By Connie Sievers Explore Big Sky Contributor

Big Sky can be heavenly in the summertime – beautiful weather, no humidity and spectacular landscapes that you don’t need skis to explore. Whether biking, hiking or strolling through town, the fresh mountain air makes me crave a clean, crisp summertime cocktail.

This craving may not come as a surprise: I spent every day in 2012 drinking a different cocktail for my blog, Cocktail Connie 366. I learned a lot about cocktails that year, including the fact that you should always keep trying new ones. I found that most of my favorites were both sweet and sour, and that some cocktails are just perfect for summertime.

Fortunately, Montana has no shortage of great, locally made spirits. Micro distilleries dot the state and seem like a natural fit, but it wasn’t until 2005, when Montana state legislation changed Prohibition-era liquor laws still in existence that micro-distilleries were allowed to produce small batches of alcohol for limited distribution. RoughStock Distillery in Bozeman opened in 2008, becoming Montana’s first legal distillery since Prohibition and the first to open its doors in the state in more than 100 years.

RoughStock makes a smooth, full-flavored rye whiskey, and when used in the Summer Rye cocktail recipe, even those who normally wouldn’t go near a cocktail made of brown liquor will enjoy it.

If a simple vodka drink is more your style, try the Fancy Pants cocktail recipe. The men who make up the Bozeman Cutthroat Rugby Club named it, and you’re going to love it.

SUMMER RYE COCKTAIL

1½ oz Roughstock Straight Rye or another rye whiskey

¾ oz St. Germain

¼ oz simple syrup

¾ oz lemon juice

1 oz apple juice

¾ oz champagne

To make a Summer Rye, put all the ingredients – except the champagne – into a cocktail shaker. Add plenty of ice, shake well and strain into a tall glass half-filled with ice. Top it off with the champagne and garnish with a lemon or orange slice.

St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur from France, has a pleasing taste that lends a touch of sweetness. The cocktail also has a strong lemonade flavor, but the whiskey flavor, though tampered by all the other ingredients, isn’t lost. In fact, it’s enhanced. The champagne adds bubbles and a fresh taste.

THE FANCY PANTS COCKTAIL

1-3 oz 44 North Mountain Huckleberry Vodka or another huckleberry vodka

1½ oz pink lemonade

¾ oz club soda

Start by filling a glass with ice. Add either a lot or a little of the huckleberry vodka, then add pink lemonade and club soda. Stir well and serve with a lemon slice garnish.

The Fancy Pants, a favorite of Bozeman’s only rugby team, is a delicious, refreshing cocktail that would taste great after a vigorous game of football or a day in the mountains. The huckleberry flavor from the vodka is mellowed wonderfully by the lemonade and club soda. If you use regular lemonade, it’s called a Tube Top cocktail around the rugby club, and it’s just as good.

Connie L. Sievers is a freelance writer from Willoughby Hills, Ohio, and a frequent visitor to Big Sky. Her cocktail blog contains recipes and reviews of 366 cocktails and can be found at cocktailconnie366.blogspot.com.