Let’s start by looking to a city that does hot and steamy rather better than us—Tokyo, where the most fashionable refresher of the moment is the Highball. A ceremonial take on the whisky and soda, the Highball is often mixed for company by the host and served in heavy glassware with masses of (sometimes hand-carved) ice. Simple, crisp and convivial, the Highball is best with the typically fragrant Japanese whiskies such as those from Yamazaki, the distillery behind the 25 year old malt which recently trounced the Scots to win World’s Best Malt at the World Whiskies Awards.
The Italians, however, must surely be the arch-masters of the summer aperitif. One of their finest is the Negroni Sbagliato, a variation on the classic gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth Negroni which sees the gin replaced with prosecco. It’s a drink that’s ideal for parties, since you can knock it up by the chilled jugful—simply mix one part Campari and one part Martini Rosso vermouth with roughly two parts prosecco and serve in a tumbler over masses of ice with a slice of orange. The splendidly cantankerous-looking Colonel Fox, a new London Dry gin with distinct bitter orange and liquorice notes, would do nicely here.
If you’re braving the barbecue, then whisky sours offer the perfect counterpoint to all that pork fat, particularly when made with a spicy rye whisky such as Rittenhouse. Expect to see a lot more of rye in the UK over the coming year—it’s already in the midst of a big renaissance in New York thanks to hip new bars such as The Daily, a joint that changes its cocktail menu every day, restaurant-style, where the original American whisky (bourbon only overtook rye after Prohibition) is served up in sours and strong, aromatic classics in the vein of the Manhattan.
Alternatively, lace your sour with cider like they do at London’s carnivorous mecca of the moment, Pitt Cue Co. Or, trust me on this one, try slumming it over a fashionably trashy Lagerita, essentially a Margarita lengthened, shandy-style, with craft lager or pale ale. My tip here would be the Camden Pale from the excellent new Camden Town Brewery in north London, a brew with big, fat, tropical-fruit hops and a dry, moreish finish.
Another sour which has, until recently, been criminally overlooked is the Pisco Sour, a classic from South America currently riding the gastronomic trend for all things Latin. Native to Peru and Chile, Pisco is a pale grape brandy with generous sultana, apple and lime zest notes that do great service in a cocktail. A frothy Pisco Sour spiked with lime and Angostura bitters, or a champagne-and-pineapple laced Pisco Punch (described by Rudyard Kipling as “compounded of the shavings of cherubs’ wings”) are both heaven in the heat.
And if, after all that, it’s still raining outside, perhaps something a bit more comforting is in order. I confess I’m a latecomer to Glenfiddich, so it was only the other day that I tasted their lesser-spotted 19 year old Madeira Cask finish. Very delicious it was too, marrying sticky figs and stem ginger with a delicate, almost salty, dryness. Otherwise, Johnnie Walker’s new Platinum 18 year old is a really classy blend with dark, dense fruit and soft smoke that will envelop your sodden spirits like a favourite leather armchair.