6 Summery Craft Cocktails: Ventura Spirits and Sideyard Shrubs + Surprisingly Good Cocktails in a Can!

With summer in full swing, and backyard gatherings back post-pandemic, it’s time for summer craft cocktails! We have six craft cocktails createdby Sue Hill for you featuring Ventura Spirits: Wilder Gin, Opuntia Cactus Pear Brandy, Strawberry Brandy, and from Sideyard Shrubs: Peach, Prickly Pear, and Fingerling Lime. Plus three bonus cocktails: one with Sideyard Shrub with Corvezzo Organic Prosecco, and two from Ventura Spirits in a can. 

I am the first to admit that I am not a gifted mixologist. Just give me some tonic, gin, and a slice of lemon from my tree with lots and I’m good to go especially if there’s a splash of my homemade elderflower liquor. Or I’m fond of homemade lemonade with a splash of tequila and Gran Marnier.

But Sue is a master mixologist, and she regularly buys and enjoys various Ventura Spirits. So we took a break from wine to explore these locally made beverages, and make Sue made some cocktails too! Later in the summer I’m going to do a more in-depth interview with Ventura Spirits, but here’s some cocktails now below to cool off from the summer heat!

So to start with, a shrub is a fruit-infused vinegar. Sideyard Founder Sarah Bourke partners with farmers as well as neighbors laden with fruit to make and sell her shrubs in small batches, sourcing fruit directly from small farms with no added sugar to “celebrate the bounty, abundance and bright flavors of every season in Southern California.”  

Ventura Spirits designed and built their still in 2011, and for over 10 years they’re fulfilled their mission “to use the natural and agricultural bounty of California’s central coast to hand-craft novel and delicious spirits.” Driven by a sense of exploration and discovery, they say they are “passionate about creating liquors with inputs that are unexplored or underutilized. We aim to contribute to a regional spirits tradition with extraordinary new products that foster a strong appreciation for our area of the world.” Combining the wild and the cultivated, they seek to challenge themselves and their customers “to be more curious, more creative, and better consumers of distilled liquors, to strain against the status quo.” 

From my side yard to yours, cheers!

Sue’s basic craft cocktail recipe:

1oz spirits muddled with splash of everything else.
Top with sparkling water or sparkling lemonade.
Add sweetener (simple syrup or agave) to taste.

Ventura Spirits Strawberry Brandy with Sideyard Shrubs Peach

Ventura Spirits Strawberry Brandy with Sideyard Shrubs Peach

Descriptions, Directions, Details:

Peach muddled with fresh peach, mint, agave syrup to taste and poured over ice. Garnish with fresh peach, strawberry and mint. This is a summer fresh crisp flavor, not a sweet cocktail. The ripe fruit enhances the flavor of this craft cocktail. which has  many interesting complex flavors. This is not a pool pounder, but a greeter that wakes up your taste buds with fresh bright, herbaceous flavors.

Ventura Spirits Opuntia Cactus Pear Brandy and Sideyard Shrubs Prickly Pear

Ventura Spirits Opuntia Cactus Pear Brandy and Sideyard Shrubs Prickly Pear 

Descriptions, Directions, Details:

Prickly Pear muddled with a bit of sage agave syrup to taste. Pour over ice with a squeeze of Meyer lemon. Top off with Feverfew sparkling lemon. The Opuntia has such a unique flavor profile, there is an unctuousness to it. The prickly pear flavor comes through and makes this cocktail truly unique. It is light and refreshing. The tart and sour flavors are very pleasurable while the sage adds a nice herbal flavor. This is a very well balanced cocktail. 

The addition of the Prickly Pear Sideyard Shrubs gives a very interesting element. 

Ventura Spirits Wilder gin, Ventura Spirits Ojai Pixie-Cello

Ventura Spirits Wilder gin, Ventura Spirits Ojai Pixie-Cello, and Feverfew sparkling lemon

Descriptions, Directions, Details:

Garnished with  pixie tangerine, sage,  and kumquat over ice, the gin exudes the flavor of our local chaparral. Light and refreshing with more sweetness to this drink than the other two. Definitely a crowd pleaser, it is very accessible. The fresh orange and tangerine shines through. 

Ventura Spirits Prickly Paloma: Opuntia Prickly Pear Brandy with Grapefruit, lime, agave.

Ventura Spirits Prickly Paloma: Opuntia Prickly Pear Brandy with Grapefruit, lime, agave.

Descriptions, Directions, Details:

Such a lovely refreshing cocktail that is all premixed, so you can drink it straight out of the can and you don’t need to be a mixologist! At 6.4% ABV, it is light enough to be enjoyed without knocking you out. Fresh and clean on the palate with so many subtle pleasurable nuances. There’s a sweetness to it without being sweet and with a lovely tartness to it. 

This would be great to pair with appetizers, chips and salsa, street tacos.

Angeleno Spritz

Angeleno Spritz 

Descriptions, Directions, Details:

A sparkling cocktail with Angelena Amaro and grapefruit.  Not everyone appreciates Amaro like we do, but this is a perfect expression of an amaro. The orange essence and the bitter are perfectly balanced. All of the botanicals are apparent in this cocktail. And again, no mixology experience is necessary. If you are looking in an ice chest and find a can of this, take advantage. 

I want this now! Just keep some cans in your cupboard. You will be grateful! 

Corvezzo Prosecco D.O.C. and Finger Lime shrub from Sideyard Shrubs.

Corvezzo Prosecco D.O.C. and Finger Lime shrub from Sideyard Shrubs.

Descriptions, Directions, Details:

This Prosecco is not as fruity as some Prosecco can be. This herbal Prosecco does not fight with the shrubs. There is a bit of dill pickle essence going on in this drink. This wine handles the herbal essence of the shrubs. Just a splash is all that is needed of the shrubs to elevate it to create this Prosecco cocktail. 


Ventura Spirits Strawberry Brandy 

  • Color Amber
  • Aroma: apple blossom, wet earth, strawberry
  • Palate: brandy, caramel apple, cinnamon red hots, finish cinnamon red hots 
  • Pairing: dessert 

For more Ventura Spirits recipes, go here.

For more Sideyard Shrub cocktail ideas (some with Ventura Spirits!), check these recipes out.

I’m looking forward to trying this one out with the Peach Shrub:

Sunshine Spritz

  • ½ ounce Apricot Shrub (Sideyard Shrubs)

  • 2 ounces dry vermouth

  • 6 ounces sparkling water

  • Fill glass with ice cubes.

  • Add shrub, followed by remaining ingredients.

  • Stir to combine.

And for those folks looking for a MOCKTAIL, how about:

Sideyard Shrub Soda Mocktail

  • 1 ounce Sideyard Shrub (flavor of choice)

  • 7 ounces sparkling water

  • Fresh herbs, for garnish

  • Fill glass with ice cubes.

  • Add shrub, followed by sparkling water.

  • Stir to combine, and garnish with fresh herbs of choice.

We’re looking forward to more experiments with both Sideyard Shrubs and Ventura Spirits! 





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