Have we established yet that laziness is my mantra. Okay, let’s go with a nice euphemism: efficiency. I’m not a big drinker, and if my day/week/month has been one where I need to knock a few back, it needs to be as simple as popping off a bottle cap or a quick twist of a corkscrew. But I have had house guests that prefer a little something stronger when the clock strikes six thirty, so I’ve made a point of trying to stock a bare-bones bar. I don’t want to stock hundreds of dollars of liquor, mixers, and garnishes if they’re not going to be used. The key is to stick to a few classics that are likely to satisfy the broadest number of potential imbibers. Check out my summer cocktail bar–a minimalist bar utilizing a few key liquors and a host of things that should already be in your kitchen.

Stocking the Bar:

  • Vodka: I prefer Grey Goose and find it fits most people’s taste, but Tito’s is a more budget friendly (and many say a better tasting) option if you’re still paying off those student loans.
  • Rum: Light or Dark? This one’s tricky. For my cocktails, we’re going light. If you ask my father-in-law, the only rum is dark rum.
  • Whiskey: Hubby’s liquor of choice is whiskey, so this is purely out of convenience. I’m utilizing the one thing I’m guaranteed to have in the house.
  • Fruit: We always have tons of fruit in the fridge in the summer, so I like that they can be utilized and I look so classy with a fruity cocktail.
  • Club Soda: I keep a six pack of mini Pellegrino in my wine fridge. It’s mostly for those finicky people who surprise you when they ask for sparkling water like they’re in a damn French restaurant, but turns out this is useful for making summery spritzers.
  • Mint leaves: Conveniently, my mother-in-law just planted a mint plant in my daughter’s play house window box. I took it as a sign to make minty cocktails while watching her play.
  • Lemon and Lime: My parents have a lemon tree that just explodes lemons, so my husband is always taking them home by the bagfull. We keep a couple of limes in the fridge. They last forever.
  • Sugar: Or if your husband is a cold brew nut, then like us, you probably have homemade simple syrup on hand, which works even better.
  • Cocktail Shaker.
  • Blender. (This one is pricey, but we love it. Cheap blenders work just fine here, too.)

Vodka Strawberry Lemonade (The Vodka Drink)


1 lb strawberries, hulled (check out this cool video on hulling strawberries if, like me, you had to Google “what is hulled strawberries?”)

¾ cup lemon juice

1 cup sugar

1 cup vodka

3 cups water



Puree strawberries in a blender (or juicer if you’ve got one from your wedding registry that’s collecting dust).

Strain into a large pitcher with ice filled about half way.

Add lemon juice, sugar, vodka and water.

Stir to combine and dissolve sugar.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Adapted from recipe here.

Summer Berry Mojito (The Rum Drink)


1 ½ oz light rum

Handful of fresh berries (frozen will do, too)

8-12 Fresh mint leaves

1 lime (juiced)

1 oz simple syrup

Soda water


Muddle mint, simple syrup, berries and lime juice. (No muddler? No problem. Smoosh with a spoon in the glass.)

Fill glass with crushed ice.

Add rum. Stir and top off with more crushed ice.

Add soda water (to taste or to fill glass). Stir to incorporate.

Garnish with fresh mint and a couple of berries on a toothpick if you’re fancy.

Yield: 1 serving

Adapted from a recipe here.

Colorado Cooler (The Whiskey Drink)


1 oz chilled club soda

¾ oz fresh lemon juice

¾ oz simple syrup

2 oz malt whiskey


4 cherries, pitted


In a cocktail shaker (or a travel coffee mug in a pinch if you don’t have a cocktail shaker), muddle the cherries. Add ice and all remaining ingredients except club soda. Shake well. Strain into an ice-filled glass and stir in club soda.

Yield: 1 serving

Adapted from a recipe here.