For many, Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, but it’s not as if it really switches so abruptly into fall on the first Tuesday in September. Instead, it’s a gradual shift from one season to the next: day by day, the sun sinks earlier, the wind gets chillier, the vivid abundance of summer produce begins to dwindle and disappear. Before it’s gone, grab up all the best summer fruits and vegetables remaining and wring out every last bit of their beautiful flavor. You can do it literally too, by squeezing out their essence into your cocktail glass, because even corn, chiles, and tomatoes make great drinks.
Try one of these unique cocktails featuring seasonal summer produce to capture the last traces of its peak-of-perfection taste, and remember, there will be lots to love about fall too. But it can be hard to let go, we know. So grip your glass tight and drink in all the glorious sweetness of summer while you still can.
Summer corn has a natural sweetness that makes it just as marvelous as any fruit in margaritas, and its starch lends a delicate creaminess to drinks. This one only adds tequila, agave syrup, and lime juice. If you’re unsure about cilantro, skip it, but consider a skewer of kernels as a garnish (as seen in these sweet corn and limoncello cocktails, which are another great way to get more of summer’s golden ears before they’re gone). Get the Sweet Corn Margarita recipe.
Kuhn Rikon Stainless Steel Corn Zipper, $12 on Amazon
This is supposed to be less messy than cutting off the kernels with a knife.
Grilling fruit intensifies its flavor and adds a lovely smoky dimension—and it’s the appropriately summery thing to do, of course. Here, lightly charred strawberries are blended with vodka and a sprightly lime-thyme simple syrup (strawberry thyme prosecco is another nice iteration of this fruit/herb pairing). A sturdy reusable straw makes hulling strawberries a cinch, and then you can pop it in your drink. Get the Grilled Strawberry Cocktail recipe.
Related Reading: The Best Eco-Friendly Reusable Straws
Sunlight takes on a more honeyed golden glow as we slide into fall, and these Bloody Marys seem to hint at that richer, softer light, while staying firmly planted in summertime. Golden beets and yellow tomatoes make for a more mellow, sweet, and earthy cocktail, but it still packs plenty of bright acidity and a punch of spice and salt. Get the Golden Beet and Yellow Tomato Bloody Mary recipe. (And try our Tomato Basil Martini recipe too, pictured all the way up top, perfect for using up the last gnarled heirloom tomatoes of the season.)
Hatch green chiles have become something of a sensation well beyond their native New Mexico, and while their season fluctuates depending on the weather each year, it usually starts sometime in August and lasts through September. Here, roasted Hatch chiles are simmered with raspberries in a simple syrup that makes for an especially kicky Moscow Mule. Get the Hatch Chile and Raspberry Moscow Mule recipe.
Modern Home Copper Moscow Mule Mug, $9.93 at Walmart
The classic copper mug is not required to enjoy a mule, but it does lend a certain extra panache.
As with so many other fruits and vegetables, zucchini is available all year, but the infamous abundance of summer zucchini is much sweeter since it’s in its prime season. Its juice adds a verdant freshness to a simple vodka soda with a sparkle of sea salt, and the shredded green flesh left behind is great for making zucchini fritters to snack on alongside. Get the Zucchini Sea Salt Vodka Soda recipe.
Juicy late-summer peaches are ripe for turning into cocktails. Here, they’re grilled and paired with a spicy peach-jalapeño simple syrup, rum, and bubbly ginger beer, for a refreshing cocktail with a bit of sweet heat. Get the Chili Syrup Rum and Peach Cocktail recipe.
Liberate your honeydew melon from the fruit salad bowl and put it in a glass instead. Fresh honeydew margaritas are a great option, but while the evenings are still warm enough, why not blend up a frozen daiquiri with this pale green fruit on the cusp of fall? Get the Frozen Honeydew Daiquiri recipe.
One of the most iconic farm stand fruits of summer, watermelon is also one of the most inherently refreshing. If you prefer bubbles, our Beer and Watermelon Cocktail is a great alternative, or you can just spike an entire watermelon with vodka (or tequila), but this cooling gin cocktail also makes use of basil, one of the best summery herbs around. Get the Watermelon, Gin, and Basil Cocktail recipe.
Cucumbers and blueberries are both in their prime through August, which would be an ideal time to sip this beautifully floral lemon and gin drink, but it will still induce a sigh of wistful appreciation in early September. The amethyst hue comes from a honey-based blueberry simple syrup. Get the Blueberry, Lemon, and Cucumber Gin Mojito recipe.
Avocados are actually pretty great all year, but domestic production peaks in summer, so it’s also a great time to try a naturally creamy avo-based cocktail. Ours includes fresh thyme, silver tequila, lime juice, and agave syrup, but one commenter suggests a splash of lemon-lime soda if you’re a fan of fizz. Get our Copa Verde Avocado Cocktail recipe.
Tomatillos are particularly good in August and on through early fall, but they’re not just for salsa verde. Try pairing their bright tang with pineapple and lime juice, tequila, a little jalepeño hot sauce, and a lot of cool fresh mint, for a sweet, spicy, and rather brilliant cocktail with all the vibrancy of warm summer sun. Get the Tomatillo Pineapple Cocktail recipe.
Check out some of the best cocktail shaker sets on Amazon if you’re feeling inspired to mix things up.
Related Video: How to Crush Ice for Cocktails