"Summertime, and the drinkin' is easy..." Oops! Sorry! Who let Slap Maxwell in here?
But as he has raised an important issue, let's consider warm weather restoratives. The classic, of course, is gin and tonic, created in the 1850s by British officers serving in India. A daily dose of quinine was prescribed as a protection from malaria for soldiers under the Raj. Quinine, derived from the bark of a South American tree, is not the most appealing beverage, straight up, but it was found that by mixing it with soda water it became more palatable. The addition of gin made it even more so. Winston Churchill credited gin and tonic with saving "more Englishmen's lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire."
Another classic English cocktail is the gimlet, possibly named for a Dr. Gimlette, a British naval surgeon. It requires a lime cordial made first in 1857 in Edinburgh by a ship's chandler named Lachlan Rose. For many of us, the introduction to the drink came in Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye," when Terry Lennox tells Philip Marlowe "A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow."
Then there are the great Italian contributions to the cocktail cart. Certainly Campari and soda alone, in a tall, ice-filled glass, is refreshing, but the most aristocratic is the invention of Count Camillo Negroni. At the Bar Cassoni in Florence, a little less than a century ago, the Count ordered a variation on the popular Americano. A Negroni, mixed to his specifications, combines gin, Campari and sweet Vermouth, and is served over ice with a large wedge of orange. Kingsley Amis, who knew his way around a bar, said, "This is a really fine invention. It has the power, rare with drinks and indeed with anything else, of cheering you up."
But today we feel compelled to raise a glass to Leonard Cohen, who at a recording session in Needles, California, in 1976, mixed tequila and cranberry juice, added a splash of Sprite, and topped it all with a handful of fruit. Later, he refined the recipe to simply tequila and cranberry juice over ice, with a lemon slice. Cohen called his creation Red Needles.
What can we say to all that? Simply, cheers!