North Fork, Shelter Island mixologists share their go-to summer cocktails

Living on Long Island has its perks, one of the biggest being you’re always just a hop, skip and jump from the water.

During the warmer months, this makes it easy for an afternoon to feel like a vacation — head to a beach or marina for a reprieve from reality.

Island time calls for a cocktail. At local watering holes, bartenders craft fresh, fruity seasonal libations known for giving patrons a different — arguably better — kind of summer glow.

But when the tide is taking you closer to the actual water, consider going the DIY route.

To help you navigate beachside bartending like a pro, these five North Fork mixologists are spilling on their favorite cocktail recipes.

Whether you’re on a chauffeured sail around the Sound of dropping anchor in your own backyard, these beverages are full of summer spirit.

Black Mountain Spritz

Evan Bucholz, co-owner and head bartender, Brix & Rye, Greenport

People from Manhattan to Montauk flock to Brix & Rye for a cocktail menu that transcends both time and geography. The man behind the bar can craft a complicated concoction in a New York minute. But for a lazy beach day, even Bucholz likes to keep a cocktail recipe easy like Sunday morning. 

“Simplicity is really at the center of summer drinking for me,” he said. “Lower ABV drinks are great as well, especially for day drinking.” Practical advice aside, Bucholz finds bittersweet and bubbly beverages the best on a summer afternoon.

Ingredients
1 oz. Amaro Montenegro 

1/2 oz. Suze gentian liqueur 

3 oz. dry sparkling wine

Grapefruit peel

Instructions:Combine ingredients in glass. Serve over ice.

Basil Breeze

Harry Brigham, bar manager and mixologist, Ram’s Head Inn, Shelter Island

Though it’s possible to do Shelter Island in a day, spots like the Ram’s Head Inn have visitors docking and staying a while. And when on vacation, there’s no need to choose between beer and cocktails. The Basil Breeze offers the best of both worlds. 

“The beer’s grapefruit overtones combine nicely with the fresh basil flavor to make this a particularly refreshing drink for a hot afternoon,” said Brigham, who makes his own basil-infused vodka using herbs from the garden. “When heading out for a day on the water, people want something light, fresh and fruity. We like to create cocktails that aren’t over the top and still retain the flavor of the base spirit.”

Ingredients

1 bunch fresh basil

1 bottle vodka

Half a lemon

Schofferhofer Grapefruit Beer 

Ice

Instructions for basil-infused vodka: Take leaves off one bunch of basil. In a pitcher, add leaves and one bottle vodka. Let sit in a dark space for three days. Remove leaves and pour vodka back into bottle.

For the Basil Breeze: In a mixing cup with ice, add 2 oz. vodka and the juice of half a lemon. Shake or stir.Strain into 12 oz. glass with ice. Top off with grapefruit beer.  Garnish with a basil leaf.

Strawberry Blonde

Ryan Farrell, bar manager, American Beech, Greenport 

Strawberry picking is a quintessential warm-weather activity and a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade can bring back memories of pool parties past. This cocktail, a favorite of Farrell’s, shakes up two summer classics by adding a splash of adult to the mix. 

“Now that strawberries are in season, we like to throw a few into a vodka lemonade to give it great color and flavor,” Farrell said. “It’s an easy drink to put in a Mason jar and take with you.”

Ingredients

2 oz. Tito’s vodka

2 oz. lemon juice

3/4 oz. simple syrup

2 muddled strawberries

Instructions for simple syrup: Put equal parts sugar and water into saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool.

For Strawberry Blonde: Put vodka, lemon juice and simple syrup into glass.Crush two strawberries to a nice pulp. Shake with ice until blended.

Pro Tip: Farrell suggests adding a cucumber or spring of mint as garnish to make the “already refreshing drink even better.”

Mint Russian Fizz

Colin Keillor, manager, Jedediah Hawkins Inn, Jamesport

This boutique North Fork inn, which counts the South Jamesport town boat launch as a neighbor, boasts a casual speakeasy that brings a little Gatsby charm to wine country. Since an East End beach day tends to be a tad less raucous than an East Egg bash of a bygone era, the Mint Russian Fizz makes for the perfect sipper. 

“It’s light and refreshing with subtle effervescence and soothing hints of mint,” Keillor said, adding that he picks his mint from the inn’s garden. And unlike Daisy Buchanan, the four-step recipe is completely low maintenance.

Ingredients

1.5 oz. Stolichnaya vodka

3 shredded mint leaves

Orange slice

San Pellegrino Aranciata

Instructions: Fill glass with ice. Pour 1.5 oz. vodka. Top off with San Pellegrino Aranciata. Garnish with mint and orange slice.

Watermelon Margarita 

Samy Sabil, owner, North Fork Shack, Southold

Just stepping into this worthy North Fork pit stop is enough to put folks in a nautical state of mind. Buoys and seascape photographs adorn bright blue walls, and the smell of fresh seafood fills the small, no-frills space. Not surprisingly, the menu is full of cocktails that beg to be sipped by the water. Take the watermelon margarita, a drink so fresh and sweet on its own that there’s no need to pack sugar in your beach bag. And besides, as Sabil quipped, nothing says summer like a “juicy and sweet watermelon.”

Ingredients

2 oz. silver tequila

1.5 oz. lime juice

1 oz. triple sec

Pink Himalayan sea salt

Lime wedge

Watermelon wedge

Instructions: Pour tequila, lime juice and triple sec into shaker. Shake. Pour into glass and garnish with pink Himalayan sea salt, lime wedge and watermelon wedge.