffs. At the beginning of June, Heidemann, one of the founding members of the local Left Coast Bartenders Guild, competed on the national stage at Diageo World Class U.S. Finale in New York City, what many call the Bartending Olympics. Fellow bartender Danny Guess describes one of this season's big newcomers at Fly: the Pisco colada, a Peruvian-Chilean spin on the islands, with coconut milk, fresh-pressed pineapple juice, pisco, Angostura bitters, honey and allspice dram (an allspice-flavored liqueur native to Jamaica). The best part? On Tuesday evenings signature cocktails are $6.
1111 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Sarasota (941) 309-2000
At the start of the year, Sarasota's Ritz-Carlton closed its longtime restaurant Vernona and debuted Jack Dusty, a stylish but less formal setting for a largely seafood restaurant supported by a savvy list of craft cocktails. The name? It's an 18th century short-hand term for the naval store clerk whose responsibility included doling out the daily lot of rum to sailors and maintaining the ship's inventory of food supplies. That's pretty obscure, but chef de cuisine Jeff Thomas, a.k.a. "Gator," brings a more accessible sensibility to upscale fish and raw bar items. The restaurant's master mixologist Roy Roig, back from an educational trip to London, has debuted summer cocktails like the Man-O-War (Laird's applejack, orange bitters, fresh lemon and lime, simple syrup; $12), the English Shipwreck (housemade sage-infused gin, pomegranate juice, fresh citrus and orange blossom rose water; $15) or the Ultra Violette Martini (Tito's Hadmade Vodka, St. Germain, Griotte cherry liqueur, citrus and creme de violette; $15).
27001 U.S. 19 N, Suite 1150, Clearwater, (727) 674-4611; and 219 WestShore Plaza, Tampa, (813) 289-8400
And even chains like P.F. Chang's have introduced some warm-weather elixirs. Going along with six new dishes in the summer seasonal menu (heirloom tomato and Thai basil salad; Korean barbecue chicken stir-fry; Peking duck summer rolls; and others), the upscale Asian concept has added a Long Island tequila tea (1800 silver, reposado and anejo tequilas shaken with sour mix and topped with Coca-Cola; $9) as well as a Long Island rum tea (Cruzan mango, guava and aged light rums, fresh sour mix and a splash of cranberry with pink cherries; $9).
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.