A Sip of Summer

Cocktails to pair with warm weather

Chocolate Wagon from Red Wagon Creamery. Photo by Trask Bedortha.
Chocolate Wagon from Red Wagon Creamery. Photo by Trask Bedortha.

Take to the streets of downtown Eugene to enjoy a variety of classic venues each with its own innovative take on a summer drink.

If you’re in the mood for something with a little bit of sweet and a whole lot of sass poured on the rocks and served in a tall glass, snag a seat at Belly downtown and order one of the restaurant’s new summer cocktails — The Root Down. Bartender Jeremy Shank decided to mix a house cherry licorice shrub simply with gin, bitters and soda water, thus allowing the natural cherry, sugar and vinegar flavors of the shrub to dance uninhibited.

According to fellow bartender Melanie Mikell, Belly’s new summer cocktail plays on a drinking vinegars trend. “The high acidity creates a unique balance of full flavor,” Mikell says. “It’s equal parts sugar and vinegar, but the vinegar makes it interesting; it’s like this bright note that’s really nice for summer.”

With an addicting tartness that entices the palette and a wash of familiar cherry flavor that soothes in turn, this drink promises to make you beg for more (at least as long as the cherries are still in season). You’ll know it by its devilish red color and deceivingly playful licorice root swivel stick at Belly, 30 E. Broadway, for $9.

When Shawn Canny, The Barn Light bar manager, was brainstorming a Tiki-inspired cocktail list for the summer, he could not get hibiscus off his mind. Thinking of aguas frescas (a sugar-water drink often made with hibiscus) led to thoughts of Mexico and tequila — Canny decided to go with it. And so came The Red Dawn, a beach-vacation-inspired cocktail with hibiscus-infused tequila, elderflower liqueur, agave and fresh lime juice.

According to Canny, its tangy notes, floral accents and alluring red color are just a few reasons The Red Dawn has become TBL’s most popular drink. “It’s a light easy drink, a little on the tart side, so anyone who likes a margarita is going to love it,” he says. Thanks to its popularity, Canny says it will grace the menu throughout the summer, at least up until it starts raining again, at The Barn Light, 924 Willamette St., for $7.

“When it gets to be 9 or 10 o’clock at night and you’re a grown up, maybe you want some ice cream, but you also want a beer,” which is no problem, says co-owner of Red Wagon Creamery Stuart Phillips. Phillips’ fellow owner and wife Emily Phillips has found a way to bring ice cream into the 21-plus crowd with beer floats. “We like to do fun things with our ice cream and beer floats is one of them,” Stuart Phillips says.

Red Wagon Creamery offers a variety of local, seasonal, handcrafted ice creams that customers can pair with local brewery beers such as Oakshire, Ninkasi, Hop Valley, Agrarian Ales and sometimes even a Guinness.

While the combination is entirely up to the customer, Phillips recommends picking keynotes in the beer that the ice cream will accentuate, resulting in a harmonious flavor. Hoppy beers go well with citrus ice creams while the espresso in some stouts ties in well with coffee (Stuart Phillips’ favorite) and other classics like vanilla or chocolate. While the couple disagrees over pairing the strawberries and cream with a dark or light beer, the cider is a delicious compromise. You can’t go wrong when you’ve got a winning combination like beer and ice cream.

Late at night, the hard liquor comes out to play with Red Wagon Creamery’s Spiked Shakes. Phillips recommends chocolate and rum, coffee and Kahlua or, he says, the mint chocolate chip with a shot of bourbon tastes just like a mint julep milkshake. At Red Wagon Creamery, 55 W. Broadway, for $6 to $8. — Sarah Hagy