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Shake it 'til you make it: 3 cocktails to kick off summer

Palomez mixed by Elijah Larson "Poppa Shakes".David Samson / The Forum1 / 5
Elijah Larson "Poppa Shakes" mixes Palomez at Usher's House in Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum2 / 5
mixed by Elijah Larson "Poppa Shakes". David Samson / The Forum3 / 5
Minions Summer Tonics mixed by Elijah Larson "Poppa Shakes". David Samson / The Forum4 / 5
Elijah Larson "Poppa Shakes" mixes a 2Docks Watermelon Mule at Usher's House in Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum5 / 5

It's that time of year.

We bask in the sun, breathe in the fresh air and exhale a sigh of relief as we lounge outdoors with a cold drink — not only are the rays hotter, the drinks are lighter. Back in January, we may have indulged in a warm, creamy cocktail, but in spring and summer, spirits are clear.

Elijah "Poppa Shakes" Larson, bartender at Proof Artisan Distillers in Fargo, says just because the season's cocktails are lighter in color, doesn't mean they're void of flavor.

"There's still a lot of depth in there," says the 2017 Bartender's Battle champ. "There seems to be so many more layers of flavor when it comes to gin and good tequilas and mezcals."

Gin and tonics are a classic summer beverage. "For the more floral and herbaceous spring- and summer-type palate, they're going to be a little dryer," Larson says. "For those people that like sweet and sour, the classic margaritas and palomas are great. I do them with mezcal because there's a whole other depth of flavor going on with mezcals than tequilas."

Vibrant, flavorful garnishes are a key ingredient in spring and summer cocktails.

"We perceive and consume with our eyes way before we taste or smell anything," Larson says.

"I like to serve (cocktails) at home in big wine goblets so you get your nose in there with all the aromatics of what's going on with the gin and the tonic and your garnishes."

Pull out the stemless wine glasses and grab some fresh fruit for these three mouthwatering cocktail recipes.

2Docks Watermelon Mule


1.5 ounces 2Docks vodka

3 ounces watermelon juice (found in the juice section of the grocery store)

2 ounces ginger beer

Splash of lime juice


In 12-ounce glass or mug, add ice and all ingredients. Stir briefly, drink and repeat.


"Palomas should be everyone's next big craze when it comes to tequilas and mezcals," Larson says. By swapping out tequila for mezcal (described as smoky-tasting tequila), the classic Paloma becomes a Palomez.


2 ounces Alipus mezcal

3 to 4 ounces grapefruit soda (like Izze)

Splash of fresh lemon juice


In a 10- to 12-ounce glass, add ice and all ingredients. Stir briefly; sip and relax.

Minions Summer Tonic

With the explosion of the craft-everthing scene, Larson says it's the perfect time to jump on the gin and tonic bandwagon. This cocktail is "a nice, bright, sparkly but somewhat floral drink — complex but simple," Larson says. "Complex in aromatics and flavor but simple in process."


2 ounces Minions gin

4 ounces tonic water (Fever Tree elderflower recommended)

Optional garnishes: sliced lemon, cucumber strawberry and sprig of dill; or slice of grapefruit, blueberries and a sprig of rosemary


Fill a red wine glass half full of ice; add garnishes to glass. Pour gin and tonic into glass and enjoy. (Note: swap out tonic water with a flavored sparkling water such as La Croix, Pellegrino, etc.)

Batch cocktails

"If you're throwing a party and you don't want to be there pouring drinks for everybody else, build a batch cocktail or a punch," Larson says.

For an easy punch ice ring, Larson says to use an angel food cake pan, lining the bottom with your choice of sliced fruits. Add water and a little bit of juice, then put it in the freezer.

"All of the sudden you have a beautiful ice mold for the day," Larson says. "People can just pour and go."

For a unique beverage dispenser, Larson says use a watermelon. By carving out the inside, hosts can mix a batch drink to pour inside, using a watermelon spicket to pour drinks.

Tricks of the trade

Bartender Elijah Larson says you don't need to be a professional to mix tasty drinks. "If you can count to four and you can smell things, you can bartend," he says. Here, he shares his tips for success:

• Less is more. "Keep it simple — two or three ingredients and you're off to the races. We don't need 5 or 6 things going into a drink with a bunch of garbage on top," he says. The same goes for mixologist tools. "You don't need all the fancy shakers and stirrers; you need something to measure and something to serve it in."

• Measurement is key. "When you're measuring things, you're able to provide consistency in drinks," Larson says. A ¼ cup is equal to 2 ounces and works well for measuring.

• Buy quality. "The bottom shelf vodkas definitely have a purpose, but if you want to make the drinks the bartenders you enjoy in town are making, they're working with good products," Larson says. "That bottle of tequila might be $15 more than the cheap stuff but there's a reason — you pay for what you get."

Alexandra Floersch

Alexandra Floersch has worked for Forum Communications since February 2015. She is a content producer and photographer who enjoys writing about finance, fashion and home.

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