A DIY Approach to Drinking in the Summer

While you can easily hop on over to your favorite restaurant and order a cocktail, you also might be interested in channeling your inner bartender and whip up your own creation.

As the summer months roll in, expect the air to be filled with the smells of grilling — hot dogs, burgers, chicken, veggies …
But what goes best with a traditionally summer meal like barbecue?
An ice cold beer. Or a nice glass of sangria. Or something infused with the flavors of summer — think pineapple, strawberry and other fruity goodness.
While you can easily hop on over to your favorite restaurant and order a cocktail, you also might be interested in channeling your inner bartender and whip up your own creation.
And lucky for you as you start to look into a more DIY drinks approach, there are plenty of resources in Philadelphia to help you find your inner Nick Miller or Woody Boyd.
Get Your Brew On
Drinking beer in Philadelphia in the warmer months is a treat on its own. With countless beer gardens opening for the season, the city becomes a top-notch destination for those looking to expand their pale ale palates.
Home to many respectable breweries, there are always seasonal beers on tap or cased, ready for you to take them home and bring them to your next outdoor party (see: Yard’s seasonal brews. Fingers crossed the fruity, quenching Pynk is available.)
But what about making your own?
While the idea of standing over a boiling pot of wort (unfermented beer) might seem unappealing in the humidity of July, there’s never a wrong time to start home brewing.
“For someone who’s never done it before, there’s no time like the present,” said Nancy Rigberg, co-owner of Home Sweet Homebrew at 20th and Sansom streets.
With air conditioning available, she said brewing your own beer shouldn’t be as big of a problem as you might think — just be wary of more airborne bacteria. That could put a damper on things.
Rigberg and her husband, George Hummel, have operated the store — the oldest homebrew store in Philadelphia — since the mid-1980s. They supply home brewing kits for beer as well as wine, another good summer option (though there’s never a bad time to drink wine).
She’s seen homebrewers come through the store who have gone on to create pretty well-known breweries of their own — like Dogfish Head, Iron Hill, Yard’s and St. Benjamin’s.
While she said business does tend to die down a bit in the thick of the summer — “Because when you brew, you’re standing over a kettle of boiling wort … a lot of people won’t necessarily want to do that when it’s 95 degrees and humid,” she acknowledged — it picks up again around August when graduate students start heading back to school, she said as an example.
The beer kits also tend to make great gifts — Father’s Day is June 19, by the way — and she sees many come in to pick up kits as presents for bachelor parties or weddings. (The couple that brews together, stays together?)
The kits come in different size varieties and include everything you need to jumpstart your home brewing journey, including a 7-gallon fermenter and lid, bottling bucket, airlock and stopper, racking tube, bottle filler, bottle capper and caps, a beer recipe, among other necessities — and, of course, instructions.
Rigberg said she leans toward the saisons — pale ales that usually have a fruitier flavor — during the summertime because they pair well with food, which is, let’s face it, extremely important.
Wheat beers and ciders also are good for the summer, she said, because they are “quenching” and light. If you’re heading to a barbecue, maybe try an IPA, though they can be a bit heavy in the heat.
But no matter what you go with or whenever you decide to start home brewing, Rigberg recommends just having a good time with it.
“Relax and enjoy yourself and don’t take it really seriously and just have a good time — it’s just beer,” she said with a laugh. “And it’s fun, and obviously you get the satisfaction of doing something yourself and having a project.”
Shaken Not Stirred
If beer isn’t your thing, you can still try out a DIY approach to satisfy your thirst with cocktails.
A nice Tom Collins in the summer (or other classic drink) can go a long way, but Ariela Yankelewitz also recommends trying out some fruity flavored cocktails.
Yankelewitz, founder of Aqua Vitae Institute, the bartending school at 17th and Race streets, wants people to enjoy what they’re drinking and to expand their alcoholic horizons.
When it comes to summery drinks, she favors incorporating fruits and shrubs — a method of using vinegar and sugar with fruit. Shrubs come in many contrasting flavors like watermelon and basil.
“You use fruit and it’s healthy, and you add to it,” she said. “Whiskey or vodka or you can add gin or rum — you can make amazing cocktails with shrubs, it’s healthy, it’s good and you make it by yourself.”
She’s been focusing on a lot of passion fruits, like mangos and berries.
Learning to make your own cocktails comes in handy when you’re at a party, which happens more frequently as the summer rolls around, but it can also help you when you’re at a bar, Yankelewitz said.
Think about when you go up to a bar. You probably have a standard drink you order because you know what’s in it and you know that whatever it is, you like it. People might be scared to branch out with their drinks because they aren’t totally sure what the drink is.
That’s what Yankelewitz wants to change and why she encourages experimenting with making your own.
“People are afraid of changing their experience with alcohol,” Yankelewitz said. “They’re afraid of trying new things because they don’t know how it’s going to look like. At home, they can make their own, enjoy it and they’ll know what to order when they go to a bar.”
Once they learn a few techniques and new flavors, people can build on it, she added.
“Some people just drink martinis or just wine or beer because they’re scared,” she said. “Cocktails are one of the most frightening things for people — they’re afraid to try new things because they don’t know what’s in their drinks.”
Yankelewitz, whose favorite drink is an Old Fashioned, encourages people to use the summertime to experiment with flavors, especially the fruity ones, and to see what they like.
Start the summer with a splash with these recipes (courtesy of Aqua Vitae):
If you find yourself wanting to follow in the footsteps of Jimmy Buffett and waste away in Margaritaville, try adding some strawberries to give it a fruity accent perfect for relaxing outside. And as a bonus, since nothing goes better with summer than ice cream and snow cones, incorporate that idea by adding alcohol!
Strawberry Vodka Snow Cone:
Cool off with this summer delight.
To make a Strawberry Vodka Snow Cone, you will need the following ingredients:
Strawberry puree (explained in article)
In a blender, fill with ice and blend until desired consistency. If your blender doesn’t support frozen ice, try leaving the ice out in room temperature for five to 10 minutes.
Once the ice is crushed, place the vodka and strawberry puree into the blender and blend for a few pulses.
For each cup of ice (eight ounces) placed into the blender, you will want at least one ounce of vodka and one ounce of strawberry puree.
Scoop the ice into a paper cone.
Strawberry Margarita:
A summer classic that is unforgettably  delicious.
2 ounces of tequila,
¾ ounce of strawberry puree
½   ounce of lime juice
¼ ounce of Triple sec
Garnish with a strawberry and/or lime.
Optional: salt rim garnish
Fill a mixing glass with ice. Then add tequila, strawberry puree, lime juice and Triple sec.
Fill a margarita glass with ice.
Shake vigorously. When the bottom of the mixing tin becomes cold, strain into a margarita glass.
To make a salt rim:
Take a lime wedge and moisten the rim of the glass with it. Then, have a shallow plate filled with salt. Place the moistened rim of the glass face down and dip it into the salt so that it is evenly covered.
How to make strawberry puree:
Wash strawberries and remove stem from the top.
In a blender or food processor, mix each cup of strawberries with two or three tablespoons of honey.
Process until liquid with pulp.
Contact: mstern@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740



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