When our family heads up to our home on the Russian River, Lucky Bend Lookout, our summer time rhythm is pretty active but we always make time to enjoy happy hour on the deck overlooking the river. A typical day starts with the kids “helping” grandpa make a fancy breakfast. After a morning activity like hiking in Armstrong Woods and lunch we invariably end up swimming off the dock and boats for most of the afternoon. Around 3pm or so the light breezes usually pickup to more of a steady breeze that is a bit too cold for little wet bodies but just right for happy hour while we soak up the warm sunshine on the deck. Read on for our three favorite batch cocktail recipes and how to use the same ingredients to make “kid cocktails.”
Since we are usually entertaining friends and family, our go-to for happy hour is batch cocktails that we mix in a carafe or iced tea jug and everyone can help themselves. The key to making a cocktail into a batch cocktail is to make sure that you add a bit of water to replace the melted ice that you would get from making cocktails individually. Alternatively, just about any cocktail can be made just right for summer by converting it into a spritz with some sparking wine. Luckily Sonoma County has some great options for local sparkling wine and spirits.
On our way up from San Francisco we try to stop in Sebastopol to pick up the best gins in California from Spirit Works Distillery. We like our gin with a complex floral quality that balances the juniper base and find Spirit Works gin to be ideal in nearly all manner of cocktails. Spirit Works also makes an amazing Sloe Gin that just won the National 2018 Good Food Award in the spirits category. As great as these gins are, in my opinion the Barrel Gin is the best for sipping neat or with a giant ice cube. It has botanical complexity, smooth vanilla and warm wood notes like whiskey but without the sweetness.
Guerneville is lucky to have two top sparkling wine producers within a few minutes drive from downtown. Due to their prominent location right on River Road, we end up driving by Kobel most days. When spritz style cocktails are on the horizon we stop in and pick up a bottle (or 6) of their drier style champagnes like the Natural or the Brut. When we have a bit more time for socializing we like to drive up to Iron Horse to bask in the glorious views of the Russian River Valley from their outdoor tasting room. If you want top shelf sparkling for your spritz cocktails, this is the place. However they are so good you may find they never make it into the cocktail.
Watermelon Gin Punch
Possibly the perfect family happy hour solution; local gin, summer watermelon, and a built-in kid cocktail. Just omit the gin in this recipe and you have Aguas Frescas that the kids will slurp down with enthusiasm.
Makes 8 1/2 personal watermelon 12 sprigs of fresh mint 1 cup fresh lemon juice 1 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar dissolved in hot water) 2 cups Spirit Works Gin Blend the watermelon chunks in a blender and pass through a fine meshed sieve to clarify the juice. In a carafe or pitcher muddle the mint, add simple syrup, lemon juice. If the kids are joining happy hour just save the gin for the grownups to added separately.
Even the most enthusiastic Negroni fan will acknowledge that this is too much cocktail to pair with a hot summer afternoon. But converted to a spritz, this is exactly the right thing to have in hand while reclining in the shade.
Makes 8 6 oz Spirit Works Gin 6 oz Campari or St George Bruto Americano 6 oz Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth 2 oz water 1 bottle Korbel Brut Mix the gin, Campari, vermouth and water on ice in a carafe. Bring carafe to the deck with highball glasses of fresh ice. Pour and top with 2 oz of sparkling. You can stretch the cocktail by topping off with more sparkling as you go.
Kids Sparkling Negroni
Unless you want a butch of drunk kids running around, its better to make the kids version with cranapple or cran grape juice and seltzer or top with Sprite. Let’s face it, kids in the afternoon would definitely make sad drunks and nobody wants that while on vacation.
A competition mixologist friend ours helped us craft this low-key but super tasty cocktail specifically for relaxing at Lucky Bend Lookout. To date we have never had some one who didn’t go back for a second glass.
Makes 8 1 1/2 cups of coconut rum 1/2 cup fresh lime juice 3 cups ginger ale 3 cups ginger beer Mix all ingredients in a carafe or pitcher. Ginger beer is typically alcohol free so the only thing needed to convert this to a kid cocktail is to substitute coconut water for the coconut rum. For littler kids you may also want to omit the ginger beer.
We’re always looking for good kid cocktail recipes so if your kids have a favorite please share on the comments!