Whipping out a liquor bottle in the midst of a picnic might interrupt whatever poetry reading or cloud shape guessing contest is going on at that moment. But it also might be the most genius move of the day.
Yes, we all know (and love) the requisite “bottle of wine with the picnic” concept. Get some deli meats, or tofurkey, or gluten-free fried chicken, park yourself somewhere idyllic, and proceed to drink red wine out of actual glasses in golden, sunshiny sunlight. Except life, even picnic life, doesn’t always work that way. Not that popping a bottle of wine in some late afternoon sunshine isn’t ridiculously sublime and magical, like kissing a Channing Tatum centaur. But there are also no hard and fast rules dictating that consumption of wine, baguette, and cheese near some dirt and bugs is the only thing that constitutes a picnic.
What if we want booze? What if we want an honest-to-goodness cocktail? It’s time Big Picnic Corp was taken down a peg, by which we mean, we rounded up a few easy but classic (and food friendly) cocktails and the affordable bottles of booze that go with them.
Bear in mind, we’re not asking you to bring a full mixology kit alongside your ham sandwiches, or fried chicken, or whatever food the ants will feast upon later that day. These are intentionally simple drinks, and affordable bottles, things you can (discreetly) prepare in the light of day, wondering why you ever drank a cocktail indoors.
*Before you break out the outdoor hooch, maybe Google local public drinking laws. Alternately, since we can’t encourage drinking secretly (and wouldn’t even know where to start, like say, with opaque plastic cups??), picnic on your home turf. Nothing more pleasant than heaving your tipsy, post-picnic self to a couch that’s less than fifty feet away.
The beauty of the Paloma is you only need a few ingredients (tequila, grapefruit soda, lime) for refreshment. We’re all for sipping tequilas, but if your mixing it with Jarritos, a nice grassy, spicy, slightly fruit blanco like this is the way to go. And anyone who doesn’t want the Paloma treatment can easily get away with a spritz of lime and some ice. Picnic victory.
Despite whatever booze critics say, we’re absolutely going to admit we have a place in our hearts, and boozy Sundays, for the slushy sweet, much maligned Frozen Daiquiri. That said, there might be nothing as refreshing, bright, and surprisingly picnic-ready as the classic rum-lime-sugar Daiquiri. This is a richer white rum (thanks to three years in oak casks and double filtration), with citrus and tropical fruit as well as molasses/vanilla notes. Meaning if you run out of lime juice, you can probably still sip this and keep that picnic going.
How can you be outside, basking in the dappled sunlight, and not crave just a bit of real American bourbon, and possibly sing “America the Beautiful”? Apologies, but we kind of can’t stop recommending Four Roses Yellow Label—ridiculously affordable but richly charactered, a light caramel undertone lifted with apple and floral pear skin flavors, rich but perky and spicy. Turn it into an Old Fashioned with some sugar and bitters, and bask in the outdoorsy sophistication of the now.
Old Fitzgerald Prime Bourbon Whiskey – GOLD RUSH
A lesser-known bourbon cocktail, but incredibly portable (so long as you whip up some honey syrup, basically watered-down honey, first). Make it with affordable Old Fitz, not something you’d sip thoughtfully by a fireplace but easily mixable, with almond/apple seed notes, citrus and some more honey flavor. Fair warning: you’re picnicking, there are bees, and bees love honey. Or else they hate it. They keep throwing it up. Either way, guard your bourbon.
The Botanist Islay Dry Gin – GIN RICKEY
Ah, the pleasures of Scottish gin. Wait…what? Bruichladdich (wanna know how to pronounce that?) makes a gin in the Islay region of Scotland, which is most famous for their smokier, peated,fantastic salt-spray Scotches. The Gin Ricky is a beautifully simple (and dry) cocktail—lime juice, gin, soda water. Using a gin like this yields a bit more complexity, with some classic gin notes plus a small garden of aromatics (mint, chamomile, citrus).
OK, so White Russians are not traditional picnic items. Then again, neither are cocktails. (And aren’t picnic traditions evolving? With six pack abs?). We like to think of this as the “end of the meal” drink OR a brunch picnic item, subbing in for iced coffee. And the Polish Chopin vodka has just enough textural creaminess—and some sweetness?—to blend beautifully into your responsibly pre-mixed cream and Kahlua.