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Great mixers

What could be more civilised than a summer cocktail party for friends at the end of the day when all thoughts of work are put aside and the pleasures of the evening are yet to unfold? Serve these fresh, fruity drinks says cocktail king Simon Difford.

I can hardly claim to be a 'five fruits a day' person, but on a hot summer's day or evening, succulent seasonal fruit is deliciously appealing - especially when a splash of alcohol is added.

Fresh fruit juice can make some of the most amazing cocktails. The most tasty are those you squeeze freshly yourself. However, that's not always practical, and with such quality prepackaged juices now available, I use apple, orange, grapefruit, pink grapefruit and pineapple juices straight from the carton. Look out for 'freshly squeezed' or 'not from concentrate' juices in the Waitrose chiller cabinets.

Soft fresh fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, kiwi, seedless grapes, melons and ripe plums are best crushed, and mixed with herbs and spices using a special cocktail tool called a 'muddler' (or you can use the end of a rolling pin or a pestle). It will release juices and oils as you crush the fruit. As when using a pestle and mortar, push down on the muddler with a twisting action. Simply place your fruit into the base of your cocktail shaker and crush away.

Then add the rest of the ingredients and the ice and shake as normal.

Bartenders prefer to use soft fruits such as mangoes as a purée. Slice the mango lengthways on each side of its central flat stone, scoop the flesh from the slices into a blender or food processor and whizz. When puréed, add approximately five per cent sugar syrup and blend some more. Decant into a squeezy plastic bottle or spoon into your shaker. The following recipes use apple, passion fruit, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries in versions of four of the most famous cocktails: the Collins, margarita, daiquiri and Martini; but the same formulas work when other fruits are substituted. You may have to slightly adjust the amount of sugar syrup depending on your taste and the ripeness of the fruit. Experiment - make one drink, try it and adjust the next one to taste.

My last tip for making great cocktails, summer or winter, is to use lots of ice in your shaker and, if serving in a tall (Collins) glass, fill it to the brim with fresh ice then strain your shaken drink in. Chin chin.

Alcohol should be consumed in moderation. Find more information on responsible drinking at drinkingandyou.com (this link opens in a new window) and the drinking and you section of waitrose.com.

Try these...

Blueberry Martini

Muddle 30 fresh blueberries in a shaker. Add 2 shots Ketel One Vodka, ¼ shot sugar syrup and ¾ shot Sauvignon Blanc or non-oaked Chardonnay. Shake with ice cubes and fine-strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with more blueberries on a cocktail stick.

Strawberry margarita

Muddle 5 hulled strawberries in a shaker. Add 2 shots Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila, 1 shot freshly squeezed lime juice and 1 shot sugar syrup. Shake with ice cubes and fine-strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a strawberry on the rim.

Raspberry Martini

Muddle 12 fresh raspberries in a shaker. Add 2 shots Ketel One Vodka and ½ shot sugar syrup. Shake with ice cubes and fine-strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with more raspberries on a cocktail stick.

Apple and elderflower Collins

Place 2 shots Bombay Sapphire Gin, 2 shots pressed apple juice, 1½ shots freshly squeezed lemon juice and ¾ shot elderflower cordial into a shaker, two-thirds filled with ice cubes. Shake for about 20 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled Collins (tumbler) glass, top up with soda water and garnish with a lemon 'wheel' in the drink. Stir and serve with straws.

Passion fruit margarita

Moisten the rim of a chilled Martini glass with a wedge of lime, then press gently into a saucer of salt. Cut a passion fruit in half and scoop the pulp into a shaker. Add 2 shots Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila, 1 shot Cointreau or De Kuyper Triple Sec, 1 shot freshly squeezed lime juice and ¼ shot sugar syrup. Shake with ice cubes then fine-strain into your glass. Perch a lime wedge on the rim.

The cocktail code

Shot

Ideally, a cocktail 'shot' is a 25ml measure.

Muddler

A device, similar to a pestle, used to crush soft fruits or herbs in a cocktail glass or shaker.

Shake

Where the recipe tells you to 'shake with ice and strain', place all the ingredients with cubes of ice in a cocktail shaker (fill with two thirds ice) and shake briskly for 20 seconds. Leave the ice behind as you strain the liquid into your glass over fresh ice. If you don't have a shaker, improvise with a large lidded jar and a strainer - it just won't look as glamorous!

Visit HomeDirect for bar accessories including cocktail shakers.

Sugar syrup

Make your own sugar syrup: gradually pour and stir 2 cups of granulated sugar into a saucepan containing 1 cup hot water and simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Cool, then pour into a clean empty bottle and seal. If kept in the fridge, this mixture will last for a couple of months.

Ice

You can buy bags of ready-made ice cubes from your local

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This article was first published on Waitrose.com in May 2005.