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In the Spirit

Take It Outside

Patio cocktails that’ll make you social

By Tony Cross

There’s nothing quite like springtime in the Carolinas. Minus the pollen, I love everything Mother Nature has to offer this time of the year: the longer days, the warmer mornings and the cozy evenings. I even love the bees dancing from flower to flower. But I especially love that it’s patio cocktail weather. Not too cold, not too hot. . . just right. And with that, I’ll get right to it. Here are a couple of cocktails worthy of sharing on any patio — and one if you’re poolside, too.


Bee’s Knees

Speaking of pollen, this three-ingredient cocktail is perfect for shaking up and sipping outside, while the worker bees do their thing. Though I’ve seen the drink attributed to a Frank Meier, who worked in Paris at the Ritz Hotel in 1921, and also to Margaret Tobin Brown, “Molly Brown,” in an issue of the 1929 Brooklyn Standard, the exact origin of the Bee’s Knees is unknown. It was probably created during Prohibition. The lingo in the States during that time frame had “the bee’s knees” right in there with “the cat’s pajamas.” More than likely, the honey was added to bathtub gin to mask the smell and soften the taste. But who cares who created this classic? It’s easy to make and incredibly balanced. Here’s how you do it.

2 ounces gin

3/4 ounce lemon juice

1/2 ounce honey syrup*

Lemon twist for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaking vessel, add ice, and shake hard for 10-15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

*Honey syrup: Combine 2 1/2 parts honey (you’re not doing it right if it’s not local) to 1 part hot water and mix until honey is dissolved. Once cooled, pour into a glass container, seal tight and refrigerate.


Colletti Royale

This spin on a margarita adds blood orange juice and rosé Champagne. How could you pass on that? It was created by bartender Julie Reiner at her bar, Clover Club, in New York City in 2013 for Valentine’s Day. Though I could drink this any day of the year, it tastes especially good outside during the month of May.

1 1/2 ounces reposado tequila

1/2 ounce Cointreau

1/2 ounce St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur

1/2 ounce blood orange juice

1/2 ounce lime juice

2 dashes Angostura Orange bitters

3 ounces rosé Champagne

Combine tequila, Cointreau, St. Germaine, juices and bitters into a shaker with ice and shake until vessel is chilled. Strain into a wine glass that’s filled with ice. Top with rosé Champagne, and garnish with a blood orange wheel.

A few notes: It’s hard to find blood oranges, especially during the warmer months. If you’re in a bind, you can substitute regular orange juice and Solerno Blood Orange liqueur (a fabulous addition to your home bar). Also, rosé Champagne isn’t cheap, so by all means find a less expensive, sparkling rosé that you would drink on its own.

Corona Cocktail

For those of you headed to the beach or pool who can’t take bar tools with you — or just don’t want the hassle — I give you the Corona Cocktail. That’s not an official name or anything. Actually, I don’t think this drink has a name, I’m just calling it that. But stay with me. All you’ll need is a shot glass for your measuring tool. I’m sure you can find it in yourself to let one of those tag along.

1 bottle Corona beer

1 ounce blanco tequila (splurge and make it Don Julio)

2 ounces orange juice

1/2 ounce grenadine

Squeeze of lime

Ready? Drink the Corona until the beer is level with the top of the label. Add tequila, orange juice and grenadine. Squeeze the lime into the bottle and pat yourself on the back: You’re officially a card-carrying mixologist. If you’re going to be one, however, you cannot, should not, and will not use store-bought grenadine — unless it’s an emergency and the ingredients are quality. Small Hands Foods, Liber & Co. and Jack Rudy are a few companies that make great grenadine. Better yet, save your money and make it at home. Equal parts turbinado sugar with POM pomegranate juice over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Voilà! Now get out there and be social.  PS

Tony Cross is a bartender (well, ex-bartender) who runs cocktail catering company Reverie Cocktails in Southern Pines.