From coast to coast, Fourth of July festivities and fireworks came and went, and a patriotic party at the Mansion was no exception. Playboy models, Playmates, friends, family and even some four-legged friends showed off their red, white and blue spirit over the holiday weekend. I sadly couldn’t make it out to Cali to celebrate with the girls, but I did happen to round up a handful of party pics and a Slip 'N Slide video clip so we could all live vicariously through their fun on the 4th.
With temperatures reaching the 90s here in Chitown, I decided to devote this week’s column to sharing my five go-to drinks for chilling out this summer.
1) Crystal Mojito You won’t find this on the drink menu at the Dana Hotel's Vertigo Sky Lounge, but if you ask for it, they’ll readily serve up my twist on the classic Cuban cocktail. In the simplest terms, it’s a mojito made with champagne instead of rum. It’s that easy.
4 mint leaves (or 2 sprigs), plus extra to serve
1 tsp. sugar syrup or superfine sugar
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
2-3 fl. oz champagne
Lime wedge, to serve
Place the mint leaves (or sprigs), sugar/syrup and lime juice in a mixing jug. Muddle until the sugar dissolves and the oils are released from the mint. Fill a glass with ice cubes, add the champagne and stir well. Strain or pour the mix into the glass and top off with soda water. Garnish the glass with a lime wedge and an extra sprig of mint. And that's it! Serve and enjoy.
2) Blue Moon You can find this honey wheat beer on tap or bottled just about anywhere in the summer. Close seconds for seasonal wheat beer are Hefeweizen and Hoegaarden. Garnish with lemon or orange slices. Mmmm, mmmm good!
3) Sangria (red or white) If you're hosting a party or are having people over, sangria is great for entertaining. It's super easy to make, and you can prep it the night before to avoid last-minute scrambling. I've listed measurements below, but a guess-and-check technique also works. (There's really no way to mess up sangria.)
1 bottle of chilled red or white wine
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup peach schnapps
1/4 flavored vodka
8 oz. cranberry juice
8 oz. orange juice
1/2 liter ginger ale
Mixed fruit, sliced
In a large pitcher, mix all ingredients together and let sit overnight. Serve over crushed ice, then let your guests tell you what a great host you are.
4) Skinnygirl Margarita Mix Ditch your average margarita for Bethenny Frankel’s store-bought version of the same, a lighter (and stronger!) take on Mexico’s signature drink. Your buddies may mock you for storing this in your fridge, but you’ll be glad you’ve got a bottle on hand for whenever the ladies come over.
5) Moscow Mule Though sometimes hard to find because ginger beer isn't a bar staple, this always-refreshing vodka concoction is a perfect nighttime drink to order when you're out. It's also another super simple drink to mix up on your own, whether you're hosting or just want to kick back with something other than chasers plus whatever alcohol's in the freezer (i.e. screwdrivers, vodka/gin & tonics, etc.)
2 fl. oz. vodka
Juice of 1 lime
5 fl. oz ginger beer
Mint sprigs and lime slices, to decorate
Fill a tall glass halfway with ice cubes. Add the vodka and lime juice and top off with the ginger beer. Serve garnished with mint sprigs and lime slices. Could that be any simpler?
And if you're a wine lover like me, I suggest a dry white wine for those hot summer nights when you want something easy to relax into. You don't have to shell out the big bucks for a good bottle of white, especially if you hit up Trader Joe's! (Their Two-Buck Chuck Sauvignon Blanc is my fave, but it's a little more full-bodied.)