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July 16, 2015

Seven Philly bartenders share their favorite summer cocktails

Plus, learn to make a Melon-Choly Baby

Cocktails Bars
Bartenders Summer Drinks Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Seven of Philadelphia's bartenders share their favorite summer cocktails.

What makes for the ultimate summer cocktail? We asked seven top Philly mixologists to give their picks. Plus, they share their go-to off-duty drinks. Portraits by Thom Carroll. 

Jesse Cornell, Vesper


Favorite summer cocktail: Tin Cup

Inspired by the Gold Cup tiki classic, Cornell uses Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Vida mezcal, lime juice, Luxardo maraschino liqueur and absinthe. “The gin has herbaceousness, and the mezcal adds a little smokiness. It’s a touch on the sweet side,” says Cornell. “I drink it over ice, but at the restaurant it’s served in a coupe. It goes down scarily easily.”

Go-to off-duty drink: “Very cold canned beer or Irish whiskey.”

Don Galvano, Pub & Kitchen


Favorite summer cocktail: Barbancourt Sour

New on Pub & Kitchen’s menu, this beer cocktail is “something we’ve been playing with for a while,” says Galvano. He tops Barbancourt 8-year-old rum, lemon, egg white and Angostura bitters with Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche, a Berliner Weisse made with pureed peaches. “It’s super easy to drink—I call it ‘crushable’—and really tasty and light,” says Galvano.

Go-to off-duty drink: “I drink a ton of Contratto Bianco, an Italian vermouth, mixed with lemonade and Prosecco.”

Sara Justice, The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. 


Favorite summer cocktail: Americano

Justice creates elaborate cocktail tasting menus at The Franklin (a beachy “down the shore” list is in the works), but she also really appreciates a classic Americano, the predecessor to the Negroni that’s prepared with Campari, vermouth and club soda. “It tastes like soda for adults,” says Justice. “And it’s low proof, which I really love.”

Go-to off-duty drink: “You can never go wrong with a beer and a shot of whiskey.”

Katie Loeb, cocktail author, bartender & beverage consultant


Favorite summer cocktail: Melon-Choly Baby

Loeb came up with this gin-watermelon puree-ginger combo at a SNAP liqueur cocktail competition several years ago. “Instead of eggnog or a hot toddy I decided to go with something summery and refreshing,” says Loeb. She liked it so much she included a version in her book Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails (Quarry Books, 2012). Ginger beer stands in for the liqueur, and lime juice and bitters balance the sweetness.

Go-to off-duty drink “When I’m tired and I don’t feel like fussing I’ll drink a ‘Fresquila’ [Fresca soda mixed with Tequila] with a dash of grapefruit bitters.”

Resa Mueller, Twenty Manning & Emmanuelle


Favorite summer cocktail: Old Colonial

Mueller is a fan of the Old Cuban, a variation on the mojito. In this riff on Twenty Manning’s menu she uses Barbancourt 5 Star rum, lime, mint, Angostura bitters and sparkling wine and adds a healthy dose of Batavia Arrack (a sugarcane- and red-rice-based spirit). “It’s super refreshing, but it’s got enough structure and gravity so that you can take your time and really enjoy it,” says Mueller.

Go-to off-duty drink: “Beer. A nice Gose or a Kölsch is super refreshing when it’s hot out.”

Keith Raimondi, Townsend


Favorite summer cocktail: Broken Garden Tools

Gin, celery and lemon juice, parsley syrup, Moroccan bitters and salt and pepper go into this bright new addition to the Townsend menu. “I wanted a green cocktail—something that felt really fresh and summery,” says Raimondi, who teaches the “Spirits and Mixology” course at Drexel University. “This one is very balanced and well-integrated and tastes just like the garden.”

Go-to off-duty drink: “A spritz. I like mine with Cocchi Americano, Aperol, sparkling wine and a lemon peel served on the rocks. I also drink a lot of French wine.”

Max Sherman, Bing Bing Dim Sum


Favorite summer cocktail: Aloe Ha

New on the Bing Bing menu, the Aloe Ha has aloe juice, gin, Chambord and lemon. “I drink aloe juice when it’s hot out, and so does everyone in the kitchen,” says Sherman. “Gin was an obvious choice for summer, and the Chambord makes it nice and purple.” For a non-alcoholic thirst-quencher, Sherman combines the aloe juice with green tea.

Go-to off-duty drink: “I drink a lot of Shandies in the summer, like Harpoon’s UFO Big Squeeze. I’ve been making them at the bar with Yuzu or orange juice mixed with High Life or a Gose beer.”

Recipe: Melon-Choly Baby 

by Katie Loeb, adapted from "Shake, Stir, Pour: Homegrown Cocktails" 

1 ounce (30 ml) gin

1 ounce (30 ml) watermelon puree*

½ ounce (15 ml) simple syrup

2 dashes Angostura bitters

½ ounce (15 ml) fresh lime juice

2 oz. Ginger beer to top off (I like Barritts or Reeds Extra for this)

Garnish: Watermelon wedge and candied ginger

Shake gin, watermelon puree, simple syrup, bitters, and lime juice in an ice-filled shaker and strain into a highball or collins glass over fresh ice.

Top with ginger beer and stir gently to combine.

Garnish with a watermelon wedge and candied ginger.

* Watermelon puree should be made as close to serving time as possible, since it separates quickly and does not retain its fresh flavor for very long. Cut seedless watermelon into chunks, puree in the blender, and lightly strain it to remove some of the cellulose fibers.