In the States, Memorial Day is considered to be the unofficial start of summer, even if the actual solstice doesn’t arrive until a few weeks later. The holiday also marks a shift in drinking habits for many people, as the weather really starts to warm up and we turn to lighter, more citrus-forward cocktails, often made with clear spirits. Of course, rules are meant to be broken, and there are plenty of whiskey-driven cocktails that are appropriate for the sunshine as well. As Memorial Day weekend approaches and plans for outdoor barbecues and gatherings with family and friends start to take shape, it’s worth thinking about some cocktail options for your guests. Sure, this is a fine time to crack open a cold beer or hard seltzer to enjoy at the park or in your backyard, but there are also plenty of simple and tasty cocktails that you can craft yourself using some tried-and-true classics like Ketel One Vodka, Don Julio Blanco Tequila, Crown Royal Deluxe Canadian Whisky, and Tanqueray Gin.
Ketel One is a vodka with a long tradition dating back to the late 17th century in Holland. It’s made at the Nolet Distillery near Rotterdam using non-GMO European wheat distilled in both column and pot stills. The resulting vodka is crisp and complex, and the perfect ingredient to use in any number of cocktails.
Don Julio is another spirits brand with a long history, and is known for ultra-premium tequila expressions such as 1942. However, the Blanco is also a complex tequila with a delicate balance of earthy agave notes as well as flavors like vanilla and pepper, making it a bar cart staple.
The other side of North America is the home of Crown Royal, one of the most popular Canadian whiskies in the world due to its smooth taste and versatility. Crown Royal Deluxe is distilled at the Gimli distillery in Manitoba, where many other expressions are also made, like Northern Harvest Rye and Crown Royal XO.
Finally, the gin category continues to expand in many countries, but some of the classics remain the best, like Tanqueray London Dry Gin. Whether you’re making a Negroni or a Gin and Tonic, this should be your go-to bottle.
So this Memorial Day weekend, make sure your home bar is stocked with these bottles. After that, all you need are some basic ingredients to whip up a batch of cocktails, whether it’s a bash to celebrate the start of summer or a more intimate gathering. Here are four recipes to try making yourself, each highlighting one of these unique spirits and making a strong case to put away the beer this year in favor of something with a bit more character.
Ketel One Berry Mule
The Moscow Mule is a classic vodka cocktail, combining ginger beer, vodka, and lime into a slightly spicy, slightly citrusy drink that is usually served in a copper mug to keep it ice cold. The twist here is the addition of muddled berries for a bit of splash of sweetness. And if you don’t have fresh berries, frozen will do in a pinch. This is an easy one to mix for a crowd, and a great option to enjoy outside on a hot day.
- 1 ½ ounces Ketel One Vodka
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 2 strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries
- Ginger beer
- Muddle berries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice, vodka, and lime juice, and shake until combined.
- Fill copper mug with crushed ice, strain drink into mug.
- Top with ginger beer.
Don Julio Blanco Mojito
The Margarita is, of course, likely the first drink you think of when considering mixing up some blanco tequila cocktails. While this classic is always a hit, this riff on a rum-based drink is really an excellent alternative. The substitution of Don Julio blanco tequila for rum brings bright agave notes to the combination of citrus and sweet, creating a nice balance of flavors. If you’re making drinks for a group of friends, this is easy to scale up as well and mix in a pitcher.
- 1 ½ ounces Don Julio Blanco Tequila
- ½ ounce fresh lime juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- 6 mint leaves
- 1 ounce club soda or seltzer
- Muddle mint in bottom half of cocktail shaker.
- Add tequila, simple syrup, lime juice, and ice into a shaker and shake until combined.
- Strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice.
- Top with club soda, and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Crown Royal Clementine Whiskey Sour
The Whiskey Sour is another timeless cocktail that is incredibly versatile because you can alter its flavor profile simply by incorporating another type of fruit into the basic recipe. For this version, clementine is the citrus of choice, but if you can’t find that you can use naval, Cara Cara, or even blood orange. This recipe adds a layer of sweet citrus to the sour lemon base that brightens up this drink and, thus, your Memorial Day gathering.
- 1 ½ ounces Crown Royal Deluxe
- 1 ounce clementine juice
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- Clementine slices for garnish
- Combine Crown Royal, lemon juice, clementine juice, and simple syrup in a shaker filled with ice.
- Shake until combined and cold, and strain into a tumbler filled with ice.
- Add two dashes of bitters to the drink, and garnish with a slice of clementine.
Tanqueray Bee’s Knees
The Bee’s Knees cocktail has been around since the Prohibition era, and there’s a reason why it’s still popular today. The combination of London Dry gin, bright citrus, and sweet honey works effortlessly together, making this drink a version of a sour that veers more toward the sweet side. The dry, juniper-forward palate of Tanqueray really ties together this cocktail, ensuring that it doesn’t lose its gin character, even with the addition of these other assertive ingredients.
- 2 ounces Tanqueray London Dry Gin
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce honey syrup
- Lemon twist for garnish
- In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine Tanqueray London Dry Gin, lemon juice, and honey syrup.
- Shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
- Garnish with a lemon twist.
This article is sponsored by Diageo.