Fun-filled Barbecue I: Summer Cocktails

Cabo Wabo reposado tequila and agave nectar

The ingredients become together for a tasty margarita. Photo courtesy of Evan Dobkins.

We recently had some friends over for a fun barbecue dinner.  In general, I love manning the grill during the summer, but this dinner was particularly special.  We had donated the dinner as a silent auction item during a fundraising event, and the folks who joined us had gone out of their way to support our community.  We wanted to make this dinner even more special out of appreciation for their support.

In the end, I think everyone had a fun time, and some tasty food and drink came out of the evening.  So much so, in fact, that as I began to write this post, it got longer, and longer, and well…your hand would have gotten tired scrolling down.  So, I’m going to break this post into three parts.

First, since it’s where our evening actually started, let’s talk drinks.  The food for the evening – which we’ll get to in my next post – had a southwestern flavor to it, and I wanted the drinks to work well with that theme.  

Reposado Margaritas

Margaritas were a natural choice.  Now, I’m not that big of a tequila guy, so I needed a bit of help perfecting my technique here.  Fortunately, we were meeting some other friends for brunch the day before the BBQ, and brunch quickly evolved into a margarita tasting lab.  Yes, it was a fun brunch!  We mixed various recipes of margaritas, both on the rocks and frozen.  After much debate (and a bit of a tipsy brunch!), we arrived on a fairly classic approach.

I decided to make mine on the rocks, with salt (if wanted).  A few tricks here, though.  I used reposado tequila, which is aged in oak barrels.  That adds a bit of an interesting oaky favor that you wouldn’t get from a blanco tequila (though it would still come out just fine with blanco).  Second, I squeezed fresh lime juice, which I think also made the cocktails have a particularly summery flavor.  And finally, while I didn’t use a super-sugary mix, I did add just a bit of agave nectar to add a touch of sweetness to offset the other bold and tart flavors.

They came out pretty great!

Reposado Margarita
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  1. 1.5 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice, plus extra for the glass's rim
  2. 1.5 oz. reposado tequila (100% agave)
  3. 1.5 oz. Cointreau
  4. Agave nectar, to taste
  5. Ice
  6. Kosher salt
  1. Add ice to a cocktail shaker.
  2. Pour tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau over ice.
  3. Pour just a little agave nectar in, to taste. Probably about a teaspoonful will be good.
  4. Cover the cocktail shaker, and give it 6-8 good shakes.
  5. Rim a lowball cocktail glass with salt (dip rim in lime juice first to get salt to stick).
  6. Carefully add ice to the glass.
  7. Strain the drink into the glass and enjoy!
  1. 1. Splurge on good quality tequlia- it's worth it. If in doubt, ask at your trusted liquor store. I used Cabo Wabo.
  2. 2. I like reposado tequila because it adds a little oakiness flavor from the tequila's aging process. If you don't care for this, you can use white/blanco tequila.
  3. 3. Don't overshake the shaker; doing so will melt too much ice and dilute your drink.
The Exec's Chef

Rosemary Infused Lemonade

I also served a big dispenser of rosemary-infused lemonade (with optional vodka on the side).  In the interest of time, I cheated and used store-bought lemonade; I’m sure homemade would have been even better.  But this is a really tasty, refreshing summer drink, and it’s good both with and without the extra “zip” from the vodka.

Infusing the lemonade is actually quite easy.  You’ll want to do this the night before serving to give it a chance to cool down.

Rosemary Infused Vodka
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Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
  1. 1 liter lemonade, store-bought or homemade
  2. 3 springs fresh rosemary
  1. Rinse the rosemary.
  2. Pour the lemonade into a large pot for which you have a cover, and bring just to a boil.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat, add the rosemary to the pot, and give one gentle stir.
  4. Cover the pot and leave to steep for one hour.
  5. Carefully pour the lemonade into a pitcher or back into the bottle. You may need to use a ladle and funnel.
  6. Refrigerate overnight.
  1. I use about three springs of fresh rosemary per liter of lemonade; this gives a pretty strong rosemary flavor, so if you'd like it more subtle you can cut back here.
  2. Serve over ice.
  3. Add a shot of your favorite vodka to add a little "electric" to your lemonade!
The Exec's Chef

Serving the lemonade in a nice dispenser is a really pretty way to serve it.  Plus, it lets folks serve themselves as they socialize, and decide themselves just how much – if any – “zip” they want to add.

Chips and guacamole

Chips and guacamole to accompany cocktails. Photo courtesy of Evan Dobkins.

With cocktails taken care of – and some fresh guacamole and good conversation to accompany them – the evening was off to a good start.  It was time to get grilling.  Check back for Part II of this post to here how it came out (hint: mmmmm)!

What are your favorite summer cocktails?  Leave a comment and tell me.

1 Comment

  1. Everything you served at our fundraising dinner, Matt, was absolutely delicious!! Loved the pairings, cocktails and the yummniest grilled pineapple dessert! Mmm.. Thanks again for a terrific night!

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