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Summer Cocktails for a Crowd

It’s time for summer entertaining, and these fruity cocktails are a surefire way to get the party hopping. Each one is made by the batch with unique ingredients and fun infusions of flavor.

Lemon Basil Gimlet 

This is a sophisticated take on the standard gimlet with fresh citrus and basil to complement the herbal and floral notes of the gin. Serve this concoction the next time you are dining alfresco with a group of friends. Think of it as lemonade for grown-ups.

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 large strips lemon zest
1 cup packed fresh basil sprigs, roughly chopped
3/4 cup gin
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup ice cubes
fresh basil sprigs, for garnish
small strips lemon zest, for garnish

1. To make lemon basil simple syrup, add water and sugar to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon zest and basil and remove from heat. Cover and let stand at room temperature until cool, about 1 hour. 
2. Refrigerate several hours until cold. 
3. Strain syrup through a sieve to remove any solids. (This can be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.)
4. Combine lemon basil syrup with remaining ingredients in a pitcher and top with ice. Stir for several minutes until the ice chills the drink. Strain into champagne coupes or martini glasses. Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil and a small strip of lemon zest. Serves 6

Jalapeño Watermelon Margaritas

This summery twist on the traditional margarita packs a flavor punch. The kick of the jalapeño balances out the sweetness of the watermelon. It can all be prepped ahead of time for easy entertaining. Adjust the amount of jalapeño to your liking — add more or less, and let it infuse longer to add more spice. This margarita works great with traditional tequila, as well.

1 jalapeño, sliced, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cups silver tequila
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
6 wide strips orange zest
4 cups watermelon cubes
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
1/2 cup coarse salt
8 lime wedges, for garnish

1. For jalapeño tequila, add jalapeños to a glass jar with a lid and cover with tequila. Let sit for 24 hours at room temperature, then strain. Refrigerate
in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, water and orange zest to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until sugar dissolves, about 3 - 5 minutes. Let syrup cool. Remove orange zest.
3. In a blender, puree watermelon cubes in batches until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on solids, into a pitcher. (You should have about 2 cups of juice.) 
4. Combine watermelon juice, orange syrup, 1/2 cup of lime juice and jalapeño-infused tequila in a large pitcher. 
5. Place 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice on a small plate and coarse salt on another. Dip rims of glasses in lime juice, then in the salt to coat. Fill salt-rimmed glasses with ice, then pour margarita over. Garnish with lime wedges and jalapeño slices, if desired. (Removing seeds from jalapeños lessens the heat.) Serves 8. Adapted from Everyday Food

Spicy Ginger Pineapple Punch

Nothing says sunshine like a good rum punch! Easily made by the batch and served up on the wharf or in your backyard, this punch hits all the right notes — the kick of ginger beer, a dash of sweet, a hint of spice, just the right amount of bubbles. Party accomplished. 

3/4 cup vodka
3/4 cup spiced rum
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 cup canned pineapple juice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 (12-ounce) bottles ginger beer
pineapple and lime slices, for garnish

1. Pour the vodka, rum, lime juice, pineapple juice and nutmeg into a large jug. Stir and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Right before serving, add the ginger beer to mixture. 
3. Serve over ice and garnish with fresh pineapple and lime slices. Serves 4. 

Caipiriñha 

The official drink of Brazil comes stateside! Caipirinhas are a refreshing blend of cachaça, lime and sugar. Although similar to rum, which is made from molasses, cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice that is fermented and distilled in a process dating back to the 1500s when the Portuguese first moved their sugarcane production to this side of the globe. 

1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
3 limes, quartered
1 1/2 cups cachaça
sparkling water

1. To make a simple syrup, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. In a large pitcher, muddle together the quartered limes and simple syrup. 
3. Add the cachaça and some ice. Stir until chilled.
4. Distribute the liquid evenly into six highball glasses filled with ice, and top with sparkling water. Serves 6. 

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