With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we’re embracing the summer staycation. All week (and all summer) long, we’ll bring you transportive flavors and travel-inspired ideas from around the world, so you can take your tastebuds on a trip and give your mind a mini vacation while you’re still at home. Here, the best summer drinks from 18 countries, including non-alcoholic options.
From fruity tropical drinks that pack a deceptive punch to low-ABV sparkling refreshers, there’s a world of thirst-quenching cocktails—and zero-proof drinks—to sip this summer. We picked 18 of our favorites that will never fail to cool you down and make you happy.
If your liquor cabinet is looking sparse, check out the best places to order alcohol online—and if it’s mixers you’re lacking, see some of the best cocktail ingredients already in your pantry.
But make sure you stock up for the remainder of patio season. (And if you don’t even have a balcony, just close your eyes, sit by a fan or an open window, and let these drinks take you away for a little while.)
1. Italy: Aperol Spritz
Let’s kick things off with an apparently controversial option. Yes, the Negroni is always a good choice, but in summer, you may crave something a little more refreshing—and a spritz is nothing if not that. Bubbly Prosecco also softens the intense, bitter flavors of the amaro (which could just as easily be Campari as Aperol) for those who don’t like to face them head-on. Get our Aperol Spritz recipe.
Related Reading: An Italian Aperitivo Hour Is the Perfect Way to Kick Off the Weekend
2. Mexico: Paloma
Nothing at all against the margarita, but our Paloma recipe is another easy-to-sip option that proves fizz is summer’s hottest drink accessory. If you prefer beer, a Mexican Michelada should hit the spot. But for those who don’t want any booze, go with literally any flavor of agua fresca for a non-alcoholic summer cooler; our Cantaloupe Agua Fresca recipe is a nice way to highlight an oft-underappreciated melon, and would welcome a splash of club soda for part of the still water. (If you want to combine both ideas, do the same with our Spiked Pineapple Agua Fresca recipe.)
3. Brazil: Caipirinha
Brazil’s national cocktail is a beautifully simple affair: muddled limes, sugar, ice, and cachaça, a sugarcane spirit similar to rum (which you can substitute in a pinch, as long as it’s a light one). To add a little smoky summer complexity—and since the grill is likely lit anyway—we like to toss the limes in sugar before briefly charring them; it not only adds a toasty caramel flavor, but also makes them easier to juice. Get our Grilled Caipirinha recipe. (And if you want another way to use up that bottle of cachaça, try a batida, sort of like a spiked fruit smoothie.)
4. Spain: Sangria
If you want an instant fix, you could embrace the unlikely combo of Coke and red wine, Spain’s classic kalimotxo—but if you’re feeling fruity (and a little fancier), sangria is the way to go. We have several Sangria recipes, including one with grilled fruit, a single-serving formula, one that showcases summer’s white peaches, and one based on beer instead of wine (plus a few more for good measure!). Try making tapas at home for the perfect accompaniment to any of them.
5. England: Pimm’s Cup
Wimbledon may have been cancelled this year, but a Pimm’s Cup is divine in any outdoor space, especially on a warm, sunny day. The fruit- and mint-filled drink is kind of like an English sangria, but without the wine—and it’s relatively low in alcohol so you can sip all afternoon. Get our Pimm’s Cup recipes, including a virgin version.
Pimm's No. 1 English Liqueur, price and availability varies on Saucey
There's no substitute for this gin-based liqueur.
6. Germany: Radler
Similar to a shandy, a radler is a mix of ale and fruit juice, usually lemon or grapefruit. Pick a light, crisp beer (bonus points if it’s German) and make sure everything is well chilled for the ideal drink. You can use lemon-lime soda as the mixer if you like optimum fizz. Get our Radler recipe.
Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, price and availability varies on Saucey
This canned version is also a summer mainstay.
7. Cuba: Mojito
A minty mojito goes down even easier on a hot day. And while we love the classic formula with white rum, sugar, lime juice, and sparkling water, we like to experiment too—here are some Mojito recipes that up the ante while still honoring the spirit of the original.
8. Peru: Chicha Morada
Bet you thought we were going to pick a Pisco Sour—and that’s a fine choice, both because it’s the national drink of Peru and it’s full of bright citrus flavor. But for pure refreshment—not to mention a nice non-alcoholic option—you should also know chicha morada, a beautiful blend of purple corn, pineapple, cloves, cinnamon, and lime juice. Pour it over ice for a perfect thirst quencher, and sure, feel free to spike it if you like. Chopped apple is traditionally added to the glass as well. Get the Chicha Morada recipe.
Inca's Food Purple Corn, 15 ounces for $7 from Amazon
The key ingredient.
9. France: Kir Royale
A classic Kir Royale is made with Champagne and crème de cassis, a blackcurrant liqueur, but for a summery twist, we like to add both fresh blackberry syrup and a few frozen blackberries to keep things chill. Get our Blackberry Kir Royale recipe.
10. Puerto Rico: Piña Colada
Perhaps the most iconic tropical resort drink (though not, in its original incarnation, the frozen slush often automatically associated with the name today), this blend of rum, pineapple juice, and cream of coconut conjures visions of pools and palm trees no matter where you are. If you find it a little insipid, try using a mix of light and dark rum to make it more interesting. Get our Piña Colada recipe.
11. Singapore: Singapore Sling
Invented by Ngiam Tong Boon at Singapore’s Raffles Hotel in the early 1900s, the original Singapore Sling was made with gin, sugar, citrus juice (lemon or lime), and soda water. Over the decades, it’s been adulterated with things like sickly sweet grenadine and cheap cherry liqueur, but this version from Michael Callahan of 28 Hong Kong Street bar in Singapore is as crisp and refreshing as you could want. It’s also surprisingly complex, with two types of bitters, herbal Bénédictine liqueur, and a high-quality dark cherry liqueur in the mix. Get the Singapore Sling recipe.
12. Jamaica: Rum Punch
Tropical fruit juices get a kick from (what else?) rum in a classic Jamaican punch—but this twist adds a little sparkle in the form of bubbly wine. It lightens up the drink a bit, but you can skip it if you prefer. If you have trouble finding the fruit punch syrup called for, consider making our homemade grenadine to use in its place. Get the Jamaican Rum Punch recipe.
13. India: Lassi
For another non-alcoholic option, look to India’s yogurt-based lassi. This cooling drink is often made with mango, but can feature other fruit—or none at all. You can adjust the sweetness to taste, and omit the cardamom (or try adding other spices) as you like. Get our Mango Lassi recipe, or try this Salted Lassi with Cumin and Mint from chef Susan Feniger. For a dairy-free drink that’s super refreshing and found in India as well as many Middle Eastern countries, don’t sleep on sharbat either.
14. Bermuda: Dark ‘n’ Stormy
When you just want to collapse in your hammock (or on your couch) already, this two-ingredient cocktail comes to the rescue. A simple yet effective mix of dark rum and ginger beer needs nothing else besides a spritz of lime and copious amounts of ice. Look for a spicier ginger beer if you want a real punch. Get our Dark ‘n’ Stormy recipe, or try our Slushy Dark ‘n’ Stormy recipe.
15. Hawaii: Mai Tai
This classic tiki tipple was invented by Trader Vic; it picked up pineapple juice in Hawaii, along with a few other flourishes, but our Original Mai Tai recipe sticks to the basics: aged rum, orgeat, orange Curaçao, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup. Plus crushed ice, of course, and a simple sprig of mint for a fragrant garnish.
Collins Orgeat, price and availability varies on Saucey
This sweet, almond-flavored syrup is great for mocktails too.
16. Greece: Ouzo
Similar to Turkish raki and Lebanese arak, ouzo is a distilled spirit flavored with anise. Often taken as a shot, it can be an acquired taste, but adding it to a cocktail can help ease your introduction and make sure things get off on the right foot. Our Melon Dip Ouzo Cocktail recipe combines it with blended cantaloupe (strained for a smooth texture), fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup.
Related Reading: 11 Greek Recipes for a BBQ with Mediterranean Flair
17. Korea: Soju
To be honest, makgeolli might be a superior summer sipper (ideally enjoyed with jeon), at least if you’re looking at things as they stand alone; it does have that effervescence, after all. But soju—often sipped neat along with Korean BBQ—makes a great cocktail ingredient, and our Watermelon Soju Cocktail recipe mixes it with one of the season’s produce superstars. And watermelon is one of the most hydrating fruits you can eat…or drink.
18. Russia: Kvass
This lightly sparkling, super-low-alcohol drink is made from fermented bread—what better drink for quarantine? (Besides, you can only down so many shots of ice cold vodka at once.) This Kvass recipe recommends using a very dark pumpernickel or rye, and deeply toasting it too. And if you happen to have sourdough starter, you can use that to kick off fermentation. Beet kvass is another option; either way, you get the bonus of probiotics—similar to kombucha, in fact.