As the days stretch longer, the sun shines brighter and hotter. And with this season comes delicious, light, and fresh cocktails. Whether you prefer to celebrate the warmth with frozen concoctions or bask in the fun with fruity tiki drinks, there are plenty of libations that are sure to satisfy your summeriest of cravings.
A good summer cocktail should be thirst quenching, easy-drinking, and ideally low-ABV for those long afternoons at the park or beach. While some are bright and bubbly, others are rich and frozen — perfect for cooling off. Whether you prefer sweet, savory, or simple, there’s a cocktail to fit your summer drinking needs.
Need a sip to beat the heat? Read on for 30 of the best summer cocktails to drink while soaking up the sun.
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Table of Contents
The Best Fruity Summer Cocktails
The Mai Tai
This classic Caribbean tiki drink originally used a 17-year-aged Jamaican rum as its base. Today, many bartenders veer from tradition by using other rum blends to create this fan favorite. To make one, add rum, lime juice, orgeat syrup, an orange liqueur, and a mint sprig. Shake the ingredients with crushed ice, and pour into a double rocks glass for a smooth finish.
The Rum Runner
This Prohibition-era cocktail is an ode to “rum-running” captains who illegally transported bottles of liquor from the islands of Bimini to Florida. To make one, combine light and dark rum, banana and blackberry liqueurs, orange juice, pineapple juice, and a splash of grenadine. Shake until cold, and serve into a hurricane glass. Top it off with an orange and cherry garnish, and let this cocktail transport you to an island.
The Salty Dog
This cocktail is here to help you simmer down on the dog days of summer. The Salty Dog is a riff on the vodka-based Greyhound cocktail famously served at Greyhound bus stations in the 1940s — the only difference is a salted rim. To make one, add vodka or gin and grapefruit juice to a highball glass and garnish with a grapefruit slice. Oh, don’t forget to salt the rim in a highball glass. When it comes time for cooling off, the Salty Dog is man’s best friend.
The Strawberry Daiquiri
Jennifer Cox, an American engineer working in Cuba, must have seen the appeal of strawberry-flavored drinks when she created this classic cocktail. However, we credit Lucius Johnson for bringing the recipe stateside — especially to the Astor Hotel, a prestigious New York bar, in the 1910s. To make one, blend rum, simple syrup, lime juice, and chopped strawberries with a handful of ice cubes. Serve the mixture in a coupe glass with a strawberry or lime wheel garnish.
The Bubby’s Watermelon Margarita
The pairing of watermelon and ginger is pure bliss in a Margarita. To make one, add tequila, watermelon juice, lime juice, Cointreau liqueur, and agave syrup to a shaker. Shake until cold, serve in a Margarita glass with a half-salted rim, and garnish with a watermelon slice.
The Skinny Margarita
Wondering what makes a Skinny Margarita different from a traditional one? Instead of using a triple sec, this low-calorie option opts for fresh juice and agave nectar. Simply shake together blanco tequila, lime juice, orange juice, and agave nectar until cold, strain into a salt-rimmed glass, and garnish with a lime wheel.
The Sex on the Beach
A summer classic that never goes out of style, the Sex on the Beach is quite simple to concoct — all you need is vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, and cranberry juice. Garnish with some orange wedges and cocktail cherries, then pour into a Collins or highball glass with some fresh ice.
The Simplified Pornstar Martini
Despite its peculiar name and odd flavor combination, this cocktail has recently soared in popularity. With a combination of passion fruit liqueur, vanilla-flavored vodka, lime juice, and sparkling wine — plus a lime wheel or passion fruit garnish — this cocktail is sure to send shockwaves in the heat.
The Spicy Margarita
Sometimes, we all need to add a little spice to our lives (and drinks). With the Spicy Margarita, expect a stark contrast of the spiciness of homemade bird’s eye chili syrup with the sweetness of an orange liqueur. To make one, add tequila blanco, orange liqueur, lime juice, bird’s eye chili syrup, and salt the rim. This spicy cocktail will certainly add a kick to your summer festivities.
The Fuzzy Navel
This cocktail embodies what a summer cocktail should look, feel, and taste like. In the 1980s, when super-sweet and fruity drinks went into a frenzy, the Fuzzy Navel was born. And, as it only requires two ingredients — peach schnapps and orange juice — it remains a fan favorite to this day.
The FONDA Rosalita Margarita
It’s no secret that hibiscus is taking the drinks world by storm. This Margarita embraces the floral, tropical flavor by adding hibiscus syrup and dried hibiscus flowers to the recipe’s classic specs.
The Southside Recipe
If a Gimlet and Mojito had a baby, it would look something like a Southside. The drink’s combination of gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and fresh mint make it endlessly quaffable. If you’re looking for a lower-ABV option, serve it in a highball glass instead of a coupe, and top it off with soda water for a Southside Fizz.
The Sea Breeze Recipe
As restoring as an ocean breeze, this 1980s classic combines vodka, grapefruit juice, and cranberry juice for a balanced hot pink highball that’s both sweet and tart. Serve it with a lime wheel and mini umbrella for an extra summery presentation.
The Gold Rush Recipe
This modern classic cocktail, developed at NYC’s famed Milk & Honey, combines bourbon, honey syrup, and lemon juice for a bright, refreshing riff on the Whiskey Sour.
The Cosmojito Recipe
Two summer staples — the Cosmo and the Mojito — enter a beautiful marriage in this cocktail, developed at Dante’s West Village location. Calling for vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and syrup, lime juice, and plenty of mint leaves, the pink drink is served over crushed ice and topped with sparkling water.
The Bramble Recipe
Reminiscent of summertime in the English countryside, the Bramble’s simple yet delicious specs make it a pleasure to sip on sizzling afternoons. Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker, pour over crushed ice, and top it off with crème de mûre (blackberry liqueur). The result is eye-catching and endlessly riffable.
The Best Bubbly Summer Cocktails
The Lynchburg Lemonade
In the summer, cooling off with a cold glass of lemonade is second nature. And boozy versions are no exception. This Southern classic is made with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, orange liqueur, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and your choice of lemon-lime soda. Top it off with some ice, and garnish with a lemon wedge for a sweet touch.
The Watermelon Spritz
For spritz fans looking to shake things up, this cocktail is a summer must-have. Steve Gleich, restaurant bar manager at Gibsons Italia, had a unique source of inspiration for this cocktail: a day at the spa. Watermelon juice, blanco tequila, aloe liqueur, grenadine, dry sparkling rosé, lemon juice, and a mint garnish make up this sessionable sip. Serve in a red wine glass over ice, and relax.
The Gin Gin Mule
This cocktail, famously created by legendary mixologist Audrey Saunders, is a cousin of the Moscow Mule. Yet, unlike the vodka-based version, this cocktail employs gin as its base. To make one, shake and muddle together fine gin, ginger beer, lime juice, simple syrup, and six sprigs of mint. Serve it up in a highball glass, and garnish with mint leaves.
The Negroni Sbagliato
Sbagliato is an Italian word meaning “wrong or mistaken,” but don’t let that turn you off from this elegant riff on the Negroni. Instead of using the standard gin, this cocktail subs in bubbly Prosecco. To make one, add Campari, sweet vermouth, and sparkling wine to a Collins glass, and garnish with an orange zest. This sweet and fizzy twist on the bitter, herbal classic is sure to brighten your day.
The Transfusion Drink
Made from a mix of vodka, grape juice, ginger ale, and lime, it’s no wonder this bubbly concoction is popular on the golf course (some even call it “Golf’s Greatest Drink”). Widely believed to get its name from its origin as a hangover remedy, the Transfusion’s combination of flavors is as refreshing and thirst-quenching on and off the course.
The Suffering Bastard Riff
Despite its name, this cocktail is sure to end any heat wave-induced suffering. In 1942, Joe Scialom invented this classic at the Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. Today, bartenders and consumers alike continue to enjoy this tiki-influenced highball. The secret to this riff is adding dashes of cardamom-vanilla Angostura bitters. To make one, add bourbon, gin, ginger ale, and three to four dashes of bitters to a highball glass.
The Elderflower Spritz
Another modern twist on the beloved Aperol Spritz, this delicate, herbal concoction is perfect for any hot, summer day. All you need to make one is some vodka, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, seltzer, and lime wheels for a garnish. Simply pour your ingredients into a wine glass, stir, and watch the magic happen.
The Ray of Sunshine
This glass of sunshine is a riff on the modern classic Penicillin cocktail. While the Penicillin is an entirely Scotch-based cocktail, the Ray of Sunshine employs a split base of aged rum and whiskey. To make one, combine those spirits with lemon juice and ginger syrup. Topped off with soda water and garnished with a lemon peel, this complex yet refreshing drink will brighten anyone’s day.
The Ultimate Aperol Spritz
The Aperol Spritz is an ode to summer. To make one, you just need Aperol, Prosecco, and some club soda to top it off. Then, add an optional orange wedge or green olive as a garnish. Spend some time outside with this ultimate warm-weather cocktail.
The Cantarito Recipe
Somewhere between the Paloma and Hurricane falls this Mexican cocktail — typically served in a small clay pot called a jarrito. Its ingredient list features tequila, orange juice, grapefruit juice, lime, and salt, topped with grapefruit soda for a bubbly kick. If you don’t have jarritos on hand, serve them in ice-filled highball glasses.
The Gin Rickey Recipe
Highly refreshing and simple to make, the Gin Rickey has been a favorite among American politicians on hot Washington, D.C. days. Great for batching, all you’ll need is a gin, lime juice, club soda, and highball glasses to whip these up for a crowd.
The John Collins Recipe
You may have had a Tom Collins, but have you ever tried its tasty cousin? This cocktail features the same ingredient list as the famous gin drink — lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water — but requires whiskey instead of gin.
The Best Frozen Summer Cocktails
The Frozen Daiquiri
The simple-yet-refreshing Daiquiri is a summer staple. Add a frozen element to the mix, and you have something even more satisfying. To make one, add rum, simple syrup, and lime juice to a blender. Combine these ingredients with 3 to 4 ice cubes, and garnish with a lime wheel to enjoy a drink that was often served to the famed novelist Ernest Hemingway.
The Dirty Banana Recipe
Sick of Piña Coladas? Like a banana milkshake designed for adults, the Dirty Banana combines gold rum, banana liqueur, coffee liqueur, half-and-half, ice, and ripe bananas in a blender for a creamy, tropical frozen cocktail that’s sure to delight.