It’s almost summer time in Louisiana. That means trips to the lake, patio hangouts and more outdoor get-togethers than you can shake a stick at. This calls for some outside friendly cocktails.

Gin is the heartbeat of a lot of summertime cocktail flings. Freshness is in its DNA. So what actually classifies gin as gin? Without any fancy industry talk, gin is a spirit that has a dominant flavor of juniper berries and other botanicals. Think lavender, flowers, pine and even citrus notes. You’ll often hear them referred to as “sprucy.” It has a reputation for being the Scotch of clear spirits. People either love it or hate it. Personally, I wouldn’t be the guy you find sipping gin on the rocks. That being said, I’m not scared of a gin cocktail so let’s make some drinks.

The Gin and Tonic is a classic warm weather libation. The recipe is easy since it’s basically the name of the drink. Take an old fashion glass or a thin highball. Fill the glass up with ice and add 1.5 ounces of your favorite gin (mine is Bristow Gin from the Cathead Distillery in Jackson, Miss. but Bombay Sapphire makes a great traditional style gin). Then all you have to do is fill the rest with tonic water and squeeze a lime wedge on top and drop it in.

Admittedly, this isn’t news to anyone and isn’t a complicated drink. You can spruce (pun definitely intended) it up with a few tricks that don’t require years behind a bar. A Spanish Gin and Tonic is a fun and fresh way to make a beautiful cocktail. All it takes is a glass upgrade and a little more prep time. You’re going to want to grab a lemon for a lemon twist, a couple of strawberries or raspberries, a cucumber and your favorite wine glass. One with a voluptuous curve is best. Take a vegetable peeler to the cucumber and make a long, thin strip. Place the cucumber, fruit and lemon twist in glass. Fill the glass up with ice and add your gin. Top it with tonic water and there you have it.

Another great gin classic is a Gin Fizz. I’m not talking about the famous brunch cocktail, the Ramos Gin Fizz. I’m looking at more of a spin on a Sloe Gin Fizz. Instead of using a Sloe Gin (it has a reddish hue and has a bit of a different flavor profile), we’re going to use regular gin and some fresh fruit. Strawberries are amazing in this. Grab one strawberry and trim the top off, then cut it into a few pieces. Add the strawberry to a shaker tin and give it a light muddle (lightly press the fruit with a muddler so that is breaks the seal of the fruit and lets out some juice). Add 1.5 ounces of gin, one ounce of fresh lemon juice and about three-fourths ounce of simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water heated till the sugar dissolves) then fill it with ice. Give it a hard shake for about five to 10 seconds until the tin starts to frost. Strain that into an old fashion glass filled with ice. The fizz part is to fill the rest of the glass with soda water then you’re ready to go.

These are easy and accessible drinks for the summer. You can basically put any fruit you want in there. Try it out with other fruits or even substitute the simple syrup for a liqueur you like. Have fun staying cool.

Judd Smith is a local wine enthusiast who also works as Cadre Hospitality Group’s beverage director. To read more from Smith, check out his blog at