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Borough’s mixologists use fruits & herbs in their cool, refreshing summer cocktails

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No one ever said Brooklyn in the summertime was bearable. Not when the humidity turns people’s clothes into wet laundry, and their hair, well, that’s too gruesome an image to commit to paper.

There is a simple solution to sweltering heat, one that will soften the memory of urine-scented subway stations and ease the heat-induced grouchiness that is summer in the city: an ice cold cocktail.

Borough restaurants and bars get creative this time of year, infusing vodkas with fruit or herbs and whirling fresh berries in the blender for green market daiquiris.

And, never since James Bond uttered, "shaken, not stirred," has the martini - especially one made with vodka - been so popular. Personnel at five of the seven establishments included in this roundup cited a specialty version of the cocktail as their customers’ drink of choice.

Why not? Anyone who drinks a martini is beautifully groomed, impeccably dressed and all but impervious to the soaring temperatures. (At least that’s how they feel after they’ve downed one or two.)

Max Joice calls himself a "bourbon guy." That’s one reason the manager and cocktail developer at Night and Day, a bar-eatery-literary-arts-venue in Park Slope, concocted "Honey’s Tease" ($9).

"It’s a perfect summer drink," Joice says, "like an alcoholic lemonade." Joice prefers Basil Hayden’s single-batch bourbon as the drink’s foundation because, "It’s the smoothest." He shakes the liquor with honey and simple sugar syrup, cuts the sweetness with fresh lemon juice, and then pours the works into an ice filled highball glass. Sweet and slightly bitter, frosty with the heat of bourbon, it’s a sweet tease all right.

Speaking of teases, they’ve got one over at Apartment 138 on Smith Street. That would be the "Watermelon Martini" ($8), the cocktail that bartender Alfred DiScipio suggests to his Boerum Hill clientele when they want, (forgive me for this) an icebreaker. The pale pink, distinctly Metrosexual combination is a mix of watermelon puree, citrus-infused vodka and De Kuyper’s "Watermelon Pucker" schnapps.

When the weather heats up, Paloma’s bartender Mack McCarthy starts shaking. McCarthy, who mans the bar at this popular Greenpoint eatery-arts venue, pours a lot of "Rhubarb Martinis" ($8).

"The chef sautes rhubarb with a little sugar then extracts the juice. Then we mix it with lemon-infused vodka and lemon and lime juices, and shake it up with a little sugar," he says. "People are really into the drink." For all vodka-based drinks, or straight up, McCarthy uses 42 Below, an organic vodka from New Zealand that he infuses with ingredients like lychee nuts, kaffir lime leaves, chili and ginger.

Even the name of the cocktail Scott Petche dreamed up on a sultry evening sounds cool: the "Mermaid" ($8). The bartender at the swanky Royal’s Downtown in Carroll Gardens uses a mix of Limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur), Stoli citrus vodka, club soda, simple sugar syrup and fresh pineapple juice then pours the tropical concoction into a martini glass and garnishes it with a sprig of mint. One sip of this frothy, herbaceous drink and you’ll be heeding the siren song of the "Mermaid," too.

Keeping the oceanic theme afloat, there’s Sea Thai Bistro in Williamsburg. Sea doesn’t have a bar; it has two - and a pool with a small boat in the center of the vast space. (How hip is it? Samantha hooked up with Smith here in an episode of "Sex and the City.") Mike, one of the eatery’s bartenders, said the "Lemon Drop Martini" ($9), a blend of Brimley’s Gold mango-flavored rum, vodka, Triple Sec and a splash of sour mix, keeps the patrons’ inhibitions turned to low.

Like Sea’s clientele, the folks at another Williamsburg venue, Zipi Zape, know how to have a good time. Diners gathered around the bar of this tapas restaurant, named for Spanish twin cartoon figures, are quaffing ice-cold "Kasatinis" ($8).

The drink, says the restaurant’s co-owner Ayse Telgeren, starts with Kas, a Spanish soda flavored with either orange or lemon. Into the soda goes Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine. A choice of fresh peach, lemon or mango juice is added and the fruity blend is served in flute glass. (With the pairing of effervescent beverages, maybe the drink should be dubbed the "Bubbletini"?)

If the thought if eating anything on a hot night makes you shudder, head to the Patio Lounge in Park Slope where it’s all booze, all the time, no food ever. Plunk yourself down at the bar or sit outside in the shady garden and order a "Key Lime Pie" ($8). The drink is the brainchild of manager Cara Soronen who mixed Stoli vanilla vodka, pineapple and lime juices and declared it "almost the real thing" - without the piecrust of course.

It’s a complete gestalt: The heat makes you drink and the drink revs up a heat-weary appetite. The establishments above - excluding Patio Lounge - can help you with that, too.

 

Apartment 138 (138 Smith St. between Dean and Bergen streets in Boerum Hill) accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Entrees: $8-$22. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily. The bar is open until midnight. For information, call (718) 858-0556.

Night and Day (230 Fifth Ave. at President Street in Park Slope) accepts American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Entrees: $10-$18. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Bar is open until 1 am everyday. For reservations, call (718) 399-2161,

Paloma (60 Greenpoint Ave. between West and Franklin streets in Greenpoint) accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Entrees: $11-$16. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner. The bar serves cocktails until 1 am on weeknights and 3 am on weekends. Closed Mondays. For reservations, call (718) 349-2400.

Patio Lounge (179 Fifth Ave. between Berkeley and Union streets in Park Slope) accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. The bar is open from 5 pm until 2:30 am daily. For more information, call (718) 857-3577.

Royal’s Downtown (215 Union St. at Henry Street in Carroll Gardens) accepts American Express, Discover and Visa. Entrees: $18-$32. The restaurant is open for dinner Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays. The bar is open until 10 pm on weeknights and until 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. For reservations, call (718) 923-9866.

Sea Thai Bistro (114 N. Sixth St. between Wythe and Berry streets in Williamsburg) accepts MasterCard and Visa. Entrees: $9-$14. The restaurant serves lunch and dinner daily. The bar is open until 1 am Sunday through Thursday, and until 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays. For reservations, call (718) 384-8850.

Zipi Zape (152 Metropolitan Ave. at Berry Street in Williamsburg) accepts MasterCard and Visa. Tapas: $1-$14. The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Mondays. The bar is open weekdays until midnight and on weekends until 1 am. For reservations, call (718) 599-3027.

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