Budget Travel

June 2, 2009

5 Great Summer Cocktails

By Meg Hoppe

The summer is a great time to just kick back with some good friends and good drinks for a night. So many of my best memories from years past revolve around lawn chair conversation with a pitcher of my favorite margarita being passed from friend to friend. This summer, I’ve picked some of my favorite cocktails to accompany any summer night party.

Habanero Margarita

Mango Habanero Margarita

Mango Habanero Margarita

  • 2 parts tequila
  • 2 parts mango puree
  • 1 part lime juice
  • 2 dashes habanero sauce

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a chilled glass then enjoy.

This recipe is my new summer favorite. I had a great variation of this for the first time at a FlatTop restaurant near my house. When I got home I scoured the Internet for recipes to this great drink and they had ones that seemed close but never necessarily hit the mark for me. I almost gave up when I stumbled across this one that I found on NibbleDish.com. I experimented some with the fruit puree and found that it’s a great drink to mix and match with. So if you’re looking for something a little different with a kick, give this amazing drink a try!


  • 1 ounce Midori
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • Lemonade
  • Club soda
  • Sprite

Pour Midori and vodka into a highball glass. Fill with lemonade and float a splash of club soda and a splash of Sprite on top. Garnish with a lemon twist.

I first discovered this recipe a few summers ago during a July 4th party with friends. The sweet Midori mixes so well with vodka and some lemonade. In fact, it was such a hit at the party that it’s become a staple at any Hoppe party. The mixture is easy enough to make for a large group or small one.


  • 1/2 ounce peach liqueur
  • 1 ounce peach juice or nectar
  • Chilled champagne or sparkling wine

Pour liqueur and juice into a chilled champagne flute. Slowly top up with champagne or sparkling wine.

I have always been a huge fan of the Bellini. The peach mixed with champagne or sparkling wine is a great way to top off a warm evening with a few close friends. The recipe is simple enough to replicate and alter [if you so wish] easily enough.


Mint Mojito

Mint Mojito

  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 8 mint leaves
  • Half a lime, chopped
  • 1/2 ounce sugar syrup; club soda
  • Ice cubes

Mash up mint, lime, and sugar syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add a scoop of ice, then the rum. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled tumbler 1 inch from the rim; top up with club soda.

I remember trying a Mojito at the behest of one of my close friends. While I wasn’t automatically sold on the combination of rum and mint, the drink quickly grew on me. What’s so great about the Mojito is that it’s such a universal drink that can take so many forms. You can easily add a great ingredient like pineapple or pomegranate to make your own twist on a Cuban classic.


  • 5 small chunks watermelon
  • 1 lime, chopped
  • 1/2 ounce sugar syrup
  • 1 1/2 ounces gold tequila
  • Apple juice
  • Ice cubes

Mash up watermelon, lime, and sugar syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add a scoop of ice, then the tequila. Shake vigorously and strain into a tall, chilled glass 1 inch from the rim; top with apple juice.

This recipe is an old favorite of mine because it is a great summer party drink. I made Chapala for the first time for a large group at a BBQ and it went over brilliantly. I love experimenting with this drink keeping the fruit in for a very Sangria feel while introducing other flavors to the mix.

The best thing about these recipes is the versatility in their enjoyment. It is easy to translate these drinks to “mocktail” status for friends who prefer non-alcoholic nights and add different flavors and feelings with the addition of fruit. Enjoy the recipes and never be scared to experiment every now and then with your cocktails!

*Meg Hoppe is a freelance writer and marketing professional from Chicago. Visit her other blog here.


Summer Fun on a Budget

Filed under: Budget Travel — twdhf @ 7:55 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

By Meg Hoppe

Photographed by: D Sharon Pruitt

Photographed by: D Sharon Pruitt

From vacations to concerts and festivals, summer is the time to travel.  Kids are off of school and meandering around and the weather is perfect for weekend trips downtown or out of town.  If you’re at all like me, you find that come Labor Day, you bank account has gone through the ringer. A few days at the Taste of Chicago, some baseball games or concerts, and a summer vacation with the girls can put a dent in my credit card bill that even I have trouble looking at. So, this year as my social calendar fills up I’ve decided to try something a little different.

Being a rather young writer, my bank account doesn’t have the bang for its buck that I would like.  Knowing that most of my friends have the same problem, I have resided myself to the notion of stretching what I can for as long as I can without compromising. You might find yourself wondering how I plan on stretching a rather slim regular income while not compromising my plans for the summer. To be honest, I found myself wondering the same thing when I made the suggestion. The answer to that lies in the little nuances of event planning.

Living in Chicago affords me the luxury of having a decent amount of free events to attend all year long. Aside from hitting up local museums on their free days, which they all have, I can check out the Botanic Gardens any time I want, picnic in the parks, check out local festivals and neighborhood parties.

For those of you who love sports and concerts, but don’t really want to dish out $40.00-$100.00 for tickets; utilize your local Craigslist. I have found that for most events just looking a few days prior, even the day of given enough time, can prove to be both frugal and fruitful. The closer you get to the actual event, the more willing people are to bend a little on the ticket price. I’ve paid next to nothing for sold out shows and games because people just needed to get rid of their tickets. Just note that if you’re going to use Craigslist, you need to have a back-up plan in place in case you can’t score great tickets.

Now we come to the vacationing section of the cheap summer fun plan. I have found that vacationing can be a pleasure for your bank account when done correctly. First off, think about where you want to stay. Do you really need to book a room at the Four Seasons in New York when you have those second cousins who have a pretty decent size brownstone? Bring home some wine and flowers during your stay, offer to help clean, do some chores, and you have free digs to call your own while on vacation.

When it comes to travel to and from, choose the cheapest route available. If you have a group of friends, do your research on car rentals, vans, cheap airlines, etc. When my friends and I travel, we do lots of research. We buy any plane tickets well ahead of time and plan our trips on non-peak days to avoid higher costs. When we are on vacation, we have a researched cheap mid sized vehicle that when split between us is reasonably priced. If you’re in a big city, utilize public transportation. City transit normally offers weekend passes that are a bargain if you do the math and see you’re using it enough.

Vacations can sometimes seem like the check-out aisle in a grocery store. They’re littered with “impulse buys” or “impulse trips.” In order to avoid spending more money than you had originally set out to I’ve found that it is important to have a plan laid out before you go. If you make a note of the main attractions or events you want to attend, you are eliminating lots of “impulse trips.” Now, that’s not to say that every moment of every day has to be planned. Remember those cousins you’re staying with? They live there and have a wealth of information for things to see and do. Ask them for ideas on cheap things to do and I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised. Offer to take them out with you and you can end up having the best vacation of the summer.

In the end, summer vacations and trips are all about the people you’re with. So don’t forget to just spend some nights at home. Break out some citronella candles, margaritas, and call your best friends for a night of good food, good drinks, and good company. Good friends are the best and cheapest summer event you could possibly plan.

*Meg Hoppe is a freelance writer and marketing professional from Chicago. Visit her other blog here.

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