Ask A Las Vegas Expert: Top Summertime Vodka Cocktails

July 31, 2014 4:00 AM

Summer in Las Vegas is the time to head outdoors with a crisp, cool cocktail. The hot weather makes us want to to shy away from heavy beer and wine to something light. A clear liquor like vodka is the perfect base for fresh seasonal fruits like watermelon, cucumber and peaches. Famed mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim has come up with these refreshing vodka cocktails, sure to be the highlight of your summer get-together.  
Photo Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Vegas Uncork'd by Bon Appetit

Photo Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit

Tony Abou-Ganim

Modern Mixologist

Tony Abou-Ganim is a world-renowned mixologist and author. He grew up in the bar business, moving all around the country working as a bartender and learning how to craft the perfect cocktail. In 1998, Steve Wynn brought him to Las Vegas to implement his philosophy of bartending and drink preparation. He designed the bar menu along with several original cocktails for the Bellagio’s 22 bars. He has written two books, “Modern Mixology: Making Great Cocktails at Home” and “Vodka Distilled.”

Zig Zag


  • 1 1/2 oz Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  • 3/4 oz. Cointreau
  • 3 oz. fresh-pressed watermelon juice
  • 2 oz. fresh homemade lemon sour (see below)


In an ice-filled mixing glass, add vodka, Cointreau, watermelon juice and fresh lemonade; shake until well blended, strain into an ice-filled tumbler. Garnish with a watermelon spear and mint sprig. It is best to press your watermelon just before the mixing of the drinks to assure the freshest quality juice. 

To make homemade lemon sour, simply mix 2 parts fresh-squeezed and filtered lemon juice with 1 part simple syrup. Simple syrup is made by dissolving an equal amount of granulated sugar (2 cups) into the same amount of boiling water (2 cups) and allowing to cool. Bottle and refrigerate for up to a month.

Related: Ask A Las Vegas Expert: Fourth Of July Cocktail Recipes 

Cucumber Cobbler


  • 2 oz Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced
  • 1 oz ginger syrup (see below)
  • 2 oz fresh apple-cucumber puree (see below)


In a mixing glass, muddle lemon slices with ginger syrup; add vodka and apple-cucumber puree. Shake with ice and strain over cracked ice in a tall highball glass. Garnish with apple, cucumber and lemon slices. Serve with straws.

To make ginger syrup, combine 2 cups each of water and sugar with 1 cup thinly sliced, peeled-fresh ginger in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan. Bring contents to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, then remove from heat and steep for minutes. Pour syrup through a sieve into a bowl, discarding ginger. 

Apple-Cucumber Puree


  • 2 pounds granny smith apples, unpeeled, cored and quartered
  • 2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar caster sugar
  • 2 English cucumbers, peeled and diced


Place the apples, lemon juice, water and sugar in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the apples until they are extremely soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Once the apples have cooled, transfer them to a blender with the diced cucumber and blend until the mixture becomes a smooth puree. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Refrigerate the apple mixture until cold.

This drink can also be made using fresh pressed green apple and cucumber juice. Use 3 parts fresh Granny Smith apple juice to 1 part English cucumber juice..

Monkey Shine


  • 1 1/2 oz Tito’s Handmade Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Campari
  • 1/2 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 oz fresh pink guava nectar (Kern’s Guava Nectar works well also)
  • 1/2 oz light agave nectar (simple syrup from above)
  • Lemon slices and mint sprig garnish


In a mixing glass, add vodka, Campari, Cointreau, lemon juice, guava nectar and simple syrup; shake with ice until well mixed. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish with mint sprig and lemon fan.

Related: Top Boozy Brunches In Las Vegas

Christa Emmer is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in broadcast journalism. She has experience as a news writer, editor and producer in television news. Christa has been a Las Vegas resident for more than 20 years. Follow her on twitter @ChristaEmmer. Her work can be found at

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