Summer 2019 is here and consumers are looking to quench their thirst with refreshing drinks. Beverage alcohol retailers nationwide are stocked up and ready to meet demand, and one retailer in upstate New York’s is doubling down on the cocktail craze. Brian Rapp, master mixologist and manager of Exit 9 Wine & Liquor Warehouse in Clifton Park, goes on the radio once a month for “Thirsty Thursdays” to concoct a new cocktail on the air for the hosts of 99.5 FM The River. “A great summer cocktail needs to be crisp, light, and refreshing,” Rapp says. “The ingredients must be fresh and it should be easy to make. You also want something with high complexity that can go with a lot of different foods.”
With this in mind, Rapp kicked off the summer season on The River with a Blackberry Peach Mojito made with 3 ounces of Bruno Mars Selvarey rum ($20 a 750-ml.), 1 ounce of Paisley & Sage Peach schnapps ($9 a 750-ml.), 2 ounces each of simple syrup, lime juice, and club soda, blackberries, and mint leaves. “The Mojito has been around a long time and represents summer to me,” Rapp says. “It’s so refreshing; it oozes summer in a glass.”
After Rapp introduced the Blackberry Peach Mojito on air, Exit 9 saw a sales spike in The Naked Turtle white rum ($17 a liter) and DeKuyper Peachtree schnapps ($12 a liter). “The drink was a hit and people are loving it,” Rapp says. “Other popular versions of the Mojito feature pomegranate, mango, and raspberry. Those are hot in the bar and restaurant scene. People are always trying to put their spin on a classic.”
Other Thirsty Thursday cocktails include a Margarita that coincided with Cinco De Mayo and combined 1.5 ounces of Milagro Silver Tequila ($24 a 750-ml); 1 ounce each of Pama Pomegranate liqueur ($32 a 1-liter), Hiram Walker triple sec ($10), and Finest Call Sweet and Sour Mix; half an ounce of fresh lime juice; and a lime wedge. “My favorite summer drink is the classic Margarita,” Rapp says. “Not only is it easy to make, but there are so many variations of this cocktail that it never gets old. From pomegranate, mango, raspberry, spicy, grapefruit, and pineapple, this drink always leaves you wanting more. It’s quite popular at Exit 9.”
Other cocktails Rapp expects to be popular with Exit 9’s customers this summer are Moscow Mules, Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds. “One huge contributing factor that goes into summer cocktails is bitters,” Rapp notes. “Infused with herbs, roots, and fruits, they are a great flavor enhancer. Two of our most popular bitters—Bitter Truth Old Time and Bitter Truth Orange (each $18 a 200-ml. bottle)—are great for summer cocktails.”
Rapp foresees a summertime revival for bittersweet Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. His Manhattan recipe is 1 ½ ounces of Maker’s Mark Bourbon ($32 a 1-liter), 3 dashes of Bitter Truth aromatic bitters, and three Maraschino cherries, while his Old Fashioned calls for 1 ¼ ounces of Maker’s Mark, half an ounce of simple syrup, and three dashes of Bitter Truth Old Time bitters. “These cocktails are easy—just shake the ingredients, strain into a glass, and enjoy,” Rapp says.
As the summer continues, Rapp is looking to keep his Thirsty Thursday cocktails refreshing. “Up next we have a nice summer cocktail with a watermelon theme,” he says. “It represents summer in a glass, so stay tuned.”