Porch. Lake. Sunset. Cocktail. It’s May, and for worker bees and stay-at-home folks alike, these words start to punctuate our daily thoughts like so many tulips blooming.
You might be in the middle of putting the kid to bed when you start seeing yourself on a beach somewhere, drink in hand. Or perhaps you’re midway through one of those double meetings—one of the endless ones that entail waiting till 2 o’clock to eat lunch. Your colleagues see you gloss over. You see yourself in shades and a sundress, or a seersucker suit. You look so relaxed, in your mind’s eye. How can you get there from here?
For days when you’re in a “Give me bourbon or give me death” state of mind, here are four stellar summer cocktails that always deliver. There’s something for the gin lover as well as the tequila fan. Bourbon fans, you’re covered with a citrusy punch. Tiki types, there’s a frozen rum drink that will tide you over until Jimmy Buffett comes on the radio.
These drinks are on constant rotation—like a lazy 45 on the hi-fi—in homes across America for a reason.
We’ve provided all the recipes below. All you need to be is thirsty.
Combine 11⁄2 oz. tequila, 1 oz. carrot juice, 3⁄4 oz. lime juice, 1⁄2 oz. agave syrup, and 4 slices raw ginger in a shaker. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with cilantro, ginger slice, and carrot ribbon. Makes 1 cocktail.
Place 2 cups seedless watermelon chunks into a blender. Process until smooth. Transfer 2 oz. juice to a shaker (reserving the rest for another use), and add 2 oz. gin, 3⁄4 oz. lime juice, 1⁄2 oz. agave syrup, a pinch of sea salt, and 1 mini sweet pepper (seeded and chopped). Fill the shaker with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a mini sweet pepper. Makes 1 cocktail.
Green Tea Slushie
Steep 2 bags of green tea in 2 cups hot water for 4 minutes. Remove bags, and add 3⁄4 cup sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool and pour into a 12-compartment ice cube tray and freeze. Add 6 oz. white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc), 8 slices cucumber, 10–12 mint leaves, 5 regular ice cubes, and 3 green tea ice cubes to a blender. Blend until ice is completely crushed. Pour into a glass, and garnish with cucumber ribbon and mint. Makes 2 cocktails.
Place a handful of blueberries and blackberries into a cocktail shaker, and muddle. Add 2 oz. light rum, 11⁄2 oz. coconut milk, 1⁄2 oz. lime juice, and 1⁄2 oz. agave syrup. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with berries on a skewer. Makes 1 cocktail.
Stir 1 cup sugar into 1 cup hot water until dissolved. Add a handful of dried hibiscus leaves and steep until magenta. Strain and cool. Stir together 2 tsp. sea salt, 1 tsp. sugar, and 1⁄2 tsp. cayenne pepper on a small plate. Wet rim of a Collins glass and dip into sea salt mixture to coat. Add 11⁄2 oz. vodka, 1 oz. hibiscus syrup, and 3⁄4 oz. lime juice to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain over fresh ice into the prepared glass. Top with ginger beer. Makes 1 cocktail.
San Francisco bartender Julio Bermejo dreamt up this clean twist on a drink often muddled, in my humble opinion, by Cointreau or triple sec. Here is a recipe you can memorize for parties: 1 to 2 to 4. That’s one part agave nectar, two parts fresh-squeezed lime juice, and four parts 100 percent agave tequila, shaken until very cold and served with or without salt. It’s fantastic—light, bright, and sweet-tart—and just as tasty as that other dog days go-to, the daiquiri.
Recipe by Julio Bermejo of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant
½ oz. agave nectar
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 oz. 100% agave blanco tequila
Prepare a rocks or cocktail glass with a salt rim.
Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice until very cold. Fine-strain into a rocks glass over ice (if desired) or into a cocktail glass, neat. Serve.
The Tom Collins
I recently learned that my own grandfather was a Tom Collins man. It’s a comfort to know the predilection runs in the family. Oddly enough, the drink pairs beautifully with deviled eggs, so if you’re thinking about a slightly fancy picnic or potluck, do it up and serve both. Lemon juice, gin, simple syrup and soda water pave the way to glory here. Caution: This one sure goes down easy.
Recipe adapted from St. John Frizell and Fine Cooking
2 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup (2 oz.) London dry gin, such as Tanqueray
2 Tbsp. simple syrup (recipe below)
½ cup (4 oz.) soda water
One orange slice (optional, for garnish)
One maraschino or fresh cherry (optional, for garnish)
Shake lemon juice, gin, syrup, and four or five ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Strain over ice into a highball glass, top with the soda, and stir. Garnish with the orange slice and cherry.
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
In a small saucepan, mix the water and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Immediately remove from the heat and let cool.
Frozen Piña Colada
Don’t let these outrageously froofy concoctions be indulgences restricted to glam resorts. Make them for yourself when you’re in need of a treat, when you see that your partner needs something profoundly delicious (and ridiculous), or during long, luxurious, beachy afternoons. Do try to find a cherry with which to garnish the cocktail; it helps set the over-the-top mood. And buy extra pineapple and coconut puree so you can make virgin versions. (If children are in the vicinity, they will flip when they see you drinking what looks like the best milkshake ever.)
Recipe adapted from Jeff Bell and PDT and Food & Wine
5 oz. fresh lime juice
5 oz. fresh pineapple juice
3 oz. coconut water
15 oz. chilled white rum, preferably Caña Brava
6 oz. frozen coconut puree, such as Perfect Purée of Napa Valley
3 oz. cane syrup
4 pineapple wedges and 4 cocktail umbrellas (optional), for garnish
Mix lime juice, pineapple juice, and coconut water and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, about 4 hours. Transfer ice cubes to a blender. Add the rum, coconut puree and cane syrup and blend until smooth. Pour into 4 chilled double rocks glasses or large coupes and garnish the drinks with pineapple wedges and cocktail umbrellas.
Strawberry-Lemon Bourbon Punch
The love child of strawberry lemonade and a mint julep, this punch can dress up or down. It looks stunning in a cut-glass crystal punch bowl with a lemon-studded ice ring, but it’s just as popular when concocted right in the Newman’s lemonade container and lugged to a picnic. Strawberries and mint are optional with this one, but they do add a lovely springy touch.
Recipe by Alex Van Buren, courtesy of MyRecipes
10-15 cups store-bought lemonade (such as Newman’s Own), or to taste
2 lemons, thinly sliced
375 ml. good-quality bourbon, or to taste
¼ cup fresh mint, plus 2 Tbsp. for garnish (optional)
½ cup strawberries, hulled and sliced (optional)
Make Ice Ring: Fill a bundt pan or tube pan with approximately two inches of water, depending on the size of your punch bowl. (Make sure the resulting ring will fit bowl.) Add lemon slices and any additional edible garnishes, such as sliced strawberries or whole mint leaves, to float on top. Freeze for at least 6 hours, covered tightly with plastic wrap. When ready to serve punch, set pan, tin-side-down, in sheet tray of warm tap water until it is easy to invert and remove.
Make punch: Combine lemonade, bourbon, mint, and strawberries a large punch bowl. Stir well to mix. Adjust bourbon and lemonade to taste. Carefully set ice ring, lemons-side-up, in punch. Garnish with fresh mint, if desired. Serve.
Alex Van Buren—follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen—is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and content strategist who has written for The Washington Post, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Epicurious.