Summer sipping: Cocktail maestro Tony Abou-Ganim levels up your cocktail game

Tony Abou-Ganim’s Sunsplash (left) and Zig Zag
Photo: Tim Turner / Courtesy

Summer’s in full swing, and while the city might be opening up, social distancing is still recommended. To survive triple-digit temperatures, why not learn how to make boozy drinks to sip by the pool or on the patio?

To get you started, the Weekly turned to Tony Abou-Ganim, one of the pioneering and leading bar professionals in the world, and author of 2010’s The Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails.

“[When] crafting a great cocktail, the love you put into that is the secret ingredient,” Abou-Ganim says. “It makes it more of an experience to share.”

First, gather the proper tools. “The Boston Shaker set is the chef’s knife of the bar. It consists of a 16-ounce mixing glass with 26-ounce mixing tin. With that one tool, you’ll probably be able to produce about 75 percent of the drinks you’ll ever want to make at home,” he says. “Then you’ll need the Hawthorne strainer to go with that. I always recommend a jigger, especially for the novice, because mixing drinks is more precise. So if you have a jigger, a Boston shaker with the Hawthorne strainer [and] a long handlebar spoon, that’ll get you started.”

You can even get fancy. “If you like to entertain at home, go out and buy some Collins glasses, some highball glasses and some Old Fashioned glasses, because things will taste better in the proper glass,” Abou-Ganim says.

Then master this recipe. “If you understand a sour recipe, it’s very simple. It’s usually two parts gin, one part fresh lemon juice, one part simple syrup. And if you can master that basic sour recipe, you could switch it up to a daiquiri and rum instead of gin, lime instead of lemon, and the simple syrup stays the same, 2:1:1. And you have that beautiful template to work with. From there, I can muddle some red raspberries in with the lemon and simple syrup and gin and shake that up, and now you have a fresh raspberry sour. If you understand flavor combinations and you have that basic template, you can then just get creative and have some fun with it and utilize the wonderful seasonal ingredients that you get.”

Invite a few friends over (safely). “Pick one or two drinks that [go with] the occasion or the meal, or whatever you’re offering. [For] summertime in Las Vegas, long, refreshing juice-forward-type of drinks that aren’t gonna knock you out. They’re not gonna be really boozy, but they’re gonna be refreshing and delicious,” Abou-Ganim says. “I love watermelons, because they’re just so naturally sweet and delicious. Even though you can get watermelon year-round, they’re just not the same in the winter. So I reserve my watermelons for summertime use.”

And join in the fun. Abou-Ganim recommends making a batch of cocktails so you don’t spend your whole afternoon making individual drinks. “Put them in pitchers and decorate the pitcher with fresh fruit, and then just let people serve themselves. When you’re entertaining, you want to be part of the party.”

For more ideas and an interactive demo, Abou-Ganim will be running a series of Zoom at-home cocktail-making classes throughout the summer and beyond. The first class on June 19 focuses on refreshing summer sippers. July’s theme will be muddled and swizzle drinks. Register at bit.ly/2YABI3T.


(Courtesy Tony Abou-Ganim)


• 1 1/2 oz. orange vodka (like Stoli Ohranj)

• 1/2 oz. Cointreau

• 1 1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed orange juice

• 1 1/2 oz. cranberry juice

• 1 oz. fresh lemon sour (2 parts fresh lemon juice with 1 part simple syrup)

Method: Mix and shake with ice until well-blended. Strain into an ice-filled goblet. Garnish with an orange slice and a lemon spiral.

Tags: Drink
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Genevie Durano

As deputy editor at Las Vegas Weekly, Genevie Durano covers the Valley’s dining scene. Previously she lived in New York ...

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