There are so many cocktails that pair flawlessly with an Australian summer – as long as someone else is making them.
The last thing you want when friends drop around during a stinker is to be fumbling around the back of the liquor cabinet. Surely there must be some simple, refreshing mixables to wet the whistle and still impress company?
We asked four industry professionals to nominate what they throw together when the sky is melting.
The result: four quick, classic cocktails, enhanced with a few valuable hints.
Geoff Fewell – The Lui Bar
Summer tipple: Tom Collins
The Lui Bar is the liquid arm of Vue de monde, one of Melbourne's most lauded restaurants, perched on level 55 of the Rialto Towers.
Head bartender Geoff Fewell regularly employs some of the most sophisticated cocktail kit around to create some seriously intricate concoctions.
But when I ask him what he'd mix up at home on a sticky, sweltering day, the answer: a traditonal Tom Collins. "As far as cocktails go there's nothing more simple and refreshing during the heat of summer," he says.
The legend goes that John Collins, head waiter at Limmer's Old House in early nineteenth-century London, was responsible for early versions of the Tom Collins which called for gin, lemon, soda and possibly sugar.
"It morphed over time from the John Collins into the Tom Collins because of the use of Old Tom gin," Fewell says.
Owing to the fact that Old Tom gin is generally richer than your typical London Dry, Fewell personally prefers his Collins sans sugar.
But if you're making it at home he suggests you mix a teaspoon of granulated sugar in 45ml of gin (Hayman's Old Tom is perfect), let it dissolve, add fresh lemon juice (30ml approx), ice and a quality soda such as Fever Tree or Capi, stir and garnish with a lemon peel.
Matthew Bax – Bar Americano, Bar Economico
Summer tipple: Americano
The first drink James Bond orders in Ian Fleming's Casino Royale is not a martini, but an Americano, a choice not lost on one of Bar Americano's creators, Matthew Bax.
If you ask head bartender Hayden Lambert to fix you tiny Melbourne bar's namesake cocktail, don't expect to find out exactly what's in it – the house recipe is a closely guarded secret.
But Bax has told me that Sydney is soon to get a Bar Americano of its own in a "fancy, (secret) location", after which their mouth-watering interpretation of the Americano will be made available to the public.
Until then, he's happy to guide us through this easy classic that he calls "simple, refreshing but very complex at the same time – like a Campari soda on steroids – but also light on the booze".
In its most basic form, the Americano comprises equal parts Campari and a sweet Italian vermouth (aromatised, fortified wine) poured over ice, topped with soda and garnished with a slice of orange or lemon.
But if you like to get particular about your vermouth, "bear in mind that exclusive and expensive vermouths don't always make the greatest choice in an Americano," Bax says. "I encourage experimentation at home, but it's hard to go past Martini Rosso or Cinzano for this particular drink. As for soda, keep it local and go with Capi."
Masaru Nagasaka – Hihou
Summer tipple: Whisky Highball
The whisky boom is showing no signs of bust. So if you're still craving a dram this summer, but it's too warm to drink it neat, a whisky highball (effectively a whisky and soda) is a great alternative.
Just ask the Japanese, who've turned the preparation and execution of the drink into an art form. On his most recent trip to Japan, Masaru Nagasaka from Japanese restaurant and bar, Hihou was amazed by the precision and delicacy Japanese bartenders apply to everything they do, but particularly to something as simple as the highball.
"In Japan the highball isn't just a mixed drink, it's looked at very differently," Nagasaka explains. "I think it's one of the most simple but complex cocktails. Everything from the preparation of the ice, the choice of glass, the choice of soda, to the way it's poured, even the way the drink is stirred is very important in Japan."
Watching Nagasaka craft a highball with a 12-year-old single malt from the Hakushu Distillery illustrates his claim. He recommends using a chilled glass and even in some cases chilling the whisky, allowing the mixer to be brief and gentle when stirring and preserve the carbonation of the drink so the first sip is as blissful as the last.
For a garnish, mint is also preferred to citrus, as "often the oils from the citrus overpower the flavour of the whisky," he says.
Sebastian Costello – Bad Frankie
Summer tipple: Dry and Dry
The good old Dry and Dry is an Australian classic in the summertime. The recent resurgence in Australian vermouth also provides you with a growing number of unique dry vermouths to experiment with.
Sebastian Costello, owner of Australian spirits bar Bad Frankie, loves serving Maidenii's Dry, a harmonious local vermouth that utilises native botanicals and Viognier from Central Victoria, with the local Capi ginger ale to create a stellar Dry and Dry.
"The Dry and Dry is such a simple and delicious companion in summer. The rich, citrus and herbaceous characters of the Maidenii work brilliantly with the spice of the ginger ale. Maidenii Dry is fantastic on ice or chilled on its own, but when it's served tall with Capi it's such a casual drink, refreshing and low in alcohol, perfect when the sun's shining."