Oh that Sacramento summer heat ... the kind that makes you stick to your car seat ... when a 90-degree day in July feels like relief, and the Delta breeze causes a collective “Ahhhh!” around the region.
We Sacramentans have developed thick skins and all kinds of cooling strategies to get through our sun-baked summers. But at least there’s plenty to sip on to keep us cool.
Here’s a list of classic Sacramento drinks for the summer, which will help you chill out during outdoor grilling sessions or for some proper decompression next to an air conditioner at full blast. Pull up a glass and start sipping:
Nitrogen-infused coffee: The hottest coffee drink in town is actually served nice and cold, and looks more like a pour of Guinness than a caffeinated pick-me-up. Nitrogen-infused coffees are quickly turning into a signature Sacramento drink, and bring a touch of bar or craft beer culture to the cafe.
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These coffees are immediately cooled over ice after brewing, and then spend the next few days housed in kegs under nitrogen pressure. The process gives the coffee a cascading body and beer-like head once poured through a tap, plus a touch of carbonation for an added refreshing character. At Chocolate Fish on Folsom Boulevard, the final product is served in a glass normally reserved for Belgian beers.
Along with Chocolate Fish, look for these novel coffees at Old Soul and Hook & Ladder.
Track 7 Alkali Wit: Sacramento is most certainly a beer town, given its sudsy history of breweries from more than a century ago, plus the numerous newbies that have opened during the recent craft beer boom.
Pale ales with a heaping of hops are a signature of West Coast brews, though these robust and piney beers aren’t always the best for a hot summer day. For those scorching days, a beer with moderate alcohol levels and lighter body will do you right and refreshing, instead of making your eyes go googley after a pint.
On that note, we welcome the Alkali Wit from Track 7, a Belgian styled brew with citrus and spicy notes, and an alcohol percentage of 5.25 percent that goes down easy.
White Linen cocktail: New York City may have birthed the Manhattan cocktail, and New Orleans is home of the sazerac, but Sacramento can claim its own signature cocktail. That would be the White Linen, a blend of gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, a bit of simple syrup and lemon juice that’s garnished with thin slices of English cucumber.
The drink was created by Rene Dominguez, who currently serves as head bartender at Capital Dime, during his previous stint at downtown’s Ella Dining Room & Bar.
The White Linen has since become a fixture of local watering holes that specialize in craft cocktails, such as Shady Lady Saloon, especially during the summer. The drink takes the adage of “cool as a cucumber” to a cocktail glass, a refreshing libation that fits perfectly with sunny outdoor brunches that Sacramentans crave.
The White Linen also brings just the right amount of kick and fresh flavors to add extra cheer to happy hour and beyond, like a liquid Delta breeze after a triple-digit day.
Clarksburg chenin blanc: For those who love the grape, how great it is to live in an area surrounded by so much wine country. The Sierra foothills to the east has its longstanding traditions with zinfandel and is emerging as one of the state’s hot spots for Rhone varieties, while Napa and its world-class cabernet sauvignon and Bordeaux-styled blends are a quick day trip to the west.
But let’s not forget Clarksburg, situated approximately 10 miles south of downtown Sacramento. Its expansive farmland and aging buildings from sugar production and other crops make it look like a local version of the Rust Belt, but in terms of wine grapes, the region harkens to the Loire in France.
The white grape chenin blanc has thrived in Clarksburg’s sandy soils for more than 40 years and is undergoing a renaissance of appreciation from local wine lovers and experts alike. Clarksburg chenin blanc encompasses a range of styles, from bone-dry versions with bracing acidity to sweet late-harvest versions with a honey character. Whether savored on the porch with a pronounced Delta breeze, or paired with a summery seafood dinner, chenin blanc hits the spot when temperatures spike.
Look for chenin blanc from Clarksburg Wine Co., Revolution Wines and Bogle, which planted the area’s first chenin blanc vineyards in 1968.
River City Root Beer: Ah, sometimes there’s nothing like a little root beer to get the taste buds tingling. And one of our favorites comes from Sacramento via Blue Dog Beverages, a distributor that also crafts its own beverages (in addition to root beer, they also offer a sweet River City Blueberry Lemonade).
These folks certainly know their root beer and carry more than 60 of them in their beverage portfolio. But River City Root Beer stands apart because it’s like a greatest-hits drink, featuring the tasty properties found in some of the country’s best root beers.
Take a sip of River City Root Beer and you’ll find a creamy drink with lovely licorice overtones and lots of fizz. It’s a no-brainer for a root-beer float to pair with a take-out burger from, say, Nationwide Freezer Meats.