Tahoe-Truckee bar scene serves up intriguing cocktails for the perfect summer evening | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tahoe-Truckee bar scene serves up intriguing cocktails for the perfect summer evening

PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn designs its cocktail menu to highlight certain spirits throughout the year, educating guests while quenching their thirst. At left is the Mango Picante Sour; at right, the Mayonaka.
Photo: Sean Field

Fast Four: South Lake Tahoe Cocktail Stops:

Just because these drinks come from the experts at Truckee and North Lake Tahoe doesn’t mean we’re forgetting about the lake’s South Shore.

If you’re headed to South Lake Tahoe this summer, be sure to check in with the local experts to shake up your typical cocktail routine. Below are five quick-hit stops on the South Shore to satisfy your thirst.

Bistro at Edgewood Tahoe: For a refined dining experience that doesn’t feel too stuffy, Bistro offers guests fresh cuisine as well as an extensive wine list and masterfully crafted cocktails.

The Landing Tahoe Resort and Spa: Here, Jimmy’s Restaurant serves contemporary Greek and California cuisine from the lakefront dining room and bar, also offering myriad wines and artisanal cocktails.

Riva Grill: Embodying summertime fun in Tahoe, Riva Grill welcomes guests to take a load off and sip their signature Wet Woody frozen cocktail.

The Loft: See a show, stay for dinner or party in the lounge and bar area, enjoying craft cocktails and entertainment.

It’s summertime, the sun is out, and you’re looking for some cool cocktail ideas to share with friends and family as you play outside.

So why not take a page from Tahoe-Truckee’s craft cocktail scene and level up your bartending skills this summer with some signature ingredients and foolproof recipes?

Tahoe Magazine sat down with the experts at PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn and Truckee Tavern & Grill, each of which boast beautiful outdoor dining patios, gourmet menus and bartending wizards, who constantly study flavors and combine all sorts of concoctions to keep things fresh and exciting.

This summer, Jake Spero, PlumpJack’s bar manager, says you can spice up your typical tequila drink with a kick of pepper — or, try a new twist on gin by adding sake and lemongrass.

Ryan Dierks, co-owner of Truckee Tavern, meanwhile, says that summertime is all about melons — they’re accessible, delicious and make for a mean cocktail.

Check out these fun cocktail ideas that infuse homemade fruit syrups and various herbs with your favorite spirits to create the perfect recipe for summer satisfaction.

PlumpJack’s Mango Picante Sour

This tequila cocktail brings the sweet along with some heat. To prepare the Mango Fresno purée, blend mango and Fresno chili peppers along with simple syrup and water. Keep in mind that Fresno chilis are notorious for being mild or spicy, so add small amounts at a time until you’ve reached your desired heat level.


2 oz. PlumpJack Partida, or other reposado tequila

1 oz. Mango Fresno purée

¾ oz. Fresh lemon juice

¾ oz. Orgeat


Combine the above ingredients and shake with ice. Double-strain the beautiful orange cocktail into a coupe glass and garnish with thinly sliced Fresno peppers. The tequila used at PlumpJack’s bar for this beverage has been aged in the winery’s own cabernet barrels for a deeper flavor; Spero says you can achieve the same cocktail using any reposado tequila or stop in to taste the unique and limited quantity spirit.

PlumpJack’s Mayonaka

PlumpJack bartender Ben Paciotti drew inspiration from flavor profiles he experienced in Japan to create this refreshing cocktail showcasing sake and lemongrass-infused gin. To infuse your own spirits at home, simply add your herbs, fruit or garnish to the alcohol and let it sit, tasting it until you’ve reached the desired strength of infused flavor.


1 ½ oz. Lemongrass-infused Hendrick’s gin

1 ½ oz. Tozai Snow Maiden Junmai Nigori sake

½ oz. Fresh lemon juice

¼ oz. Yuzu juice

½ oz. Honey syrup

Freshly cracked black pepper


Muddle freshly sliced cucumber with ice chips in a glass. Shake all cocktail ingredients with ice and strain once, allowing some cucumber chunks to remain in the cocktail. Serve garnished with thinly sliced fresh cucumber and a few cranks of the peppermill over the top.

Tips from Truckee Tavern:

For early summer cocktail ingredients, Ryan Dierks of Truckee Tavern & Grill recommends opting for cherries, rhubarb, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.

Also, to create simple, delicious and refreshing summer cocktails, Dierks suggests creating your own fruit syrup showcasing the bright summer flavors of honeydew and cantaloupe melons. Check out a couple ideas below:

Truckee Tavern’s Honeydew Melon + Gin

To prepare your own honeydew syrup, combine equal parts in weight of melon and raw sugar. Stir in tarragon or some mint and let the mixture sit for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain your syrup and serve as follows.


2 oz. Gin

¾ oz. Fresh lime juice

¾ oz. Honeydew syrup


Add all above ingredients to a Boston shaker with ice, strain into a martini glass or serve in a highball glass over ice, topped with soda water and a mint garnish.

Truckee Tavern’s Cantaloupe + Bourbon

For delicious homemade cantaloupe syrup, combine equal parts in weight of melon and raw sugar, add cardamom and fresh vanilla bean and let macerate for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain your syrup and serve as follows.


2 oz. Bourbon

¾ oz. Fresh lemon juice

¾ oz. Cantaloupe syrup


This twist on a whiskey sour is prepared the same way as the honeydew melon cocktail, shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass, or served spritzer-style with some soda water in a highball glass.

This story is adapted from Tahoe Magazine.

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