Like the sound of summer day drinking? Yeah, so do we. Keep your day job though, and on the weekend, make one of these mad-cool mixed drinks with ice cube percussion. Vacation can start after 5 o’ clock any day if you infuse your happy hour with chill vibes. It’s summer. And that’s pretty sweet.
So you’re tossing around ideas for your cocktail playlist to set the mood when your friends come over to hang at the pool, porch, yard, balcony, roof, (or OK, living room). Maybe you’re packing a picnic for the park or beach. We’ve got some drink recipes with just the right notes of citrus, rum, tequila—tropical-type ingredients—plus a couple surprises to keep things even more interesting.
Create cocktails that sing of summer.
Our No. 1 cocktail for summer (based on the number of Chowhounds who read the recipe, saved it, loved it, used it, and rated it 4 stars) is this unblemished margarita, this epitome of summer-sipping excellence. Not to be relegated to Mexican or Tex-Mex meals only, the margarita is a go-to cocktail for anyone wanting to get into the summertime mood. But so many people and bartenders do it wrong. Don’t use sour mix. Please. Do it right. And that goes for generic triple sec. No. Use the good stuff: Cointreau. No packaged lime juice. Squeeze your own. It’s really not that hard. Those are a few tips toward perfection. The rest of our rules? Get our Perfect Margarita recipe.
It’s not often you see ouzo in cocktails, but the powerful anise-flavored Greek liqueur marries well with massive amounts of fresh cantaloupe, plus lemon juice, simple syrup, and mint. Still, make sure to get a good-quality ouzo, because subpar stuff will definitely mar this melon marvel. If you really don’t like ouzo even when it’s top-shelf, then make this with your clear spirit of choice instead, whether white rum, vodka, or gin; the sweet, summery melon flavor will still shine, and you’ll still get a nice warm glow inside, even if the sun’s already gone down. Get our Melon Dip recipe.
With a blender and some ice, you can make all kinds of heat-beating slushy cocktails at home, from Frozen Pineapple Daiquiris to Slushy Strawberry Margaritas—but you don’t often think of the Old Fashioned as ripe for the frozen drink treatment. Whiskey often seems like more of a fall and winter spirit, after all. Add some fresh, juicy cherries and orange juice to the mix, though—plus ice to make it all slushy—and you have a brilliantly newfangled take on a classic, perfect for sipping in the warmer months. Get our Slushy Cherry Old Fashioned recipe.
The mint julep is to the Kentucky Derby what the Pimm’s Cup is to Wimbledon. Even if tennis makes you yawn, this fruity and fresh gin cocktail will make you yelp in delight. The key ingredient in this mixture is Pimm’s of course, Pimm’s No. 1, which is only about 25-percent alcohol so it’s more of a liqueur. That means you can quench your summertime thirst with a few of these without getting too sloppy. The rich amber hue of Pimm’s No. 1 comes from infusing lots of lovely gin with caramelized orange, herbal botanicals, and delicate spices. Served in a cup from a punch bowl to accompany shellfish, Pimm’s originated in a London oyster bar opened by James Pimm in 1823. Pimm’s Cup variations have spread from there across England, where it’s the indispensable item for a summer picnic basket. Across the Atlantic and beyond, the cocktail often blends Pimm’s No. 1 (not No. 2, 3, 4, etc., which use other liquors and spices) with fizzy lemonade, English cucumbers and summer fruit. Get our Pimm’s Cup recipe.
Beer cocktails are underrated, yet plentiful once you start looking for them. From shandies and streamrollers to our Gridiron Punch, they’re full of refreshing flavors and fizz, and make a nice alternative to stiffer drinks (though they can certainly still pack a punch). This version blends white beer with fresh watermelon and Créole Shrubb liqueur—which is worth seeking out for its orange and baking-spice aromas and flavors—and stands as proof that fruity, refreshing drinks don’t have to be one-note. Get our Beer and Watermelon Cocktail recipe.
Wanna be on trend? Of course you do. Pretend otherwise, but we know the truth. You gotta at least grasp the trends before you can properly scoff at them. But while you’re grasping this Moscow Mule, you probably won’t want to let go before you down the whole thing. You can comfort yourself with the fact that this is a vintage drink that had gone out of style in the last few decades—until recently. It was born as vodka was born in the U.S., post World War II, when John Martin purchased the Smirnoff name and joined with a ginger beer maker and a copper mug collector to create this concoction. It was all the rage in the 1950s and ’60s, before sinking into obscurity. And now, yes, what’s old is new again. See why it worked so well more than a half century ago. Get our Moscow Mule recipe.
It doesn’t get more tropical than this. Those little drink-sized tiki umbrellas are a requirement for this fruity rum cocktail, as well as wearing an obnoxious Hawaiian-floral button-down shirt or a sarong and sandals. Shell necklaces are optional, but not ridiculed in this setting. The Mai Tai is a ridiculously obvious summer-appropriate drink to make for friends when you’re having a party. The recipe is based on “Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari” book by Jeff Berry. You’ll need to get some orange curaçao and orgeat, the latter being an almond-sugar syrup. Twirly or colorful straws get you bonus points. Get our The Original Mai Tai recipe.
The antithesis to the Mai Tai would be the Perfect Martini. It’s a drink for those who don’t want too much fuss and frivolity, at least in their glass. No shenanigans. Just clear, clean, crisp gin of the best kind and dry vermouth. The lemon twist garnish and olive are optional. You could take this cocktail even further from the tiki world by plunking in a cocktail onion. It’s the opposite of sweet. And you won’t have to mess with silly bubbles if you stir this drink rather than shake it. Because sometimes, you want your cocktail stirred, strained, chilled, and seriously pristine. Get our Perfect Martini recipe.