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Enjoy a martini cocktail on a sultry summer evening.
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updated 7/2/2004 11:15:39 AM ET 2004-07-02T15:15:39

Ah, the cocktail! The quintessential American drink. The Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca disparagingly observed that "the only things that the United States has given to the world are skyscrapers, jazz and cocktails." But what gifts they are, especially that epitome of American sophistication and style, the cocktail.

Born in the in the mists of an unrecorded past, the cocktail came into its own, perversely enough, during Prohibition as thirsty imbibers sought ways of disguising the awful taste of bathtub gin with various fruity and sweet mixers. Talk about the law of unintended consequences, or dark clouds having silver bullet linings.

Following repeal, the art and ritual of making a cocktail became a mark of distinction for America's sophisticated classes, and ensured the drink's popularity into the 1960s.

Dismissed by the iconoclastic baby boomers as their parents' drink, cocktails went into eclipse for a while until, in the '90s, they came roaring back as if it was the 1920s all over again, with young Carrie Bradshaws savoring cosmos and green apple martinis in elegant watering holes as they plotted the evening's sexual shenanigans.

And then there's the Caribbean connection. Following the Spanish-American War, Cuba became a de facto U.S. colony, and Americans flocked to the decadent nightspots of Havana in search of alcohol and other illicit pleasures not available in the more puritanical north. In the process, they discovered the pleasures of rum-based drinks, which make some of the best summer cocktails: rum-laced, fruit-flavored and packed with ice. You can feel the sand between your toes before the first sip.

So what better way to celebrate America's birthday — or any other warm weather occasion —than to shake up a pitcher full of these cool, hot-weather concoctions to slowly savor on sultry summer evenings as the air fills with the aroma of steaks charring on the grill, and you await for the sun to sink over the yardarm so the fireworks can begin?

To help you in this arduous but rewarding task, we have compiled a list of cool — in both meanings of the word — drinks, a dozen summer sippers for your pleasure. Some come from Colin Field, of the Hemingway Bar of the Hotel Ritz in Paris, who is considered one of the best, if not the best, hotel bartenders in the world. Others are more traditional Caribbean, American and European inventions, including two from England, a country that, while not renowned for its balmy weather, certainly knows how to appreciate an alcoholic beverage on a summer afternoon.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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