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Sip Some Refreshing Alternatives to Cocktails

Food writer Judith Hausman shares some unconventional summer cocktail recipes. As an alternative to the default summer cocktail -- chilled white wine -- this summer I'm trying aperitifs. These simple, light cocktails are so refreshing on heavy summer nights. And they last a little longer than a glass of wine does if you sip at them as the ice melts.

I also discovered that the whole category of dry and sweet vermouths fits this bill. They are not just to wave above the gin and onion in a martini glass. I like the bitter orange of Gran Classico , an antecedent to the more medicinal Cinzano , served sweetened and lightened with tonic and lime.

When I'm feeling ladylike, I sip the floral and feminine Lillet blanc, a unique and not perfume-y aperitif. Dolin blanc, straight or also stretched with tonic, lime and ice, has a similar appeal and it holds up over a long sit on the dock or at a café. Try finding them at Grapes in White Plains , Rochambeau in Dobbs Ferry or the Wine Connection in Pound Ridge . If you don't see any, ask them to order some bottles for you.

Before lighting the barbecue, mix a very cold Kir Royale , cassis syrup with a sparkling wine, such as Italian prosecco, Spanish cava or French cremant. Even sweet wines are better served as aperitifs, rather than trying to enjoy them after a big dinner or dessert. An Italian moscato, for example, is satin to the salt of olives in a way light white wine can never be.

All French, the golden Muscat de Beaumes de Venise , port-like Banyuls and deep gold Pineau des Charentes are not cloying at all and are inexpensive to boot. Serve them chilled or on ice; roll a sip around your mouth and let the long summer day slide away.

You can read more of Judith Hausman's work at The Hungry Locavore .

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