Refreshment is the name of the game when it comes to summer cocktails. The season of tan lines (you can still get tan in your back yard!) and fresh limes leaves no room for anything heavy. That’s why lighter spirits like vodka, gin, rum, and tequila reign supreme from June to September (although we never really put away the whiskey).
Another key to mixing up the right, fresh, seasonal cocktails is simplicity.
“Keep summer simple,” says Piero Procida, bartender at The London West Hollywood in Los Angeles. “It is hot outside, so naturally you want something refreshing but also light and easy to make where simple ingredients can speak for themselves. Do not overwhelm your drinks with heavy ingredients or too much sugar.”
Vance Henderson, ambassador at Hendrick’s Gin enjoys a fresh take on the classic gin rickey this time of year.
“My current go-to refreshing summer cocktail is actually a modern classic I created,” he says. “It brings together the iconic gin rickey and my affinity for rosé wine. It’s called the ‘Rickey Rosé’ — easy-to-make, light, crisp and refreshing.”
In an effort to keep things light and simple, we’ve enlisted the help of some of our favorite bartenders. They were kind enough to give us their picks for the most refreshing cocktails to drink in summer 2020. Did a few still go to the whiskey well? You’d better believe it.
Hay Culham, beverage manager at Bonsai at Hilton Pensacola Beach in Pensacola, Florida
I love a good mojito or mint julep in the summer. They are refreshing and help cool you down. The mint julep does better closer to sunset as it is much stronger. This is also the time of day I’m more likely to enjoy a cocktail anyway. Who says you can’t drink bourbon in the summer?
Anna Mains, brand ambassador at Monkey Shoulder
During the summer months, I enjoy whisky highballs. For a classic whisky highball, I suggest using Monkey Shoulder. The bubbles from the soda really make the orange, vanilla, and ginger notes in Monkey Shoulder sing. Highballs are low calorie, and keep you hydrated, which helps prevent hangovers. Now that’s refreshing.
Gravy Thomas, global advocacy and ambassador community manager at William Grant & Sons
There’s nothing quite like a piña colada during the hot days in summer. Pineapple and rum are always a good mix. I like adding some coconut cream in there too to add in a bit of complexity. Our piña colada recipe has the power to transport you right to the beaches of the Caribbean.
Jessie Smyth, bar director at Genever in Los Angeles
I like to take the formula for a rickey — 2 oz base spirit, 1/2 oz citrus, (maybe a splash of a sweetener) lots of ice and a top off with bubbles — and then have some fun with it. Use whatever citrus you have on hand (Meyer lemons, key limes, grapefruit, kumquat, mandarins) and your favorite bubbles (whether it be Topo Chico, Q Elderflower Tonic, or Prosecco) and maybe add some fresh herbs and… voila!
Refreshing, hydrating, cooling- the perfect combination for poolside sipping.
Samara Rivers, founder of the Black Bourbon Society
My favorite summer classic cocktail is a Paper Plane. It’s a touch of sweet and sour, perfectly balanced, and has an amazing color. It’s absolutely perfect for summer.
Piero Procida, bartender at The London West Hollywood in Los Angeles
Mojitos are my choice when it comes to summer drinks. Too simple you say? Well, it’s all about simplicity in summer and believe it or not people consistently mess up such an easy drink to make by not following the exact recipe or by using incorrect measurements. It can be such a delicious drink if made with patience. There are just a few rules to follow: Do not free-pour. Do not muddle the mint leaves to oblivion so they get stuck in your straw. Just 4 – 5 leaves lightly muddled will do just fine. No need for the whole mint tree. Use just a dash of soda water and do not use ice that is going to melt quickly and water down the drink. Traditionally a white rum is the best to use if you want to be as authentic as possible and make sure you only use freshly squeezed lime juice.
Lenny Eckstein, co-founder and head distiller of Deerhammer Distilling Company in Buena Vista, Colorado
It’s hard to go wrong with a margarita. Scratch that… it’s super easy to go wrong with a margarita but made well with fresh ingredients and infused with some creativity there are some amazing variations that play perfectly in the summer. I’m a fan of swapping out the tequila for whiskey and mixing in some muddled mint. We make such a variation in our distillery tasting room called the “Margarito” and it has been our best-selling cocktail for years.
Gin & Soda
Ryan Negley, whiskey fellow at Boulder Spirits in Boulder, Colorado
I like to think of myself as a year-round whiskey drinker, which I am, but gin certainly has my heart when it’s shorts weather. Honestly, I don’t much care for tonic, so gin & soda is my go-to. Toss in an herb from the garden to add a little freshness and then get back to lounging.
Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
You can’t go wrong with a classic paloma. The grapefruit, soda, and lime are really refreshing but the tartness keeps you revisiting for another sip.
In our opinion, there is no more refreshing cocktail than the classic negroni. Made with Campari, vermouth, and gin (with an orange twist), this iconic Italian staple is perfectly suited for sunny, hot summer days spent on a deck or patio overlooking a large body of water (a lake will do just fine).