Cool Down With These Summer Drink Recipes
The right summer cocktail should be light and refreshing. It can be the perfect complement to outdoor gatherings or lazy afternoons on the porch.
Below, we have put together a list of our favorite summer cocktail recipes that taste great and will help cool you down but will not overpower you with alcohol (if you are looking for a hard-hitting drink, don't worry, we've included a few of those as well––and you can always adjust the strength to any cocktail). We also have categorized them by the main ingredient, so you can be sure there is something for everyone.
We also tried to only include recipes that use ingredients that are not difficult to find (or at least have alternatives for hard-to-find items). No need to search three stores for an obscure bitter or mixer. These summer drink recipes are simple, easy to make, and are certain to please your guests
A Note on Simple Syrup
Anyone wishing to make serious cocktails will have simple syrup on hand. If you are unfamiliar, do not be intimidated. It is easy to make and is a cheaper and better-tasting alternative than store-bought mixers.
Most recipes call for equal parts water and sugar, but we think doubling the sugar makes for a richer syrup.
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup water
Directions: Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the sugar and simmer for several minutes to ensure the sugar is dissolved. You can store the syrup in an air-tight jar for up to six months.
For a “burnt” simple syrup, first melt the sugar in the skillet over medium, stirring it regularly––usually about 5 minutes. It will caramelize and turn a dark brown (and will make your kitchen smell like you are baking a cake!).
Remove from heat and slowly add in the water. Return to heat and keep stirring for a few minutes. If the water cools any of the sugar and causes it to clump up, do not worry. Reheating the contents will cause the sugar to re-dissolve. Infusing it with a cinnamon stick will add another layer of complexity, perfect for summer drink recipes.
Note that you can infuse the syrup with any number of items to give your cocktails a unique flavor. Herbs like rosemary, basil, mint, and vanilla bean are popular options. Fruit, including different berries, offer a distinct flavor.
Gin is a versatile liquor that packs in a lot of flavor. Most gins are distilled with juniper or botanicals, but there are many different variations.
Gin On The Rocks
Gin on the rocks is not just for martini lovers. Note that not all gins are intended to be served alone. Not even all quality gins taste good by themselves.
The right gins can offer flavors that you may not want to interrupt with other ingredients. For gin on the rocks, we recommend Hayman’s or Roku Japanese gin.
Hayman’s makes a London dry gin that is very floral and smooth. “Roku” means “six” in Japanese, referring to the half-dozen botanicals that give this gin notes of cherry blossom, leafy grey tea, and bitter citrus.
- 2 oz gin
- ½ cup of crushed or cubed ice
Directions: You can either pour the gin straight over the ice and let it sit for a few minutes, or use a cocktail shaker to get it cold (and dilute it some), then serve it on the rocks. Your guests will be shocked to learn that there is nothing more in their glass than gin and ice. Plus, you can still use these gins for other cocktails.
Sloe Gin Fizz
Sloes are very small wild berries that grow all over Europe, including England. They are not terribly flavorful on their own, but people use them for baking and making preserves.
Distillers have been incorporating sloes into liquor for hundreds of years. Plymouth makes a very good one, as does Hayman’s.
- 1½ oz sloe gin
- 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ oz of simple syrup
- Splash of club soda
- Garnishes (optional): shaved lemon rind, cherry
Directions: Add gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain the contents into a highball glass with ice. Top with club soda and garnish.
There is a wide range of types when it comes to whiskey cocktails. From sweet to sour to smokey and everything in between, there's one to suit almost any taste. Here are a few of our favorites.
Smokey Old Fashioned
You can use any bourbon you like in this recipe, but since it is the main ingredient, you will want to go with something smooth. We like Buffalo Trace, Bulleit, or Knob Creek (although each has very distinct tastes). For higher-end bourbons, try Papy Van Winkle (the same distillery as Buffalo Trace) or Whistle Pig.
- 2 oz of bourbon
- ¾ oz simple syrup
- A few dashes of Angostura bitters
- Cinnamon stick
- Garnish: orange peel
Directions: Mix the bourbon, syrup, cinnamon stick, and bitters in a tumbler and strain over a large cube or ball of ice. Garnish with orange peel or cinnamon stick.
Easy, sugar-free alternative: If you want to skip the simple syrup, try a smokey bourbon, like Jim Beam’s Double Oak, with a few dashes of orange or tobacco bitters, along with the Angostura bitters. The strong noses of oak, caramel, and toffee, combined with orange flavors from the bitters, will give you a very similar taste to an old fashioned without the extra calories or work.
Mint juleps are a traditional summer drink. But not everyone loves them, as they tend to be quite boozy and overpowering.
Don’t get us wrong: we love a good mint julep. But if you are looking for something that can be widely enjoyed by a crowd with diverse tastes, try this derby punch.
- 1 12-oz can of frozen lemonade concentrate
- 1 12-oz can of frozen limeade concentrate
- 1 cup pineapple juice
- ¾ cup of simply syrup
- 2 cup bourbon
- 15 or 20 mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- Garnish alternatives: oranges, limes, or lemons
Directions: Thaw the lemonade and limeade concentrates. Combine all of the ingredients into a large pitcher or bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Pour over ice and garnish with mint leaves or orange, lemon, and lime wedges.
Rum is distilled from sugarcane, either the plant itself or a derivative (namely, syrup or molasses). It is then aged to produce a sweet and smooth liquor. There are many different types, including white, gold, dark, and spiced rum, which makes it fun for experimenting with cocktails.
Daiquiris are wildly misunderstood cocktails. The reason people reach for premade mixers on this one is for convenience or because they have tried and failed to find the right balance of ingredients––which is the key.
- 1 ½ oz of white rum
- ¾ oz of freshly squeezed lime juice
- ¾ oz of simple syrup
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and mix. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Traditionally, daiquiris are served this way, without ice or garnish. For large gatherings, chilling glasses may be too much of a hassle. Serve over ice and with a lemon wedge for easier assembly.
This cocktail is super simple to make and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
- 2 cups pineapple juice
- 2 cups orange juice
- 2 cups dark rum
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 oz of grenadine or simply syrup
- Garnish: orange slices and maraschino cherries
Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher or bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Pour over ice and garnish with skewered citrus slices and cherries.
Tequila is stilled from the agave plan which is made in only five regions of Mexico. There are more than 166 different species of agave, which makes for a wide range of spirits.
For a lot of people, the only time they break out tequila is for margaritas. But it is a versatile liquor, especially in refreshing drinks for summer.
This drink has the traditional taste of lemonade, which is perfect for summer, but the tequila and mint give it a unique taste that your guests will love.
Be sure to use a quality tequila. There also are some very affordable ones, like Olmeca Altos Plata or Espolon Blanco that are great for mixing.
- 2 oz tequila blanco
- 2 oz of simple syrup
- 2 oz of fresh lemon juice
- 2-3 mint leaves
- Garnish: mint leaves or lemon slice
Directions: Fill a glass with ice and add tequila. Dump into a cocktail mixer and shake vigorously to get the tequila very cold. Add other ingredients, mix, pour back into a glass, and serve.
A good traditional margarita is hard to beat, but you can get them anywhere. Supplementing lime with grapefruit juice is a great way to mix things up but still evoke the taste of a margarita.
The difference between a mediocre margarita and a great one is freshly squeezed lime juice. You can go with pre-bottled juice in a pinch, but this recipe requires very little––fresh lime juice will make all the difference in the world.
Also, some people use orange liqueur like Triple Sec in their margaritas, but we prefer Grand Marnier. It complements the tequila well and adds a more complex flavor to a drink that already has a lot of citrus in it.
- 4 oz of red or white grapefruit juice
- 1.5 oz of tequila blanco
- 1 oz of Grand Marnier
- 1 oz of lime juice
- ¾ oz of simple sugar
Directions: Add all ingredients to a cocktail mixer and stir. Pour into a salt-rimmed cocktail glass (salt goes great with grapefruit) and serve.
Vodka comes from the Russian word for "water": "voda." It is distilled from grains like rye, wheat, or rice, as well as vegetables like corn or potatoes. Vodka is by far the most used liquor in cocktails around the world, due in part to its somewhat neutral flavor.
Watermelon Vodka Fizz
Watermelon is one of the most hydrating foods you can eat. This vodka fizz recipe not only tastes great, but it will also keep you hydrated on a hot summer day.
- 2 oz of vodka
- 2 oz of watermelon puree
- 2 oz of club soda
- 1 egg white
- 1 oz of simple syrup
- 3 sprigs of mint, more for garnish
Directions: Muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the vodka, watermelon, egg white, and simple syrup, and shake vigorously. Mix in (do not shake) the club soda and garnish with a mint leaf.
Note that, if the egg white intimidates you, leave it out. It will add a frothiness to the beverage, but it otherwise does not change the flavor of the drink. The club soda will give it enough texture to make it enjoyable.
It does not get any simpler than a vodka tonic. However, even though this cocktail has only three ingredients, people manage to mess them up. The key is process and ratios.
- 2 oz vodka
- 4 oz of tonic water
- ¼ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
Directions: Fill a cocktail glass with ice then dump it into a cocktail mixer. This next step is very important. Add the vodka to the mixer and shake vigorously for a minute or two. This will create a very cold, almost slushy vodka mixture.
Add the lime juice and tonic water, then stir. Pour into a glass and garnish with a lime wedge.
As it is the main ingredient in your cocktail, be sure to use quality tonic water. Q Tonic and Fever-Tree are both good ones.
Most people drink wine by itself. If you have never experimented with it in cocktails, it's a great base, since it is already crisp and refreshing on its own. Here are a few summer recipes to try.
White wine is great for summer dinners or other social engagements. But sometimes it may not feel quite right out by the pool or for outdoor entertaining. This summertime drink recipe is a great alternative.
- 4 oz white wine (pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc work best)
- 1 oz of club soda or sparkling water
- 1 lime wedge
- 1 orange slice
- Garnishes: basil leaves or thyme sprig
Directions: Put all ingredients into a glass with ice and stir gently. Garnish and serve.
Another variation for chilled summer wine is this Moscato lemonade. It is light and refreshing but also has a classy, refined taste as well.
- 4 oz of Moscato
- 1 oz of simple sugar
- ¾ oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 sliced strawberries
- 2 basil sprigs, plus more for garnish
Directions: Muddle the basil sprigs in the bottom of the cocktail shaker. Add ice, all other ingredients, and stir gently. Pour directly into a cocktail glass and garnish with a basil leaf.
Alternatively, strain into a champagne flute. (If you go with this method, allow the beverage to sit in the cocktail shaker a little longer, so that all of the flavors can be incorporated.)
Find Quality Liquor and Liqueurs for Your Summer Drink Recipes
Now that you have a variety of summer drink recipes in your cocktail repertoire, you are ready to entertain or kick back with a refreshing beverage. Also, feel free to experiment with variations. Subtle alterations can completely change the taste of a cocktail, and it’s fun to experiment to find new ways to make delicious drinks.
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