Jello shots and other colorful ways to celebrate summer

Got lemons? Make a nice lemonade, with mint. For a boozy option, keep vodka nearby (on ice, preferably). — Photo by Kaylea Moore

This Fourth of July, cool off on the beach, by the pool, at a picnic or cookout with a stylish beverage in hand. Here are a slew of cocktail and mocktail ideas, ranging from homebrewed iced herbal tea and frosty agua fresca to wine spritzers and herbaceous cocktails.

Wine not?

Try using wine as a cocktail base for spritzers, sangria and sparkling wine cocktails. Prosecco, rosé and light white wines are perfect for the summer. Top prosecco with fresh fruit purées to make Bellinis or float a sweet liqueur such as St. Germain or Chambord to create a sparkling wine cocktail.

Spritzers combine wine and soda water for a refreshing bubbly concoction. Do as the Italians do and serve your guests Aperol Spritzes, a combination of prosecco, Aperol (an orange-flavored spirit) and a splash of soda water topped with an orange slice. Or try a St. Germain Spritzer made with prosecco, a splash of St. Germain (a sweet elderberry liquer), topped with soda water, raspberries, and mint. Substitute the soda water in the St. Germain Spritzer for blood orange San Pellegrino and add fresh strawberries for a pretty-in-pink party drink.

If you got lemons, make lemonade (and other fruitful advice)

Lemonade is perfect for the summer — sweet, sour and cold. At your next get-together make a big jug of homemade lemonade with squeezed lemons, mint, and ice. This cool beverage is perfect for kids and adults. For a boozy version, keep a bottle of vodka close by to spike individual drinks.

Watermelon, the essence of summer, is delicious served by the slice, as well as blended into a fruity drink. Watermelon agua fresca is made by combining puréed watermelon, water and a touch of sugar (if you desire), that is strained into a glass. Try adding a squeeze of lime at the end.

Garden to bar

I love to muddle fresh herbs into my cocktails and infuse liquors with interesting combinations. Try substituting basil in cocktails that traditionally call for mint, such as a mojito. Or experiment with other herbs growing in your garden. Cucumbers are a great addition to gin and vodka based drinks. Dress up a gin and tonic with cucumber and mint. Muddle cucumber and mint. Add gin and shake with ice and top with tonic water.

Brew a large pot of your favorite herbal tea and cool it down for a revitalizing beverage. Add citrus, mint or honey when steeping for a flavor boost and serve over ice. Chamomile citrus and mint is a calming combination.


Take your favorite cocktail and make it edible with the addition of unflavored gelatin. These sophisticated “jello shots” can be made into different shapes using silicone molds or cookie cutters. Use fruit purées to add color and substance to the shots. For best results use a 1:1 ratio of liquid to gelatin packets. Try fun flavor combinations such as watermelon caipirinha, cucumber margarita, or strawberry basil mojito.

Strawberry Basil Mojito Jello shot

Fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup white rum
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup fresh lime juice strained (approx. 2 limes)
1/3 cup simple syrup
1/3 cup strawberry purée strained (about 8 ounces of hulled strawberries)
2 envelopes plain gelatin (I use Knox gelatin)

Muddle basil leaves with rum. Make simple syrup (boil equal parts sugar and water). Steep a few basil leaves in simple syrup, then strain. Combine lime juice, water and simple syrup in a small saucepan. Sprinkle with gelatin, and soak for a couple of minutes. Over low heat, stir constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in strawberry purée and strained rum. Pour into molds of choice.