This month, we’re heading outdoors with the best drinks for the backyard, beach, and beyond. In Take It Outside, we’re exploring our favorite local spots and far-flung destinations that make summer the ultimate season for elevated drinking.
Whether enjoying a cabin getaway, pitching a tent in the woods, or just looking to feel inspired by the wilderness, Emily Vikre’s “Camp Cocktails” is the perfect book for the cocktail and camping aficionado.
For Vikre, writing a book that combined her love of nature and affinity for craft cocktails made perfect sense. Vikre’s homebase in the Northwoods of Minnesota is a region of the country that offers an abundance of outdoor activities. At Vikre Distillery, which she co-owns with her husband Joel, Vikre found that she was fielding a lot of questions from customers about how to make flask cocktails and drinks to make while camping.
“[With] our distillery and whole lifestyle … it’s just a lot of who we are, and what we think about, and what we do, and the culture we’re embedded in, so it was a fun and easy fit,” Vikre tells VinePair.
In “Camp Cocktails,” Vikre places an emphasis on making sure that the recipes are approachable without skimping on quality ingredients, flavor, and balance, adding, “It totally makes sense that you might not want to compromise that when you’re out in the woods.”
When developing the Strawberry Fields and Grilled Orange Cobbler recipes, Vikre says, she wanted to create “cocktails that would celebrate the flavors of the woods or that feeling of being at your cabin and getting away.”
In Vikre’s Strawberry Fields, roasted strawberries are muddled with tequila, lime juice, and elderflower liqueur in a Margarita upgrade. Grilled oranges, sugar, and wine are combined into a slushy sangria-like tipple in the Grilled Orange Cobbler.
For the Marshmallow Mule, the time-honored tradition of roasting marshmallows around a campfire is taken to a new level. After creating a syrup using toasted marshmallows and ginger, Vikre adds vodka and soda water for an outdoorsy twist to the Moscow Mule. In another update to a classic cocktail, Vikre adds maple syrup to whiskey or bourbon to give the Maple Syrup Old Fashioned a “woodsy” note.
“There is something about having a cocktail with somebody that just elevates the moment and brings you together and makes you present. I think it’s all the better when you are in a beautiful outdoor place,” Vikre adds.
“Some cabins are set up for solitude, some for hosting happy hour for all the cabins nearby. If you have one of the latter, allow me to let you in on a secret: grilled strawberries. Grilling concentrates the berry flavor and makes them plump and juicy. Lightly grill skewers of strawberries and set some out with whipped chèvre, honey, and grilled bread. Then use some to make this floral, berry twist on a margarita. Your cabin neighbors will thank you.”
“A cobbler is kind of like a streamlined, single-serve sangria made with any type of wine or fortified wine you like. In the late 1800s it was the most popular cocktail in the United States, and I think it’s time for a comeback. To paraphrase cocktail historian (and my favorite cocktail writer) David Wondrich, on a warm afternoon, I’d much rather have a cobbler in hand than not. Grilling the orange is not traditional, but it brings out a fire-kissed marmalade flavor and adds an extra layer of depth. A proper cobbler is built with crushed ice—the name Cobbler is a reference to the ice, which was thought to look like cobblestones. To make crushed ice, take some of your ice, put it in a bag, and give it a little pounding with a mallet or another heavy object. Small ice cubes will also work just fine. For the wine, you can use red, pink, or white! They all work as long as you use a dry or an off-dry style. With any wine, feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to your taste.”
“If I’m perfectly honest, this wasn’t originally a cabin cocktail. It was a joke cocktail. After years of saying we weren’t going to make a vodka at our distillery, we finally buckled under the sheer weight of all the requests we got from eager vodka enthusiasts, and we started to distill one. We hosted a vodka release party, which we called “Not a Vodka Party,” on April Fools’ Day with artisanal takes on a handful of well-known vodka drinks. The Marshmallow Mule was one of the party drinks, and people loved it so much that they still request it, years later. Making the marshmallow and ginger syrup does take a little doing, but it doesn’t require any fancy equipment or even fancy ingredients. And it’s a nice thing to do as an activity during the evening anyway. The toasted marshmallows melted into the syrup give it a dark richness while loads of fresh ginger give it a kick.”
Get these recipes and more in VinePair’s searchable cocktail database.