From Negronis to Palomas to Spanish gin and tonics, summer is probably the best cocktail mixing season (come at us if you disagree). Winter is great for bolder, darker spirit-based cocktails suited to warming you from head to toe while you’re wrapped in a Snuggie, snowed in, and bingeing Netflix. But that experience can’t shake a proverbial stick at sipping on a refreshing gin, tequila, or rum-based cocktail on a patio, overlooking a wave-filled ocean on a hot, summer day.
Since summer is quickly approaching like a reckless teen on rocket-powered roller skates, you need to stock up on the right spirits for the season of sun and fun. That’s why we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to summer bottles.
Lamarr Hawkins, Taproom Manager at Brooklyn Cider House
I make my Negroni’s with Greenhook gin from Greenpoint Brooklyn. The soft botanical notes coming off of this gin really complements and mellows out the smoky malt flavor you typically get with a Negroni.
Brock Schulte, bar director at The Monarch Cocktail Bar & Lounge in Kansas City
Regardless of the season my favorite spirit is always rye whiskey and my go-to is Rittenhouse BIB. It’s a great mixing Rye at 100 proof and never lacks flavor at a great price.
Mark Ferguson, bartender at Davio’s in Irvine, California
Campari is great to use in summer cocktails, especially when it’s mixed with prosecco. It gives it a light but yet crisp taste which naturally keeps the cocktail refreshing on a hot summer day.
Nicholas Bennett, beverage director at Cedric’s at The Shed in New York City
I love mixing with Sombra Mezcal in the summer. It can take the place of some of the darker spirits on the colder summer nights and it will mix up nicely with lime and Aperol and St. Germain and any other ingredient that gets dusted off at the first sign of beach weather.
Ryan Andrews, lead bartender at Prohibition in San Diego
Jägermeister is always my go-to because it’s so diverse in its complexity. You can go boozy or refreshing; it has so many applications.
Nikki McCutcheon, beverage director at Moxy Time Square in New York City
Gin is my all-time favorite spirit. It is so versatile and is naturally flavored with fresh botanicals that are perfect for any season – especially summer! My home bar is typically stocked with Tanqueray or Hendrick’s.
Lucas Swallows, Bar Director at Momofuku in Las Vegas
Cachaça — Brazilian rum made from fresh sugarcane. It mixes magically with fresh lime juice. A good Caipirinha or Daiquiri variation always cues a summer vibe in me. Avuá is a brand that I find to be of exceptional quality with a broad range of expressions due to their unique aging process, which includes the use of native Brazilian wood casks.
Banks 5 Island Rum
Salvatore Tafuri, bar director at The Times Square EDITION in New York City
My favorite spirit to mix with during summer is Banks 5 Island Rum, which is one of my favorites on the U.S. market. I find it perfect for mixing classics, like Daiquiris and Mojitos, but it also works incredibly well with seasonal ingredients.
Ilan Chartor, bar lead at KYU in Miami
My favorite spirit to use in summer would have to be Paranubes rum. It’s a Oaxacan rum with similarities to an Agricole rhum. Lots of funk and umami notes going on there. Really interesting to use for substitutes in most classics.
Rico Velasquez, bartender at Jaleo by José Andrés in Washington, DC
I love gin in the summer! I prefer Gin Mare, which is a Mediterranean gin that uses high-quality ingredients from Spain. Their Spanish botanicals include rosemary, thyme and Arbequina olives, which creates a flavorful spirit that works beautifully in a Bees Knees or a gin and tonic.
Dylan Knox, bartender at Vol. 39 in Chicago
Favorite spirit to mix in summer? I’ve loved waxing with Probitas Rum from Foursquare distillery this summer. The rum is beautiful and rich, and I love the banana and guava notes I pick up from it.
Ketel One Vodka
Steve Tsatas, bartender at MB Steak in Las Vegas
I’m a big vodka drinker during the summer, so Ketel One is my “go to.” It has a great flavor and is easy to mix with. They also carry a great variety of flavors so you can really make anything.