Best Summer Cocktails: 16 Easy Drinks You Can Make This Season

I was in Kentucky just last week, visiting a fraction of the American Whiskey Trail. And at the Bulleit cocktail hour, I was handed what they called a BLT (Bulleit, lemon, tonic)—right before a proper Southern dinner of pulled pork, baked beans, and potato salad was served. The drink was basically a highball with the ginger ale swapped out with tonic. Or depending on the way you look at it, a gin and tonic—with the gin swapped out for Bulleit. And let me tell you: It was one helluva delicious drink. Above all, it was refreshing.

I typically like my bourbon neat—or with an ice cube or two. But the BLT hit the spot, especially in sweltering Kentucky. And when the heat starts to hit New York City, I’m certainly going to serve this easy-to-make concoction at home. Of course, you can substitute and use any bourbon you please. Or you can make any one of the 16 cocktail recipes below. After all, solstice may be more than a month away, but it’s never too early to start enjoying your summer cocktails.

GREYDON’S CUP AT GREYDON HOUSE

“Tiki and a classic Champagne julep collide in this magnificent presentation in an Elyx copper pineapple. Fun, sophisticated, a little sweet but full of powerful fruit flavors. This double-sized drink is an Absolut showstopper!” —Jackson Cannon, bar director of Boston’s Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar

greysons-cup_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Absolut Elyx

1 oz. Rhum Clément Mahina Coconut Liqueur

1 oz. Giffard Banane du Brésil

1 oz. limejuice

1 oz. simple syrup

6 to 8 mint leaves

1 dash Angostura bitters

4 ounces sparkling wine (light Cava or Prosecco recommended)

Method: combine coconut, banana, lime, simple syrup, and mint in an Elyx copper pineapple. Lightly muddle. Add Elyx and fill with crushed ice, gently pushing ice down with bar spoon to completely fill and add sparkling wine.

Garnish: Option one, cover with pineapple top and insert fancy straw. Option two, put straw directly into open pineapple garnish with mint, orange slices, berries in season and a dusting of sanding sugar.

FRIDA BY CODY GOLDSTEIN AT NYLO NEW YORK CITY

“This cocktail is inspired by the great Frida Kahlo and pays homage to her Mexican heritage. It will be paired with movie screenings of the Frida film shown at NYLO New York City (in May; available through June) as part of the Arthouse @ NYLO Silent Cinema series.” —Cody Goldstein, bartender at Arthouse @ NYLO

frida_cody_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Igredients:

1.5 oz. tequila

1 oz. pineapple juice

.5 oz. Pimento Dram

.5 oz. Ancho Reyes

.25 oz. jimejuice

Ginger beer, to fill

Method: Combine tequila, pineapple juice, lime, Pimento Dram, and Ancho Reyes into shaker and fill halfway with ice. Shake for 5 seconds and strain into a Collins glass with ice. Top with ginger beer.

SOUTHERN BELLE AT THE J. PARKER

“Our summer cocktail menu is inspired by warm weather countries around the world and as you can tell, the Southern Bell draws inspiration from the South. Serving iced tea to guests on a hot summer day continues to be an integral part of Southern culture and the Breckenridge bourbon adds a nice kick to an already refreshing drink. The first iced tea recipe called for a lemon garnish, so we’ve continued that tradition on with this drink as well.” Kolin Juckins, beverage director

southern-bell_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

2 oz. Breckenridge bourbon

.25 oz. peach liqueur

.75 oz. black tea syrup*

.5 oz. fresh lemon juice

Lemon wedge for garnish

For the Black Tea Syrup: Combine 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar on low heat until dissolved. Add 4 tea bags and steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags. Chill and refrigerate. Syrup will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Method: Combine all ingredients and pour over ice

CARROT MARGARITA AT CLEVER RABBIT

“Margaritas and summer go hand-in-hand and this one adds a little more depth then most with lime sea salt, poblano spice and carrots, while still being crushable and refreshing. It’s exactly what you want to drink outside on our patio on a warm summer day.” —Nick Pagor, partner

carrot-margarita_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Piedra Azul Reposado

.5 oz. Ancho Reyes Verde

1 oz. carrot juice (fresh, or you can substitute with store-bought such as Bolthouse Farms)

.5 oz. limejuice

.5 oz. agave syrup

Method: Combine Piedra Azul Reposado, Ancho Reyes Verde, carrot juice (store bought or homemade), lime and agave syrup into a glass. Garnish with lime, salt and fresh sage.

LYCHEE MARTINI AT GRAFFITI EARTH

“This icy, slushy cocktail is the perfect refresher to cool you down on a hot summer day.” — Jehangir Mehta, owner and chef

lychee-martini_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

2 cups canned or fresh lychees, peeled

½ cup simple syrup, plus more as needed

Prosecco, chilled

Method: Place lychees and simple syrup in the jar of a blender. Purée until smooth. Add more simple syrup, if desired. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Divide lychee mixture evenly between two martini glasses; top with Prosecco and serve immediately.

CURSE OF LO PAN AT SLOWLY SHIRLEY

“I wanted to create a cocktail that was complex yet light and easy on the palate. Also, crazy delicious like green tea ice cream. And of course I had to pay homage to my favorite ’80s fantasy martial arts film: the John Carpenter classic Big Trouble in Little China.” —Ray Sakover, bartender

curse-of-lo-pan_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

1 egg white

.75 oz. lemon

.5 oz. jasmine pearl; matcha syrup

.5 oz. coco mix*

2 oz. Beefeater 24

For the Coco Mix:

coconut mix, composed of 3 parts Coco Lopez and 1 part coconut milk.

Method: Shake and strain into a coupe. Garnish with an orchid and matcha powder.

THE LUSHY MACHINE AT MOTHER’S RUIN

“The Lushy Machine is fruity yet still refreshing. A lot of times people make frozen drinks too heavy, so this is an easy example of how to keep it light.” —TJ Lynch, owner

the-lushie-machine_mothers-ruin_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Four Pillars Gin

.75 oz. fresh lemon juice

.5 oz. red wine syrup

2-3 strawberries

For the Red Wine Syrup:

Simmer 2 cups red wine with 1 cup sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 clove, and 3 cardamom pods for 15–20 minutes, until syrupy.

Method: Place all in machine or in a blender with 2 cups of ice and blend until smooth. Garnish with 3–4 dashes Angostura bitters, mint, fruit, whatever!

DOVE DISPATCH AT THE BENNETT

“I love this cocktail because reminds me of gardens sprouting and robust farmers’ markets. It has a great balance of fresh citrus and vegetal notes.” —Meaghan Dorman, co-owner and bar director

dove-dispatch_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

1 oz. grapefruit juice

.75 oz. red bell pepper syrup

1.5 oz. tequila

.5 oz. Campari

Method: Shake all ingredients. Pour into Collins glass with a chili salt rim. Top with seltzer.

DAYDREAMER AT THE STANDARD GRILL

“Summertime is wonderful—we get more sunlight, the days are filled with warm breezes, and even our style of drinking relaxes, as we embrace lighter flavors and textures. The Daydreamer embodies those moments of leisure when summertime helps us take ourselves less seriously, when we appreciate the good things in life and stop rushing through the hours. Botanist is a serious gin, but Domaine de Canton teases out its softer side, with Cardamaro bringing a touch of whimsy to the taste.” —Gates Otsuji, bartender

daydreamer_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

1 oz. Botanist gin

1 oz. Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

.5 oz. Cardamaro

.5 oz. clarified lemon juice

Rosewater

Method: Combine all ingredients except rosewater in an ice-filled shaker. Add three drops of rosewater, cap the shaker, and shake well. Fine strain into a wine glass, add ice and garnish with a lemon twist.

FORBIDDEN FRUIT AT FINE & RARE

“When I grew up, my mom used to make apple soju which is fermented apple juice with neutral spirit added and stored for a few months to mature. My dad always added this to his tea. Since we had a pomegranate and fig tree in the house, those fruits were the accompaniment. With Applejack and PAMA, I wanted to mix them with black tea to revive my childhood memory. Now I know what my dad was drinking which I didn’t get to try as a kid. The legend says pomegranate was actually the apple described in the Garden of Eden and their flavors go very well together.” —Young Kim, bartender

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Ingredients:

1½ oz. Laird’s Applejack

1½ oz. tea (black tea steeped with oregano, thyme, rosemary, orange peel)

¾ oz. pomegranate liqueur

¾ oz. lemon

½ oz. honey

Method: Shake all ingredients and serve over ice in tall glass. Garnish with lemon and thyme.

MY FELLOW TRAVELER AT SEAMSTRESS

“A crisp, refreshing cocktail, with hints of ginger, citrus and lemongrass. Perfect for summer days—or nights.” —Christian Orlando, bartender

my-fellow-traveler_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Elijah Craig bourbon

.5 oz. ginger liqueur

.5 oz. manzanilla dry sherry

.5 oz. lemongrass syrup

.75 oz. lemon juice

3 dashes of Dutches Colonial Bitters

Splash of soda water

Method: Combine all ingredients except soda and shake over ice. Strain and top with soda into a highball. Garnish with lemongrass sprig.

THE MONTY BUCK AT FORT DEFIANCE 

“This drink is based on the tiki classic called the Suffering Bastard, which blends whiskey and gin, and ginger. The Suffering Bastard is associated, believe it or not, with the WWII Battle of El Alamein, which was won by the British general Bernard Law ‘Monty’ Montgomery. This drink is named after him.” —St. John Frizell, owner

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Ingredients:

.75 oz. Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy

.75 oz. El Dorado 5 Year Old

.5 oz. ginger liqueur

.5 oz. limejuice

1 dash Angostura bitters

2 dashes pimento dram (optional)

Q ginger beer

Method: Combine all ingredients in a shaker and pour.

RHUBARB COCKTAIL AT VERNICK FOOD & DRINK

“Vernick’s cocktail menu features an ‘in-season’ section where we showcase the current season’s best offerings. One of my favorites is the Rhubarb Cocktail. Rhubarb is usually one of the first spring ingredients, and it always inspires me cocktail-wise in the warmer months. It’s a classic sour build, using the rhubarb as the sweet component. There’s a great balance between sweet and tart, with a slight vegetal quality and a comforting vanilla finish. It’s perfect for the summer months.” JB Bernstein, beverage director

rhubarb-cocktail_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Beefeater gin

.75 oz. rhubarb–vanilla syrup*

.75 oz. fresh limejuice

.25 oz. Contratto Aperitif (Aperol also works well)

1 egg white

For the Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup:

Chop two stalks of fresh rhubarb, add equal parts granulated sugar by weight. Zest the peels of two limes, add one vanilla bean, split. Mix ingredients well and cover, letting sit for at least 24 hours. Fine strain and discard any solids.

Method: Combine all ingredients into a glass, adding the egg white in last. Strain into a glass and enjoy.

ROFFIGNAC CUP NO. 1 AT PORCHLIGHT

“This is a hybrid of the New Orleans favorite, the Pimm’s Cup, and the lesser-known Roffignac cocktail—made with whiskey and raspberry vinegar. Porchlight’s version blends the refreshing and bright flavors of the Pimm’s Cup with the acidity of the Roffignac, then tops it off with fresh raspberries and a dry sparkling wine for a drink that is low proof and quaffable.” —Nick Bennett, head bartender

roffignac-cup-no-1_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Pimm’s No. 1 Cup

.5 oz. pomegranate liqueur

.5 oz. limejuice

.5 oz. ginger syrup (2:1 raw sugar to fresh ginger juice)

.25 oz. raspberry vinegar

Sparkling wine

Method: Build all the ingredients in a tin, except the sparkling wine, and shake. Strain into a wine glass over fresh ice and top with the bubbles. Garnish with cucumber slice and raspberries.

THE ACERBIC MRS. PARKER AT THE SHANTY, NEW YORK DISTILLING COMPANY

“The perfect summer refresher; a fancy lemonade. The bright notes of Dorothy Parker Gin and a gentle, acerbic touch of homemade grenadine induce the second sip without you even knowing that you’re taking it.” —Allen Katz, cofounder

the-acerbic-mrs-parker_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

2 oz. Dorothy Parker Gin

.5 oz. fresh lemon juice

.5 oz. hibiscus syrup

.75 oz. Combier orange liqueur

Method: Shake ingredients over ice and strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a lemon wheel. Serve with a straw.

And don’t forget…the BLT

It’d be wrong for me not to include the BLT recipe. If you’ve got the ingredients and three minutes, this cocktail will be the easiest thing you’ve ever made in your life. (Well, save for a gin and tonic…)

BLT AT BULLEIT FRONTIER WHISKEY EXPERIENCE, STITZEL-WELLER DISTILLERY

blt_best-summer-cocktails_2017

Ingredients:

1.3 oz. Bulleit bourbon

4 oz. tonic water, preferably Boylan Heritage tonic

1 lemon wedge

Method: Shake ingredients together and pour in a rocks glass. Garnish with lemon wedge.

Forbes | May 2017
Karla Alindahao

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