Ladies and Gentleman: May I introduce Your Spring Cocktails

Written by Nicole Enberg Vaz

Spring into summer with a cocktail in hand! These feisty libations are guaranteed to spice up your next dinner party, picnic, weekday happy hour, whatever! Celebrate the warm weather with these unique recipes, inspired by the garden, my California roots and my international travels. These drinks are easy to whip up, require minimal ingredients and can be served with or without the booze. Enjoy!

Watermelon basil bender
(Serves 6)

This drink was invented in Boston one very hot 4th of July weekend many years ago. I was planning to make classic frozen margaritas until my friend Dave showed up with an ice cold watermelon. At that moment, genius struck and we knew we had to put that big fruit to good use. Now the rest is history. I personally recommend using basil in this drink for a fresh, clean balance to the watermelon, but I find mint works just as nicely. Word of warning: this drink goes down very smooth so be careful not to overdo it. A little goes a long way without proper hydration.


3 1/2 cups cubed seeded watermelon

1/2 cup tequila, vodka or gin (pick your poison!)

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 cup of loose basil or mint

1/2-3/4 cup of ice (as desired)

Mix all ingredients in a blender and serve with a lime wedge.


(Serves 1 but double or triple as needed)

My best friend and I were taxiing on the JFK runway on our way to the Kentucky Derby when the Frescarita was born. Stranded and parched, the flight attendants started taking drink orders and we felt compelled to get a little creative that afternoon. Needless to say, this concoction has turned into a springtime staple. I just can’t get enough of this citrusy, crisp drink.


1 can of Fresca soda (sparkling Italian citrus or grapefruit soda works too)

1 ounce of tequila

Splash of cranberry or pomegranate juice 

1 generous squeeze of lime

Mix together and enjoy.

Aperol Spritz
(Serves 1)

I went to Sicily two years ago for an amazing holiday and I have been dreaming about the day I could return. Fortunately, I get to go back to this magical island this summer, which means I’ll be drinking my share of these with the tanned Italians in San Lorenzo! This traditional Italian aperitif is truly summer in a glass. Serve before a big meal or sip at the pool or beach. Salute!


1 shot of Aperol (bitter orange liquor available at any liquor & spirits shop)

Prosecco or any sparkling wine

1 heavy splash of club soda

1 slice orange (squeezed into drink or as garnish)

Mix Aperol with sparkling wine. Then top of drink with club soda and squeezed orange wedge.

**Note: If you are like me and have a real knack for bitter cocktails, I highly recommend substituting Campari for Aperol for a refreshing Italian specialty with a real bite. I order this year-round – my favorite drink hands down.

Classic Kir Royale
(Serves 1)

For a refined cocktail that always pleases even the pickiest palates, I like serving the Kir Royale. Basic but slightly elegant, it’s a cocktail that feels festive anytime of year. It’s a nice drink to serve to close friends before dinner or at the start of a party. The Kir Royale is classically served with a lemon twist but feel free to garnish with pomegranate seeds or berries for a summery twist.


5 ounces of chilled Prosecco or Champagne

1 ounce Crème de Cassis (dark berry liquor)

Lemon twist

Salty Garden Dog
(Serves 1)

One of my favorite happy hour spots in the entire world was Ninth Ward in NYC. Unpretentious and relaxed, I loved to sip their Greyhounds and sit on the back patio chatting with friends. Sadly, this East Village staple has closed and will likely turn into a coffee shop or pizza parlor any minute. Very sad. The key to Ninth Ward’s amazing Greyhound was their super fresh grapefruit juice – pulp and all. Don’t even think about skimping on that ingredient. I promise, it makes all the difference. Can’t go wrong with the Salty Garden Dog – my take on a traditional Greyhound. Think of this as Gatorade with added benefits.


2 ounces of vodka

3 ounces of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Pinch of smoky sea salt or regular salt

Salt half the rim of a highball glass filled with ice. Mix all ingredients, shake well with ice and pour into glass.  

Cheers to a happy, healthy and fun spring and summer!

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