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Summer Drinks: Better Than V-8?

When you sidle up to the bar this summer, expect to find unusual ingredients and a bigger selection of high-end spirits.

Todd Thrasher, manager and sommelier at Restaurant Eve, has been a local pioneer of the from-scratch cocktail movement and hopes more bartenders move away from premade ingredients. He bought a juicer and has officially sworn off the canned stuff.

His latest fixation? “I think it’s cool to use vegetables in cocktails.” His Maria’s Margarita, dubbed “the frozen margarita without a blender,” features ice cubes made with cucumber juice shaken into a slushy mix with lime, lemon, sugar, tequila, and Cointreau. Thrasher’s carrot “colada”—made with carrots from Maryland’s Davon Crest Farm—adds an invigorating dose of beta carotene to the tropical standby.

As the mercury rises, be on the lookout for frozen additions like sorbets and granités. The bar at the new Agraria on the Georgetown waterfront will be stocked with specialty sorbets in flavors like lemon-chervil and tomato-grapefruit, says manager and sommelier Derek Brown.

At Rasika, sommelier Sebastian Zutant will be experimenting with granités in Indian-accented summer cocktails. One is made with a frozen mixture of pomegranate juice, ginger, and five-spice tea shaved into a glass and served with Patrón tequila.

The proliferation of high-end and artisan spirits suggests you should consider sipping them straight. Rums are hot, with rhum agricole, made with sugarcane juice rather than molasses, getting popular. Names like 10 Cane Rum, introduced a year ago by the makers of Moët et Chandon, and Pyrat, a favorite of Thrasher’s, are good for sipping.

Tequila’s stock is rising as it continues to shed its “lick, slam, suck” reputation. “There are some tequilas that are better than any Cognac you’ve ever tasted,” Thrasher says. Take Oyamel’s selection of single-village mezcals, which like tequila are made from the agave plant. They’re meant to be sipped alternately with a small glass of sangrita—a mix of chilies, orange juice, lime juice, onions, and salt.

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