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By RJ Johnson

Happy Independence Day everyone! With the holiday landing on a Thursday this year, and the weather being incredible, we have so many chances for backyard get togethers and outdoor fun. For this week’s column I will not be featuring a cocktail you can get in a bar, but rather some tips and tricks for you to make delicious cocktails for your guests, or possibly some that you can take to a friends house to give the party a little extra flair.

I am a fan of iced tea all summer long, and when it is made into a delicious cocktail through infusion it becomes something everyone can become a fan of. We start by taking our favorite black tea and adding it some vodka. A Mason jar comes in hand for this process. I usually use about one tea bag for every cup of alcohol. The infusion itself can be as short as 24 hours but going for a couple of days will simply bring out a stronger flavor. Store the infusion in a cool dark place but resist the urge to place the jar in a fridge or freezer, as this will actually slow down your flavor infusion.

After you have that jar started, make the next ingredient for the drink by boiling some water for your simple syrup. Once the water is hot, add an equal amount of sugar slowly while stirring. Once the mixture is fully dissolved let cool and place into another mason jar. Place this mix in the fridge and leave it alone.

Once you have your ingredients you are ready for the party! Simply add 1.5 ounces of vodka, water, a lemon wedge, and .5 ounces of simple syrup, and you can enjoy your tasty libation. For added flavor, skip the water and use lemonade to make an alcoholic Arnold Palmer!

Sometimes you don’t have to even get that complicated in order to kick up the flavor profile on a cocktail. Classics are classics for a reason. If you happen to be inviting a group of people that you know enjoy Cosmopolitan style martinis, turn that idea into a summer backyard beverage. Flavored sparkling water is all the rage right now and helps cut down on your sugar intake when mixing beverages. Get your citrus element by picking up a bottle of flavored vodka, Deep Eddy is a favorite, and you can mix it with a white Cranberry juice on ice for a refreshing summery treat.

Another way to stick with classic flavors but add some impact to your drink offerings is with great garnishes. Pick up some Anchorage Distillery flavored vodka in Raspberry and Blueberry, and a couple of bags of frozen berries of any type. Mix the Raspberry vodka with some white cranberry juice on ice and add blueberries, or a mixed berry blend floating on top. Mix the Blueberry Vodka with some cranberry juice and top with the same types of berries. Your guests will notice the subtle nod to the classic red, white, and blue motif of the holiday, and they will enjoy a delicious cocktail at the same time.

If you are someone that enjoys a nice cold blended drink, you can make that match your color theme as well. Margaritas are always a fantastic addition to any summertime party, but by simple adding a shot of Blue Curacao liqueur to your other ingredients you add some more delicious orange flavor and make it a fun electric colored cocktail at the same time. Blue Curacao is also not an especially potent potable, so you won’t have to worry about giving your guests a stronger drink than they are used to.

Since we are celebrating this great country it would be rude to not include the most patriotic of all spirits, the spirit of America if you will, the greatest of all liquors, bourbon. Some people are afraid of brown liquor, or say that they don’t enjoy it, but that simply means that they have not had the right one. Bourbon can be enjoyed on the rocks, or with another American classic, Coca-Cola. Break out of those trends and really enjoy this drink with some ginger ale and a lemon wedge if you want to enjoy the sweet notes. Use Ginger Beer, lime wedges and muddled mint for a Kentucky inspired twist on a Moscow Mule.

With the hot weather that we have been having there is another option that will be one of the most refreshing ways you have ever had a good whiskey buzz. Modify a Lynchburg Lemonade for a bright and flavorful classic that will parch your thirst while getting you nice and relaxed. Using two parts of your favorite bourbon, we suggest Four Roses or Makers Mark, one-part Triple Sec liqueur, and some sweet and sour and lemon lime soda, you and your guests will be toasting the flavors of the south in no time!

Just remember that drinking alcohol does dehydrate you, so be sure to enjoy a glass of water in between each drink so that you aren’t feeling double the hangover the next day! Have a safe and happy 4th of July everyone!

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