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Ask A Chicago Expert: Best Summertime Vodka Cocktails

If your summer drink preparation routine consists solely of keeping your favorite beer ice-cold, then you need to shake things up a bit and expand your repertoire by adding vodka cocktails to your party’s menu. Serving a light and refreshing vodka drink is a great way to incorporate in-season fruits, vegetables and herbs, and will give your guests something to talk about. We talked to a Chicago-area expert for recipes on vodka cocktails, plus tips on how to serve an ice-cold beverage on a sweltering hot day in the Windy City.

Brian Raney
Weber Grill Restaurant
1010 N. Meacham Road
Schaumburg, IL 60173
(847) 413-0800

Pairing the right beverage with a meal can be a difficult decision to make. As the Assistant General Manager of Weber Grill Restaurant in Schaumburg, Brian Raney also assists with the restaurant’s beverage program and wine list. “I look at ways we can enhance dining experiences with beverages, and get beverages and beers and wines that complement food,” he explained. Raney shared the following three recipes, courtesy of Weber Grill Restaurant, including one that is a nod to Chicago. He also provided tips on how you can make your summertime cocktails a hit at your next party.

Related: Ask A Chicago Expert: How To Start Your Dream Garden

Blues Brother
Blues Brother (Courtesy of Weber Grill Restaurant)

Blues Brother


  • 1.5 oz Stolichnaya Blueberi Vodka
  • 1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 1 oz Simple Syrup*
  • 8-10 fresh blueberries
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • Soda water


In a mixing shaker, lightly muddle the fresh lime juice, simple syrup, blueberries and mint leaves. Add Stoli Blueberri Vodka and ice. Shake gently to mix, then pour into a tall Collins glass. Top with the soda water and stir lightly to mix. Garnish with a sprig of "spanked" mint (slapping the mint sprig on your wrist several times to release the essential oils and aroma of the mint).

Cucumber Rose Collins
Cucumber Rose Collins (Courtesy of Weber Grill Restaurant)

Cucumber Rose Collins


  • 1.5 oz Absolut Vodka
  • .5 oz Combier Rose Liqueur
  • 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1 oz Simple Syrup*
  • 2.5 oz diced English cucumber
  • Soda water


Combine all ingredients, except soda water, in a mixing shaker with ice. Shake vigorously to mix. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into an ice-filled tall Collins glass. Top with soda water, stirring gently to mix. Garnish with a slice of fresh cucumber.

Backyard Lemonade


  • 1 750mL bottle Grey Goose Le Citron vodka
  • Homemade lemonade


In a large container, combine 2 cups sugar and 1 cup hot water. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add 2 cups of fresh lemon juice and 1 gallon of cold water. Stir to mix.

For cocktail: in a large pitcher, combine Homemade Lemonade and 1 bottle of Grey Goose Le Citron vodka. Stir to mix. Pour over fresh ice in a glass and enjoy.

* Simple Syrup - In a medium saucepan combine 1 cup of cold water and 1 cup of white sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

Keep things cold

Resist the temptation to prepare a batch of your favorite cocktail in a pitcher and load it up with ice. Raney pointed out that doing so will dilute the drink. Instead, he suggested keeping an ice bucket stocked with ice. Have guests place their ice cubes in a cup, then pour the cocktail over the ice for a cold beverage. You can also use cooling wands and reusable ice cubes to keep beverages cold.

Shake up your go-to recipes

Perhaps you have a few go-to cocktail recipes in your repertoire. Instead of serving the cocktail the exact same way throughout the year, Raney suggests shaking things up a bit for summer. “It’s all about using seasonal ingredients,” he explained. “Add fresh strawberries, lavender and mint. When watermelon is in season, you can use it in cocktails. Adding those light fruits and seasonal fruits take it from a basic, classic cocktail, and elevates it to something just designed for summer,” he said.

Make it a mocktail

When planning a summertime party, don’t forget the nonalcoholic options. You can make the vodka cocktails alcohol-free simply by eliminating vodka. If you’d like to give a bit of a bite to a mocktail, then Raney suggests adding soda water. “The bubbles will make it feel like a fancier cocktail,” he explained.

Related: Best Public Pools In Chicago

Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in "-er." She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at

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