When it’s hot and sticky outside, the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time prepping a complicated drink or sipping an overly alcoholic cocktail. And while most cocktails are served cold, some ingredients are simply more simpatico with drinking during the balmy days of summer.
For inspiration on what to make at home to stay safe and sane in the heat, VinePair enlisted the expert advice of bartenders and beverage directors around the country. From the tried and true summer sippers, to creative riffs on the classics, these refreshments are sure to keep you cool on the hottest of days. Keep reading to find out which cocktails should be in your summer rotation.
As bars and restaurants continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic and reopening phases, VinePair asked the bartenders and drinks professionals below to provide a virtual tip jar or fund of their choice. More resources for helping hospitality professionals are available here.
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“Refreshing sangria is indisputably the best choice for the summer season. At Teleferic, we make ours with Tempranillo wine, brandy, triple sec, fresh fruits, and served iced cold. This could literally be your salvation when it’s boiling outside. Plus, you can easily prepare it in less than five minutes and impress your guests!” — Marc Pont, Bar Manager, Teleferic Barcelona, Palo Alto and Walnut Creek, Calif.
“For me, the trick to making cocktails at home is simplicity. Some people might like breaking out their juicers and microplanes, but after 11 years in the industry, I want [my drinks] to be simple without sacrificing flavor. One of my favorite home ‘bar hacks’ is batching a stirred drink and then keeping it in the fridge. A perfect example of a summer cocktail is the 50/50 Martini. Take one 750-milliliter bottle of dry vermouth, one 750-milliliter bottle of gin and combine them in any vessel [big] enough to hold them. Pour them back into the bottles they came in and stick them in the fridge. The gin will help to stabilize the vermouth so it doesn’t go bad. When you’re ready to have a cocktail, pour 3 ounces into a mixing glass and give it a quick stir. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a grapefruit twist.” — Theo Lieberman, Beverage Director, 232 Bleecker, NYC
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“My favorite non-frozen cocktail to make at home would be [the] Bee’s Knees. It requires very little to make at home: gin, honey, lime juice, sugar and water. I make a simple syrup and mix it with honey from whichever local purveyor we have in Savannah. The recipe is very simple: 2 ounces of gin (I prefer Bulrush), 1 ounce of simple syrup honey mixture, and 1 ounce of fresh-squeezed lime juice. Shake it and pour over fresh ice. Very easy and delicious.” — Bill Myers, Bartender, Kimpton Brice Hotel, Savannah, Ga.
“The best summer cocktail you can make at home is a Pimm’s Cup. It is refreshing and flexible depending on the ingredients you happen to have on hand. Plus, you can get some fruit into your daily diet if you go big with the garnishes. Strawberries, cucumber, mint, and oranges are the classic choices, but I find pretty much any fruit works. You can add gin or vodka if you want more of a punch, or go heavy on the ginger beer or lemon-lime soda for a lighter version.” — Kerry Lacy, Partner, Magazine Bar, Brooklyn
“The best summer cocktail to make from home is something light and refreshing – something like the ‘It’s the Basil Place to Be.’ With ingredients like fresh blackberries, lime juice, and gin, it makes any day feel like a beach day.” — Mikee Wilson, Bartender, The Don CeSar, St. Pete Beach, Fla.
“Peach Bellinis — light, crisp, and refreshing! The bubbles always give the day a bit of whimsy. The Aperol Spritz has also taken the world by storm over the past few years, and for good reason. It’s easy to make and easy to enjoy! We like to try substituting Aperol for other bitters like Luxardo Bitter Bianco or even Suze Saveur d’Autrefois for a more adventurous spin on a classic.” — Alex Pendergrass, Assistant Director of Food and Beverage, Hotel Viking, Newport, R.I.
“The Sicilian Soda is an easy and fast at-home summer cocktail. All you need is club soda, a bottle of Amaro Averna, and some citrus. Combine club soda with 2 ounces of Averna and top with ice. Garnish with lemon and orange twists with a touch of mint. If bitters are on hand, add some to adjust flavor. This cocktail is lightly sweet with a nice orange cola note. Surprise anyone who stops by your home with this elevated beverage.” — Kaitlyn Gibbs, Beverage Director, Louie, St. Louis
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“[The] Daiquiri. Its beauty is in its simplicity — it only needs three ingredients. It’s also extremely refreshing, light, and just tastes better on a hot day.” — Pete Stanton, Head Bartender, Ai Fiori at The Langham, NYC
“My go-to summer cocktail at home is a Strawberry Smash. I can use whatever base spirit I’m in the mood for, and strawberries are always delicious in the summer. Use this recipe: 2 ounces spirit, 3/4 ounce fresh juice (lemon or lime), 3/4 ounce simple syrup, muddled strawberries, and mint. Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a glass.” — Jessica Gonzalez, Beverage Director, Wonderbar, Beacon, N.Y.
“Spending my summers making drinks for others can make it difficult to get home and have the drive to whip one up for myself. That being said, there is one cocktail that I have no problem mixing for myself after a summer day behind the pine: The Painkiller. The Painkiller is a cousin of the Piña Colada, consisting mainly of rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, and orange juice. My favorite way to make one is with 1 ounce Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaican Rum, 0.75 ounce Clément Coconut Rum, 3 ounces pineapple juice, 1 ounce orange juice, and a heavy ounce of cream of coconut. Add all these ingredients into a shaker tin, fill the tin with ice, and really shake the hell out of it. There are some heavy ingredients in here (rum with bold flavors and the cream of coconut), so shaking it a little more than other shaken cocktails will result in a well-mixed and consistent drink. A little nutmeg grated over the top and an orange wedge really completes this drink and makes it a real crowd pleaser.” — Calder Wright, Bar Manager, Colter Bay, Buffalo, N.Y.
“My favorite summer cocktail is the Sherry Cobbler. It’s a drink that originated in the U.S. about 200 years ago. It’s [a] low-ABV [drink], so you can drink several of them in the hot summer sun, and it’s a great cocktail for parties. In the summer, we muddle some fresh raspberries and basil in with the simple syrup and citrus, top with amontillado or oloroso and fill with crushed ice. — Rob Wecker, Owner, Bushel and a Peck Kitchen & Bar, Clarksville, Md.
“Taking into consideration [that] most home drinkers don’t have the tools or the time to shake a cocktail, I gotta go with a good Spanish style Gin & Tonic with some good botanicals, lemon, and the addition of manzanilla sherry. Very few drinks have the same crushability, you can have 10 of them before you know it, and because you’re splitting the base gin with low-ABV sherry, you’re not gonna wake up feeling like Nic Cage in ‘Leaving Las Vegas.'” — Chad Dutkowski, Beverage Director, Bad Trip, Brooklyn