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Summer is prime time for a daytime tipple, but if you do it wrong, your whole afternoon will be wasted (in more ways than one). These low-alcohol drinks are perfect for sipping over many golden hours—and are a great choice for your Labor Day party if a cooler full of canned cocktails or spiked seltzer won’t cut it.

DIYHow to Build a Non-Alcoholic or Low-Alcoholic BarDrew Lazor wrote the 2018 book “Session Cocktails” and from his reporting, it’s clear we’re entering something of a golden age for low-alcohol cocktails. “Bars [when they are open] are offering more dedicated low-ABV sections on their cocktail menus than ever before,” says Lazor. Even nonalcoholic mocktails are gaining momentum. “Traditionally, here in America folks associate the value of a drink with its potency but that’s starting to change. Menus that do the legwork for the drinker help close that gap, encouraging us to step out of our routines and try new things.”

If you’re building a home bar to accommodate low-alcohol cocktails, Lazor suggests having a good bottle (or two) of vermouth on hand. “We’re quick to think of it as nothing more than an adjunct in a martini or Manhattan when it can just as easily be the star of a drink. There are some really cool American-made vermouths on the market nowadays, but I still think the best place to start is with a French brand like Dolin.”

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When approaching low-ABV cocktails at home, “there is no hard-and-fast definition, but we worked off a few parameters in the book. First, use no more than 3/4 ounce of a strong spirit in your mix. This is generally enough to still feel the presence of the spirit in the glass, and you can make up the rest in lower-ABV additions.” Also, consider the style of the drink itself, says Lazor; “The spritz, collins, or kir royale formats, lengthened with sparkling wine or soda water, are such a natural fit for sessionability.”

Related Reading: Summer Spritz Recipes Are Fun, Bubbly, and Low-Alcohol

If you’re near Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Lazor recommends a stop at Nitecap where owner Natasha David has “always done an incredible job of showcasing and celebrating session cocktails.” And if not, here are a few low-ABV cocktail recipes to make at home this summer.

Sunny Day Real Estate

Recipe by Alex Day (originally published in Session Cocktails)

Lizzie Munro


  • 2 ounces dry vermouth like Dolin Dry
  • 3/4 ounce raspberry syrup
  • 1/2 ounce Aperol
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • soda water


Combine vermouth, raspberry syrup, Aperol, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a collins glass with ice, top with soda water, and garnish with a lemon wheel.

The Elder


  • 2 slices of cucumber
  • 1 ounce St. Elder elderflower liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce strawberry syrup


Muddle two slices of cucumber. Shake ingredients with ice. Double strain over ice in a collins glass. Top with seltzer.

Haus & Juice



  • 1 ounce Haus (floral low alcohol spirit)
  • 1 ounce fresh blood orange juice
  • Splash of soda water


Build all ingredients in a cocktail glass and top with soda water. Garnish with blood orange wheel.

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Sugarlandia Spritz

Don Papa Rum


  • 3/4 ounce Don Papa Rum
  • 1 ounce Aperol
  • 4 ounces Prosecco
  • pinch sea salt


Combine rum, Aperol, and sea salt in a wine glass over ice. Stir until chilled, and top with Prosecco. Garnish with a roasted sprig of rosemary.

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Aperol Spritz

Recipe from Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company

Ellie Groden


  • 1 ounce Aperol
  • 3 ounces good Champagne like Champagne Ayala
  • Soda water


Build in a wine glass with ice. Top with soda water

New Mule 

KEEL Vodka


  • 1 1/2 ounces KEEL light vodka
  • 3 ounces ginger kombucha
  • 1/4 ounce agave
  • Squeeze of lemon


Build in a glass and serve over ice, stir and serve with a lime wheel.

Peacock Buck

Recipe by Nicolas Bennett (Cedric’s at The Shed)

Cedric’s at The Shed


  • 2 1/2 ounces rosé like Domaine Zafeirakis Rosé
  • 1/2 ounce Cinzano Dry Vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce ginger syrup
  • 1/4 ounce cane syrup


Shake ingredients and fine strain over pebble ice in a wine glass, topped with soda.

Everything Zen 

KEEL Vodka


  • 1 1/2 ounces KEEL light vodka
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
  • 3/4 ounce honey
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime


Combine all ingredients, shake, and strain over fresh ice into rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Related Video: How to Use Fresh Herbs in Cocktails

Header image courtesy of Keel Vodka

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