Summer is here, and just like with food…it’s the best season for cocktails (in my humble opinion, that is)! Summer drinks are endlessly more fun themed around ripe berries, stone fruit, or fresh herbs. The weather is ripe for a stream of refreshing bubbles or thick, icy frozen purees. You don’t even need alcohol: mocktails are king in summer, too.
You’ll see the base recipe, and then a few creative variations to get your wheels turning.
The mojito is a traditional Cuban cocktail that works in any season, but it’s best in summer when fresh mint abounds. You’ll need a huge handful, plus white rum and sparkling water. Mix it up by muddling in berries or peaches.
Recipe: Classic Mojito
Variations: Try a Strawberry Mojito, Raspberry Mojito, Peach Mojito, or Virgin Mojito
The spritz is another ideal bubbly cocktail to beat the heat. The most popular is the Aperol spritz, but you can make it with loads of other liqueurs! The basic idea? A 3-2-1 ratio of sparkling wine (aka Prosecco), liqueur, and sparkling water.
Recipe: Aperol Spritz
Variations: St Germain Spritz, Lillet Spritz, Amaro Spritz, or Limoncello Spritz
The spritzer sounds like a spritz, but it’s a totally different concept! Mix wine and sparkling water, and you’ve got a spritzer! This concept has been around since the 1800s, and for good reason: it’s easy and ultra refreshing. Use any wine you like.
Recipe: White Wine Spritzer
Variations: Red Wine Spritzer, Rosé Spritzer
A highball is the definition of refreshing: alcohol plus loads of bubbles! There are all sorts of variations on the concept of mixing alcohol with sparkling water. The Whiskey Highball goes back to around the early 1900s. A trendy new variation you’ve probably heard of? Ranch water!
Recipe: Vodka Soda
Variations: Whiskey Highball, Tequila Soda, Ranch Water
The Rickey is similar to a highball, but with gin and lime juice! The classic Gin Rickey was invented around the 1880s. Since that time it’s evolved a popular variation as a mocktail, and it’s an endlessly customizable concept.
Recipe: Gin Rickey
Variations: Cherry Lime Rickey, Raspberry Lime Rickey, or Lime Rickey
The shandy is to beer what the wine spritzer is to wine! Ever made a homemade shandy? It’s a British drink that dates back to the mid-1800s. Originally beer was mixed with ginger beer or ginger ale, but today’s shandy mixes with lemon-lime soda or sparkling lemonade.
Recipe: Classic Shandy
Variations: Summer Shandy, Grapefruit Shandy
The classic whiskey smash dates back to the 1880s as a cooling summer drink in the Victorian age! Since then, lots of variations have evolved. Try it with any liquor, and muddle in fresh berries for a twist.
Recipe: Whiskey Smash
Variations: Gin Basil Smash, Berry Vodka Smash, Blackberry Bourbon Smash
The Moscow Mule is one of the most popular cocktails in the country, featuring the classic combination of lime and ginger beer. This one has spawned a myriad of variations using different liqueurs. The watermelon version is perfect for summer!
Recipe: Classic Moscow Mule
Variations: Mexican Mule, Kentucky Mule, Gin Gin Mule, Watermelon Mule
The frozen daiquiri is a little 1990s, but we’re here for it! The classic daiquiri is made with lime, rum, and simple syrup, but freeze that and you’ve got the resort and restaurant classic. It’s incredibly refreshing and easy to make as a mocktail, too.
Recipe: Strawberry Daiquiri
Variations: Lime Frozen Daiquiri, Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri
Last up in this summer cocktail roundup…one you can make in a big pitcher. Sangria! This Spanish wine punch has been cooling people off for centuries. There are lots of fruit-forward variations that are perfect for the season.
Recipe: Red Sangria
Variations: White Sangria, Rose Sangria, Watermelon Sangria, Strawberry Sangria
Try more top summer cocktails, or browse by liquor with vodka, rum, or gin.
Sonja is author of award winning food blog A Couple Cooks and the cookbook Pretty Simple Cooking. Together with her husband, Alex, the two are leading voices on plant-based eating, and authors of a recipe series with Washington Post Food called Voraciously: Plant Powered. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
BY Sonja Overhiser - July 7, 2021
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Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
For 20 years now, my girlfriends and I have called the Spritzer (wine and sparkling water) a “Vice Von Sherla” – we swear we didn’t make it up, but we also for the life of us can’t source the name (and I’m pretty sure my spelling is off)! This one’s crucial for day drinking in your 40s (re: less alcohol so you can keep going) 🙂
How fun! I did a little research and couldn’t find anything on that name either. Let me know if you ever uncover the backstory! The spritzer is a standby around here 🙂