Bartenders Tell Us What Spirits We Should Be Sipping All Summer Long

We’re only a few weeks away from the official start of summer. The rainy days of spring are over and it’s finally time to push some of your darker spirits to the back of the liquor cabinet in favor of lighter, summery potables. But, with the changing of the seasons you find yourself in a predicament. What spirits should you stock up on for sunny, summer drinking?

Lucky for you, we’ve called in some of the best bartenders in the country to help. We asked them to tell us what spirits you should be sipping all summer long and they didn’t disappoint. You’ll see some of the usual suspects as well as some spirits you might not be familiar with… yet. Now is the time! Get drinking!

SHOCHU — Alex Riddle, Roka Akor in San Francisco


“Shochu is my go-to summer spirit. It is light in flavor and has the ability to be combined with almost anything. The lower ABV makes it so you can enjoy more delightful refreshments. Shochu is great for infusing, which makes it the perfect vehicle for refreshing flavors like cucumber, mint, and citrus.”

GIN — Akos Orosz, Westbound in Los Angeles


“I believe gin is the quintessential summer spirit. It is fresh and crisp, and energetic, and it also pairs excellent with any fresh juice, herbs and spices, Pretty much anything you throw at it will still be a refreshing cocktail. Other than that, try looking for something on the bitter side. Amaros and vermouths make the best mixed drinks for summer. You don’t need a boozy cocktail, just something light and refreshing that you can enjoy glass after glass. Vermouth Spritzers offer just that, or if you like more bitter flavors try any amaro with soda and a splash of lime for simplicity.”

RUM — Clay Livingston, Red Herring Cocktail Lounge & Kitchen in Louisville


“Rum. Going along with my thoughts of tiki culture for summer, rum is central to that culture. Rum in its many forms can easily be substituted in classic cocktails in place of other spirits such as brandy, bourbon, vodka, and gin. Classic rum drinks like daiquiri, mojito, and mai tai all fill the need for a cool refreshing summertime beverage.”

AQUAVIT — Paul Fradeneck, Mabel Gray in Detroit


“My summer spirit is obviously Aquavit. The versatility in Bloody Marys, or as a substitute for gin, makes it a great summer spirit. The aromatics play well with citrus and other summer fruits & herbs, while being assertive enough to stand up to traditional bitter aperitivo, or Americano-style aromatized wines for a great spritz.”

RHUM AGRICOLE — Thea Engst, co-author of Drink Like A Bartender

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“Rhum Agricole, the lesser known sister of the rum family. It’s grassy, refreshing, and often a little funky. It’s a unique flavor and tends to be less sweet than other rums. Try it in place of the regular spirit in your favorite summer cocktail. We dare you.”

VERMOUTH — Natasha David, Nitecap in New York City


“I’m all about Low ABV drinking in the hot summer months. A good quality Vermouth and Soda or Vermouth on the rocks is always a favorite.”

COGNAC — Beau Dubois, The Corner Door in Los Angeles


“Everyone should take another look at cognac this summer. Any spirit that’s grape-based is always going to be a little easier on the body. With just as much dynamic flavor of Bourbon, Cognac has the fantastic finish of cooked tropical fruit. Also, keep in mind, as a species we’ve been making booze from grapes a lot longer than corn or rye, so Cognac is very nice glimpse into the past as generationally perfected practice.”

VERMOUTH AND AMARO — Jeffrey Moll, Randolfi’s in St. Louis


“Vermouth and Amaro (Campari, especially) with soda water. My gunning for those two spirits aside, low alcohol is finally getting the recognition it deserves and on a warm day, effervescence rules. There are few things that have as much going on as Vermouth and Amari do. Paired with bubbles, they open up so much more.”

MEZCAL — Jay Rankin, FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar in Minneapolis


“Mezcal – It is not that common as of yet but, it is a spirit that done correctly in a cocktail really enhances the other spirits around it, but is also a great sipping spirit on a patio rather than your usual peated scotch.”