Depending on whom you ask, you’re going to hear a wide variety of advice on what makes the perfect summer cocktail. Maybe it’s a cold, citrusy margarita or daiquiri, or a smash overflowing with crushed ice. It could be it’s a tall, fruity glass of sangria.
That’s the thing, there are only a couple of requirements for a summer cocktail: 1) It has to be warm outside, and 2) You have to enjoy it. Pretty simple formula, right? That said, there comes a time when even our more reliable go-to cocktailing habits need a little inspiration.
We asked 11 top bartenders what cocktail they recommend for this summer.
Scott Shoer, Sycamore
1½ ounces blanco tequila
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
½ ounce fresh lime juice
1 dash Grapefruit Bitters
Combine all ingredients except Fresca in a highball filled with ice. Top off with Fresca. Roll. Garnish with a lime wedge.
This is “essentially a fizzy tall margarita topped with grapefruit soda,” Shoer says. “This seems like the ideal vessel for my favorite soda from childhood [summers].”
John Drew, Blue Dragon
2 ounces Whistle Pig rye
¾ ounce dry sherry
¾ ounce pineapple shrub
1 dash Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters
Combine all ingredients in glass with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled lowball, rub inside and out with a lemon twist. To make pineapple shrub: Take 1 pineapple skinned and cubed, about 1½ quarts, and combine with the rind of 1 lime, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 1 quart of red wine vinegar. Let it macerate for 3 days then blend after removing cinnamon sticks. Take the resulting purée and cook with sugar at ¾ sugar to purée ratio. Let steep overnight and strain through fine strainer. Refrigerate.
This cocktail is a good way to enjoy rye in the heat, Drew says. “The pineapple adds sweetness while the vinegar in the shrub gives it a great refreshing acidity without the need for citrus, all brought together by the subtlety of the dry sherry and the spice and nose of the bitters.”
Dave Werthman, The Sinclair
1½ ounces Rhum J.M Agricole Blanc
½ ounce Rhubarb puree
½ ounce lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup
Combine all ingredients over ice and shake well. Strain into a daiquiri glass. To make rhubarb puree: Clean and chop one bunch of rhubarb. Boil in equal parts sugar and water. Strain, saving the water. In a blender, blend cooked rhubarb with 3 cups of the rhubarb water. Strain through a sieve or chinois.
“Rhubarb is available through most of summer, and contributes to the tartness of a traditional daiquiri,” Werthman explains.
Evan Kenney, West Side Lounge
2 ounces Nantucket Vodka
2 cucumber slices
4 lime wedges
3 basil leaves
2 teaspoons of pure sugar
Muddle the sugar, lime, cucumber, mint, and basil in a pint glass before adding vodka. Pack with ice and shake well. Leave all ingredients in pint glass and top with soda water.
“It basically tastes like you should be riding on a boat in every Huey
Lewis and the News video,” Kenney says.
Fanny Katz, Belly Wine Bar
1¾ ounces Plantation Three Stars white rum
¾ ounce lime juice
½ ounce cane syrup (such as Steen’s)
Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously. Double strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Daiquiris are basically “lemonade for adults,” Katz says, but with “rum instead of water, and lime instead of lemon.” That was part of the inspiration for Belly’s summer patio daiquiri stand. Unlike lemonade though, she jokes, they won’t cost 25 cents.
Dimitra Tsourianis, Daddy Jones
2 ounces Aviation gin
½ ounce Ouzo
2 ounces watermelon lemonade
Shake all ingredients thoroughly over ice. For the lemonade: Combine puréed watermelon, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and simple syrup or brown sugar.
“Grandpa drinking ouzo and cutting a watermelon is my memory of the summer as a little kid in Greece,” Tsourianis says.
Cali Gold, Spoke Wine Bar
1 ounce Dolin Blanc
1 ounce Aveze
Combine over ice in glass, and top with soda water. Garnish with a pinch of salt, lemon, and grapefruit peel.
Gold recommends this variation on an Americano because “it is herbal and bitter but not boozy. Overstimulation can lead to overheating. It’s also important in warm weather to stay hydrated and a little salt helps retain water, as well as plays nicely with bitter flavors.”
Joy Richard, Citizen Public House
1½ ounces Brugal Extra Dry Rum
½ ounce Fernet Branca
2 ounces pineapple juice
½ ounce lime juice
1 ounce cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
Combine ingredients and shake over ice, then strain into a highball glass. Garnish with an orange peel and brandied cherry.
Richard likes playing with less traditional ingredients in common recipes, she says. “The bitter notes work surprisingly well with the combination of coconut and pineapple, adding some interest to an otherwise fairly simple drink.”
Mount Fuji Cocktail
Joe O’Connor, Empire
1 ounce Bacardi
1 ounce Bacardi Dragon Berry
½ ounce Grand Marnier
Hollow out cantaloupe. Place flesh and juice inside blender on high until smooth. Combine all ingredients in cantaloupe over ice, top with champagne.
“It’s a a smart way to utilize a part of the fruit that usually gets tossed,” O’Connor says. “And who doesn’t like to drink summer cocktails out of a cantaloupe?”
Todd Lipman, Bistro du Midi
1½ ounces Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce simple syrup
½ ounce lemon juice
Combine the gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a shaker over ice and shake. Strain over three cherries into a champagne flute and top with sparkling rosé.
“This drink is easy to make and fun and easy to sip,” Lipman says of the French 75 style cocktail. “It’s light, bright, refreshing, and clean with a prominent but balanced citrus edge.”
Josh Taylor, West Bridge
1½ ounces Nolet’s Silver Dry Gin
¾ ounce grapefruit syrup
½ ounce grapefruit juice
¼ ounce lime juice
5-6 Fresh Basil leaves
Lightly muddle the basil leaves in syrup, add all juices and the gin and shake with ice. Fine strain into a highball glass over ice and top with soda. To make grapefruit syrup: Combine the zest of one grapefruit with one cup sugar and one cup of hot water. Stir to dissolve sugar, let stand 10 minutes, and strain to remove zest.
Highballs are perfect for the summer, Taylor says. The rose and peach flavors of the gin work with the floral aspects of the grapefruit, “and the basil accentuates the botanicals in the gin.”
Luke O’Neil can be reached at email@example.com.