As we head into the late summer months, it’s a perfect time to update your cocktail cabinet selection with versatile and delicious spirits that can work in cocktails or as slow sippers. We want flavours to help us savour the sunshine, good times, and those garden parties, barbeques and beach days with our friends and families. These spirits showcase some of our favourite summer flavours like tropical fruit, fresh peaches and a hint of chocolate, orange, and sweetness. These inspirations will make the perfect addition to your next gathering.
The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 700ml, 40% abv
If you’ve previously thought whisky belongs in winter beside the fire, be prepared to make that an outdoor firepit after a great day at the beach. The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve is a perfect summer Scotch whisky to transport you to the tropics.
After maturing in oak barrels, this whisky then rests in ex-rum barrels. This extra finishing allows the whisky to take on the influence of rum, giving it distinctive tropical notes. You’ll get sweet pears, apple, and ripe banana on the nose with rich caramel and toffee on the palate. This whisky is smooth to sip but bold enough to make a whisky sour or even in a Mai Tai with.
It pairs well with tart and bright citrus flavours. Don’t be afraid to drink this whisky on the rocks, with a splash of soda or try mixing it with chilled coconut water for a truly tropical vibe. When it’s hot outside, whisky on ice can be truly refreshing. Choose larger ice cubes if possible, which will bring down the temperature without diluting the whisky too quickly. If you do like to add water to your whisky, just a dash will open up the richness of toffee and syrup in this dram.
Underneath that tropical twist, this is still a spirit that will please the whisky lover in your life with a well-rounded and smooth finish. A definite favourite that I’ll be keeping in stock anytime I want to be transported to tropical paradise.
Hayman’s Peach & Rose Cup, 700ml, 25% abv
If you can’t go past a classic gin and tonic on a late summer afternoon and you love ripe stonefruit, you must try Haymans Peach & Rose Cup. Hayman’s have taken their classic London Dry Gin and added layers of sweet ripe peaches, orchard fruits, and the delicate fragrance of roses in their version of a traditional English Cup. If you could bottle a perfect summer’s day on the orchard – it would smell like this.
On the palate, it’s even better. Unlike many flavoured gins, this is well-balanced, bright, crisp, and not too sweet. The classic London Dry botanicals are still present, offering a backbone of juniper and root spice to balance the sumptuous, juicy fruit. As soon as the bottle was opened it exuded summer, and I kept going back for more. The gorgeous blush of the spirit also looks stunning to serve.
Try mixing this with a softer tonic for a G&T or ditch the tonic altogether! Mixed with soda, it’s a refreshing and fragrant sipper or if you want a touch of sweetness added, it makes a great Spritz when mixed with fresh sparkling lemonade. The subtle citrus notes are easily magnified when you serve this gin in a large wine glass with a slice of citrus to garnish. Make a splash at a garden party by making a Spritz jug or a gin punch. I loved this lower alcohol option to give flexibility to guests. I recommend serving with fresh peaches, of course.
Ratu 8 Year Old Signature Rum, 700ml 35% abv
Continuing our tropical theme, if there is one rum liqueur that’s worth always keeping in stock, it’s Ratu 8 Year Old Signature Rum Liqueur.
This rum is made in Fiji and captures the essence of Fiji in its production and flavour. Fiji is rich in volcanic soil and grows plenty of sugar cane all over the main islands. This sugar cane is hand-cut and then brought to the distillery, where it’s fermented then distilled on a column still, extracting the best flavours from the spirit. The spirit is then aged in Fiji’s warm and tropical climate, in charred ex-bourbon barrels.
The bourbon barrels add flavours of vanilla, spice and zest before the rum is finished with mocha oak chips and filtered using carbon made from coconut shell. You’ll taste a rum that’s sweet but balanced, with spice, chocolate, coffee notes, and zesty orange. It’s smooth on the palate, well rounded with traces of coconut and spice before a lingering citrus finish.
It’s award-winning for a reason; the right balance of sweet and spice and delicious over a big cube of ice or in a Dark’n’Stormy (rum and ginger beer). For something truly delicious, use a brewed ginger beer with plenty of kick as the balance is spectacular. This also works well in hot buttered rum, but we’ll save that for another day!
Tash McGill is an international spirits writer, educator, and judge. One of the head judges for the NZ Spirits Awards, The Drammys and The Junipers, she has been involved in the spirits industry for more than 10 years and loves helping people enjoy great spirits. She is Chair of the New Zealand Whisky Association and co-author of the New Zealand Gin Guide 2021.