SUMMER FESTIVAL: Summer Cocktails with Amanda Usen

I love going to a bar and having a bougie bartender shake, smoke, stir, foam, or whip up magic in a glass. However, in the summertime, I want a simple, beautiful drink that LOOKS like a bougie bartender made it but requires a minimum of ingredients and gets me outside and into the sun in under five minutes.

Here are my three go-to summertime cocktails. One made with gin, one with vodka, one with tequila…did I miss anybody?   Enjoy!

Empress Gin and Tonic

A clear glass with a purple liquid, garnished with ice, berries, and lilac.

This gorgeous Indigo Gin is colored with butterfly pea flowers. It’s more blue than purple—until you add the tonic. Then it turns purple, which is a fun party trick. I love it with elderflower tonic, but any tonic works. Add lime, and you’ve got a delicious, quick cocktail! A burst of inspiration (and a quick Google search to make sure lilacs are edible) created the “Lilac Empress” this spring. So pretty! And it smelled amazing.

The Lemon Balm

A serving pitcher with a yellow-ish liquid full of fresh cut berries and mint.

A classic in our neighborhood! Lemonade, vodka, cut fruit, mint and lemon balm (an herb that will take over your yard if you let it). Sling it together, go for a walk, and see what your neighbors are up to.

Homemade Margarita

Technically, this one isn’t fast because it requires advance prep work. But once you have the homemade sour mix in your fridge, it’s a snap to make. Shake sour mix and tequila with ice. Pour over more ice. Garnish with salt and lime. Summertime in a glass!

Give me a cocktail, a book, and a comfortable chair , and I’m set for summer. You can find the homemade margarita recipe (and more) on my website, where I try to keep track of the best things I eat, drink, and read. Cheers to sunshine and downtime!

Whether it’s the boardroom or the bedroom, hotelier Xavier Rodriguez knows what he wants. When he has a chance to work with an incredible nonprofit—and they throw his personal life into the spotlight—he’s tasked to clean up his reputation. Which is exactly when delicious temptation steps into his path…

Between her burlesque troupe, launching her own business, and planning her bestie’s wedding—not to mention her hard-to-please, extra-privileged family—Brittany Adair has exactly zero interest in anything more than a bit of fun tonight. And with Xavier, it’s a lot of fun.

One incredible night, no strings. That’s all it was ever supposed to be. But soon, what started as a hot little hook-up results in them sharing a tiny little secret that’s due to arrive in about nine months…and what happens next is anyone’s guess—especially when emotions get involved.



Amanda Usen knows two things for certain: chocolate cheesecake is good for breakfast and a hot chef can steal your heart. Her husband stole hers on the first day of class at the Culinary Institute of America. They married after graduation in a lovely French Quarter restaurant in New Orleans. After enjoying the food and the fun in the Big Easy for a few years, they returned to Western New York to raise a family.

Amanda spends her early mornings writing romance and the rest of the day writing copy for a marketing agency. She loves books, yoga, cheese, chocolate, and carbs in all forms. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading a book or fooling around in the kitchen.

You can follow Amanda on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out her website to stay up to date on the latest news!

About Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.