Like any cocktail enthusiast will tell you, some libations are more suited for warm weather than others. Hence why Malibu Beach Inn’s Bar Director, Josh Curtis, has unveiled a selection of essential summer cocktails to keep guests cool after a day at the beach – one of which you can make yourself with his own curated recipe.
From time-honored classics to unexpected, original creations, Curtis’ drinks are influenced by both his desire to craft new flavors and his appreciation for tradition.
“If there’s something I’ve never done before, I try and do it,” says Curtis, while referencing the endless cocktail books and blogs he is constantly reading. “But I’m always inspired by the classics and inspired by the ingredients we have from the farmers market.”
Fresh market fruit brings both sweetness and acidity to the drinks, and the pleasant way in which the two elements play off of each other results in cooling cocktails filled with vitality. One such drink, the Playa Access – which also happens to be the most popular – highlights daily juiced cucumbers, fresh lime, and Casamigos Tequila Blanco. “You could call it a cucumber margarita,” says Curtis, “but it’s more than that. The freshly juiced cucumbers make it so exciting, and you can really taste that in the drink.”
Oftentimes, he has found there no need for obscure ingredients or over-the-top creativity. Where the taste is light, the ingredients can be light too. In fact, he admits that throughout the course of his career he learned to tone down some of his more audacious recipes. “Now,” he says, “I try to have drinks that have three or four ingredients that are really good, things that make you go ‘Wow,’ but it’s just three or four ingredients.”
One of the simplest, freshest cocktails on the menu is actually another contender for the top seller. Pray for Surf features strawberry lemonade, made with just-picked fruit, and Stoli Elit vodka in a “less strategic” blend that makes a truly memorable summer drink. In other libations like the sangria and the Curtis Sidecar – “lovingly named after myself,” Curtis jokes – you can find pressed lemon and orange wedges.
But these simple recipes don’t point to any lack of innovation behind the bar. Curtis loves to replace ingredients in classic cocktails like the margarita (see the Playa Access), Manhattan, and French 75 and put his own spin on things too. The City of Angels (Angel’s Envy, caramelized vanilla, fresh oranges, and Curtis’ vanilla bitters) is a take on an Orange Julius. And Curtis will easily recommend the Johnnie-O (Caliche rum, cracked jalapeño, ginger beer, and fresh lime juice), created by the founder of the brand and meant to evoke the flavor of a Dark ‘N’ Stormy while remaining light for summer.
Another standout, the Hotel California, was carried over from the spring cocktail menu by popular demand. It’s one that seasoned cocktail enthusiasts may be familiar with, based on the Hotel Nacionale, but Curtis swapped out the rum for vodka. “I [also] excluded the lime,” he says, “and made it simply vodka, apricot, and pineapple. You’re not expecting what you’re tasting – it’s not average. We are playing around with the spirits in different ways.”
For something truly unique, he recommends the Kahuna: “It has a white peach puree. It’s similar to a bellini, but it uses gin instead of prosecco. And my own lime bitters, which are citrusy but kind of dry.”
Not sure what to order? Ask for Curtis’ advice at the bar.
The seasonally changing cocktail menu at Malibu Beach Inn is designed to always offer guests fresh and interesting choices, including a hot chocolate menu in the winter and a dry New Year’s menu in January. There are also special selections from time to time, such as the current spritz menu at Carbon Beach Club. (“The Sbagliato is really cool. It’s very much like they do things in Italy for happy hour.”)
And when your time in the ‘Bu comes to an end, you can always bring a taste of summer home with you thanks to the exclusive cocktail recipe below from Curtis. Cheers!
Pray for Surf
2 oz. Stoli Elit vodka
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
¾ oz. simple syrup
¾ oz. strawberries, freshly juiced
Lemon wheel and strawberry slice, to garnish
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with 6 oz. ice, and shake for five seconds. Hawthorne strain over new ice in a lowball or double rocks glass.
To freshly juice strawberries: Wash 1 lb. strawberries thoroughly. Hull them by removing green, leafy tops. Cut in half and press through a Champion or Breville juicer. Fine strain the juice to remove excess pulp.