If you’ve stepped into a hotel lobby or spent time at a spa, you’ve no doubt been offered a refreshing glass of cucumber-infused water. It is, after all, the official flavor of relaxation.
In the world of drink-making, it acts as something of the same—a beacon of summer, and the lot of easy-drinking cocktails that come along with it. To prove the thesis, we teamed up with Fever-Tree to celebrate the release of their Refreshingly Light Cucumber Tonic Water. The new expression calls on natural fruit sugars and quinine sourced from the Congo to deliver a mixer that’s as light as it is flavorful. We asked five alumni of our Bartender in Residence program—Nitecap’s Lauren Corriveau, Tenzing Wine and Spirits’ Mony Bunni, Law Bird’s Annie Williams Pierce, Death & Co Denver’s Alex Jump and Dante’s Stacey Swenson—to build drinks around the mixer’s profile.
“Fever-Tree Cucumber Tonic Water can be incorporated anywhere you would normally use a little something bubbly—highballs, spritzes, even punches,” says Corriveau, who has become known for drinks that fit squarely within what we’ll call the “relaxation drink” genre. “Cucumber is one of my favorite ingredients for that reason; it works well in both vegetal and herbaceous drinks, as well as those with more fruity and floral character.”
In Flowers & You, Corriveau mixes up a thirst-quenching spritz variation, with a base of blanc vermouth and brandy rounded out by a homemade grapefruit cordial and a splash of rosewater. “Playing on the delicate aromatic quality and impression of fresh green cucumber in the Fever-Tree Cucumber Tonic, I knew I wanted to keep it light, while highlighting the subtle floral notes,” says Corriveau, noting that the grapefruit cordial accentuates the subtle bitterness of the tonic.
For her take, Mony Bunni was inspired to create a light and refreshing riff on a Spanish-style Gin and Tonic she calls the Garden Variety, which marries blanc vermouth, cachaça, fresh strawberries and lime, and an entire bottle of Fever-Tree Cucumber Tonic. “The chamomile and rosemary notes of the vermouth added a beautiful herbal quality, supported by the green banana and fresh-cut grass notes from the cachaça,” says Bunni. “And I loved the clean cucumber profile of the tonic, which, in my mind, naturally goes well with strawberries and lime, for a fairly low-proof summertime patio crusher.”
Annie Williams Pierce’s take satisfies her mission to convert as many people as possible to sherry drinkers, via craveable, familiar cocktail formats. “When I first tasted the Fever-Tree Cucumber Tonic I immediately thought of a Pimm’s Cup,” says Pierce. In her Cool Aunt Pimm she pairs amontillado sherry with blanco tequila, fresh lemon juice, a spoonful of raspberry jam and a pinch of salt. “I wanted to make something crisp but also a little savory and round.”
Alex Jump went for a “slightly more bitter and floral route” with her Suppressor #1280, named after the style of minimalist yet sturdy low-ABV cocktails popularized by Greg Best and Paul Calvert at Atlanta’s Ticonderoga Club. Jump’s take features the Italian bittersweet vermouth Punt e Mes and the orange-forward Amaro CioCiaro, along with the elderflower-based St-Germain liqueur. “The Fever-Tree Cucumber Tonic has really beautiful cucumber aromatics, while still being delicate on the palate,” says Jump. “Its floral nature works really well with other citrus flavors.”
Finally, Stacey Swenson rounds out this batch of “relaxation drinks” with her Cool As Clarence, which takes its name from the scene in True Romance where Alabama slides her true love, Clarence, a napkin with the inscription, “You’re so cool,” written over and over. Swenson combines tequila and blanc vermouth with honeydew and a small dose of coconut milk for texture, all topped off with Fever-Tree Cucumber Tonic. She sums it up perfectly, calling it, simply, “a chill summer highball.”