A glass of cold orange cocktail at the sunset on the table of a beach bar at the sunset, with blurry people arround having refreshements or partying on a summer evening, with copy space for text

Vodka soda, jack and coke, vodka tonic, gin and tonic, wine, beer. Go into any standard bar and that probably constitutes well over 80 percent of the drinks you’ll hear ordered.
In speciality wine or cocktail bars, that number goes down considerably but for the most part, people’s choices at the bar have become amazingly plain. That gets… boring.
It’s time to spice up your orders.
We have plenty of drink recommendations at RLB but in the spirit of summer, we’ve listed several favorites to accompany the warmer weather.
These are also travel-friendly. Most are not overly complicated and with an improvised shaker such as a water bottle and some ice, you can even whip some up in a hotel room. So there’s no excuse not to try a few of these on your next vacation:
5. Aviation
A relatively obscure drink from the 1920’s, it appears more popular now than ever. Its vital ingredient, producing its sky-blue color and hence, its name, is Creme de Violette, a sweet, floral, violet flavored liqueur. This rare liqueur disappeared completely from the US in the 1960’s, but it’s now back in force.
Mixing violette with lemon juice, a dash of cherry liqueur, and gin as its base, the drink provides the perfect start to a spring/summer evening. Serve in a martini glass:
  • 2 measures dry gin
  • ¾ measure lemon juice
  • ¼ measure maraschino liqueur (usually Luxardo)
  • Dashes Creme de Violette to taste
4. Summer Twist
This drink SCREAMS summer. A RLB favorite, it’s amazingly easy to prepare. Vodka, St. Germain, and San Pellegrino Limonata beverage. St. Germain – a French, elderflower-flavored liqueur, is the drink’s cornerstone, but the Pellegrino lemon adds the sweet summer touch. You may also choose to float with club soda for added refreshment.
Serve over ice. You can be flexible on the measurements with this one. Don’t be shy to experiment:
  • 2 measures vodka
  • ½ measure St. Germain
  • ¾ measure San Pellegrino Limonata
  • Float with Club Soda (optional)
3. The Vesper (aka ‘Vesper Martini’)
A James Bond classic. Technically, the Vesper isn’t a martini as it’s not served in a martini glass, rather a deep champagne goblet. But it may as well be – it packs every bit of the kick and more.
The Bond effect aside, there’s actually not a lot to it. The Vesper is a very clean, polished, strong drink, with no overpowering sweetness or carbonation to hide the base. Drink a few of these and you’ll know it:
  • 3 measures Gordon’s gin
  • 1 measure Vodka
  • ½ measure Lillet Blanc
  • Large slice of lemon peel
Lillet Blanc, aka ‘Lillet’ is a French aperitif wine with a citrusy, bitter flavor. Combined with lemon peel, it gives the drink a slightly bitter but refreshing zest, and is versatile year round.
The Vesper sounds cool, looks cool, and tastes like you should be in a casino throwing around gold and silver markers. Kick back and let the 007 vibe soak in.
RLB Mixing Recommendations: If you want to stay true to Bond’s recipe and time period, look for export vodkas (100 Proof instead of 80 Proof). Spirits were stronger in the 1950’s when Casino Royale was published. Stoli Export and Belvedere Intense are two good options. For an interesting variation and to taste more of the Lillet and lemon flavor, reverse the gin and vodka measures.
2. Hangar One Martini (any flavor)
Probably the best vodka you’ve never had. Hangar One, an Alameda, CA based distillery, makes some of the smoothest, best-tasting vodka we’ve ever sampled. It’s gaining national popularity in the US, and in our view it’s a matter of time before they go global.
For a killer martini, their Straight vodka is excellent with perfect viscosity for mixing. It stands up well to a dirty martini or denser olives with popular ingredients such as blue cheese or jalapenos.
Their flavored vodkas are otherworldly. Try a typical Stoli, Pinnacle, or Absolut flavored vodka and you think, ‘Yeah, that tastes like orange, lemon, lime, etc.’
Try Hangar One’s Mandarin or Citron and it smells and tastes like you stumbled into the finest citrus orchard on the planet and sat down to eat. From the moment you pop a bottle, the scent hits you – this flavored vodka is different. The brand also produces a lime flavor and several interesting, changing seasonal flavors.
Their flavored vodkas are great on the rocks, as a mixer, and also hold up well for a martini.
RLB Note: If it’s time for shots and you’re up for lemon drops, order your next round made with Hangar One Citron. You’ll never go back. Trust us.
1. Dirty Arnold Palmer 
An American classic soft drink kicked up with vodka, perfect for a 100 degree day at the pool:
One part vodka, ½ part iced tea, ½ part lemonade.

Serve over ice with lemon wedge.
That’s it. Yet you’ll see stunning variations on it now, mainly due to the rise of sweet tea flavored vodkas, ie – Firefly. This has led to a trend of people swapping out the iced tea for iced tea flavored vodka, resulting in one part sweet tea vodka, one part lemonade.
NOT an Arnold Palmer. It doesn’t come close in flavor and taste. We recommend sticking with the traditional recipe. If you are really intent on flavored vodka, go with lemon. Absolut or Ketel Citroen both blend well with it.
Why US only? This is one American drink we wish were available in Europe. Iced tea or sweet tea? Not the same. And American-style lemonade? Forget it. Sadly, this drink is US bound.

Order up a few of these on your next trip or better yet, experiment in making a few at home. Let us know what recipes and variations you come up with yourself. Cheers!

Note: AviationVesper, and Dirty Arnold Palmer photos licensed courtesy of Flickr.


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