Ask A Sacramento Expert: Fourth Of July Cocktail Recipes

June 19, 2014 5:00 AM

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Sacramento’s bar and nightlife scene is undeniably evolving. This is due largely to the dedication of our local mixologists both on and off the grid. We aren’t talking about the bartenders who roll their eyes when you ask for a creative cocktail. Rather we are referring to the those who take great pride in their craft and look forward to the opportunity to put something together that will take both your eyes and your taste buds on a journey. This year, we decided to get the scoop straight from the source on some fun and inventive 4th of July cocktail recipes. Local bartenders were gracious enough to give up some recipes that will light up your 4th. Read along as we introduce you to some of Sacramento’s most seasoned cocktail creators, as well as some rising stars.
Richard Biermann-Smith
The Red Rabbit Kitchen+Bar
2718 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
(916) 706-2275

Richard is one Sacramento bartender who has been around the block. You can find him some nights at The Red Rabbit but he also serves as Secretary for the USBG, our local bartenders’ guild. Here are some of Richard’s feelings regarding 4th of July cocktails. Having tended bar at places like Monkey Bar and R15, as well as some high profile private events, Richard more than knows his way around a bar.

I don’t think you need to get too crazy for a good 4th of July cocktail. I like to stick with classics and keep it simple. There’s a reason a lot of these drinks have been around for a hundred years: because they are delicious! In the middle of summer, there’s not much better than a nice, fresh, easy-sipping, cool, crisp cocktail that you can easily make at home. My first instinct would be to make a Mint Julep. One of the best summer cocktails, especially if you have a nice classic copper julep cup.

Recipe 1: Mint Julep 

  • Mint Leaves
  • Crushed Ice
  • 1/2 oz Simple Syrup
  • 2 oz Bourbon

“Start by lightly muddling some fresh mint leaves in the bottom of the cup with a half once of simple syrup. Then add one ounce of bourbon, like buffalo trace or 4 roses, and fill the cup with crushed ice. Gently stir that around the cup with a straw; the ice should melt a little and there should be a nice layer of condensation on the outside of the cup. Then add another ounce of bourbon and a little more ice, and top with a freshly expressed sprig of mint. The crushed ice will slowly melt, so the drink lasts a lot longer than just 2 ounces of bourbon normally would.”

Recipe 2: South-Side Fizz


  • 2 oz Gin
  • 3/4 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 oz Simple syrup
  • Mint Leaves
  • Ice
  • Soda Water

“Lightly muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup in a Collins-type glass. Add the lemon juice and gin, then add ice on top. Top that sucker off with fizzy water and drink it. It’s almost too refreshing.”

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Andrew Calisterio
Owner Of Pop! Bottled Cocktails, Custom Sodas And Carbonated Tea
Sacramento, CA 95816

Since hitting the scene, this young man has established himself as a force to be reckoned with behind the bar not only in Sacramento but San Francisco as well. Andrew has been featured in multiple local publications and took home the first place bragging rights at California’s own cocktail competition. Calisterio recently started his own company, a unique concept concentrating on bottled cocktails and other beverages called Pop!. As a cocktail consultant, Andrew has become a trusted local source for all things associated with adult beverages. Get more information on Andrew on his Facebook page. Following are his 4th of July cocktail recipes with an introduction in his own words.

“I was inspired to create this cocktail by the group who developed Hollywood and the creation of Tijuana tourism. During this time, photographs of the commonly filmed grey donkeys appeared as a grey blur. Locals would paint stripes so the film would show up thus the birth of the Tijuana Zebras aka ‘Cebra.'”

Recipe 1: Cebra

  • 2 oz Reposado (Olmeca Altos)
  • 1/2 oz Ginger Syrup
  • 1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 dash of angostura bitters
  • 4 oz seltzer water

Shake and double strain into a Collins glass. Fill with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel

Recipe 2: Herbal Peach Whiskey Shrub

  • 1/4 oz champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 oz herbal peach syrup
  • 1 1/2oz Bourbon

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a glass adding new ice.

“It’s like biting into a fresh-picked peach right off the tree and with an American Bourbon it’s totally Americana. I’ve bottled this for a few events and it’s always a hit.”

Recipe 3: The California Sparkler

  • 1/2 oz St George Terroir Gin
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 5 oz California sparkling wine
  • Grapefruit twist

Build in a champagne flute glass and garnish with a twist of grapefruit.  

Related: A Night Out In Sacramento’s Midtown

Teresa Loughner
Hawks Restaurant
5530 Douglas Blvd
Granite Bay, CA 95746
(916) 791-6200

Teresa is one of those bartenders who makes her guests feel ridiculously welcome with her engaging personality. She is a fabulous addition to an already amazing team at Hawks in Granite Bay. She’s just one of those bartenders who truly enjoys her craft, as is made clear in her words.

“I myself have been in the restaurant industry for 14 years and have been tending bar for close to a decade. In addition, I have held every position in the industry, both in the front of the house and in the kitchen as well. I have an AA in Hospitality Management and in Culinary Arts. Food, libations and fun are my passions and my favorite place to be in the world is behind a bar, creating lovely cocktails and providing guests with a fabulous experience!”  

Recipe 1: Cool Melon Breeze

  • 1.5 oz. Dry London Gin
  • 1 oz. fresh watermelon puree
  • 3/4 oz. jalapeno/habanero simple syrup
  • 3/4 oz. fresh Lemon juice
  • Fever Tree Indian Tonic water

Build all ingredients in a Collins glass, filling to the top with tonic water. Garnish with compressed watermelon cut into the shape of a watermelon!

“This cocktail is a fun summer version of a gin tonic, meant to be refreshing and light but with a little kick. It is a beautiful watermelon color and is great with summer BBQ or July 4th-type food!”

Recipe 2: Italian 75

  • 1.5 oz. Bombay Gin
  • .75 oz. simple syrup
  • .75 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • .25 oz. house made limoncello
  • 1 oz. Prosecco

Pour the Prosecco into a martini glass. Shake the remaining ingredients with fresh ice and strain on top of the bubbles in the martini glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

“A take on the French 75, this recipe makes for a fabulous and light, tasty, easy to drink summer cocktail. It is important to have good limoncello, not the store-bought kind or it will throw the whole recipe. I wouldn’t mind sharing my version, it comes straight from my Nonna (we’re Italian!)”

Recipe 3: Strawberry Desire
  • 1.25 oz. American Harvest Vodka
  • .75 oz. fresh strawberry puree
  • .75 oz. lemongrass and ginger simple syrup
  • .25 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1.25 oz. Teavana Strawberry and Honesuckle tea, brewed, chilled
  • 2 dashes Peychaud bitters

Shake all ingredients except tea with fresh ice and strain into a Collins glass. Fill with the tea and garnish with ginger slice and lemon twist.

“I named this drink Desire because it is so luscious and flavorful and juicy yet balanced, it’s just like the perfect woman, she always leaves you desiring more…”

Balele Shoka
Aji Japanese Bistro
4361 Town Center Blvd
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
(916) 941-9181

Balele is the last but certainly not the least on our list of professional mixologists to grace this article. Mr. Shoka is passionate, professional and knowledgeable when it comes to crafting the perfect cocktail. As a bartender at Aji Japanese Bistro in El Dorado Hills, he brings both creativity and perceived value to the table. Balele takes great pride in his industry as well as his position at Aji.

Balele (Ba-Lay-Lee) has bartended the gambit for over 20 years, on the East Coast mainly, and returned to Sacramento in 2009. He is a native Californian/Sacramentan and has fond memories of summers on Folsom Lake and spending a lot of time in El Dorado Hills as a youth. His most recent bars in Sacramento were Piatti on Fair Oaks Boulevard in Sacramento and prior to that, Restaurant Thir13en beneath the Sterling Hotel in Sacramento. At Aji Japanese Bistro, he is the Executive Bartender and Bar Stylist, helping drive team concept, technique and exploration into the taste of all things liquid. Speaking of all things liquid, here are Balele’s July 4th recipes.

Recipe 1: The Distinguished Son

  • 1 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
  • 1 oz. Cherry Heering Liqueur
  • 1oz. Antica Carpano Formulae
  • .5 oz. fresh squeezed OJ
  • .25 oz. blood orange purée

In mixing glass or martini pitcher (for multiple drink batch out) stir all ingredients and pour over large rock in a DOF (whisky glass). Garnish with orange twist after zesting/rimming and Luxardo Cherry (or Manhattan set-up)

Recipe 2: The Loon
  • 2 oz. Matusalem Platino Cuban Rum
  • 1 oz .Natural Cane “Aji” House Ginger Syrup
  • 1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • .5 oz. 7-Up or equivalent effervescent lemon-lime soda
  • .5 oz. Skipper Dark Rum floater

You can literally follow the recipe simply by pouring one ingredient over the last in an ice filled glass.”I wanted to design something that was great on a hot day and or a blistering cold day on the high seas. It is my spin on The Dark and Stormy with a little more thought and dimension. In a glass it looks like a turbulent seas. It’s a good drink to have on deck for the Fourth.

Recipe 3: The Harvey Wallbanger

  • 2 oz. Spirit Works Vodka or Vodka of your liking
  • 3 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 oz. Galliano Liqueur

“Build like making a screwdriver, float 1 oz. of Galliano over the top. This one is on our Social Hour list as a special and people just love saying ‘Harvvvvey Wallllllhbangah!’ Pretty funny. Garnish glass with nice orange wheel and cherry skewered (hopefully Luxardo) through it.”

As a hospitality professional Andy Soto has worked every facet of the industry. He currently leads the team at Spectrum Restaurant Consulting. He started writing a hospitality blog in 2009 and restaurant writing for Sacramento Press in 2010. In 2011 Andy became a Sacramento Restaurant Examiner for His work can be found on