Summer’s top 10 cocktails — and where to sip them
The Aperol Spritz has been declared the official drink of the summer in the United States, thanks to its fizzy, bittersweet punch and a full-court press marketing campaign carried out by the brand’s owner, Campari.
It’s hard to argue with a spritz, but it’s only one of a number of essential hot-weather tipples to enjoy at home or when you travel.
Served at some of the world’s best watering holes — from Hemingway’s haunt in Paris to the beaches of Mustique — here are our 10 favorite summer cocktails:
It’s the drink that’s become omnipresent at musical festivals and summer weddings, riding the general wave of popularity for spritzes, valued for their thirst-quenching character, attractive hues and low-ABV drinkability.
Try it classic, with a 3:2:1 ratio of prosecco, Aperol and club soda, or as it’s served at landmark bitters bar Amor y Amargo (443 E. 6th St., New York 10009) in New York’s East Village, fortified with floral blanc vermouth.
Amor y Amargo’s AyA Aperol Spritz
1 ½ ounces Aperol
1 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
2 dashes Bittermens Orange Cream Citrate
Build in a Collins glass. Add ice to fill. Stir gently to chill. Insert spiral-handled bar spoon into the glass until it touches bottom. Gently pour seltzer down the handle to fill (this method ensures that carbonation will be evenly distributed). Garnish with an orange twist expressed over the drink and inserted.
The Pisco Sour is the most classic and quaffable South American cocktail, with a long, disputed history behind its creation. Who wouldn’t want to take credit for this lively mixture of tangy citrus and earthy pisco that practically dances across the tongue?
Our favorite version is served at the renowned pisco bar, Chipe Libre (José Victorino Lastarria 282, Santiago) in Santiago, Chile, which diplomatically serves both Peruvian and Chilean versions of the spirit.
Chipe Libre Pisco Sour
3 ounces pisco brandy
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
Combine ingredients in a mixing tin, fill with ice, shake hard and strain in a chilled glass.
Ramos Gin Fizz
There may not be a more texturally heavenly drink in the American mixological canon. This New Orleans classic dates back to the late 19th century, when its mix of cream, egg white, gin and citrus was so prized that inventor Henry C. Ramos hired rows of “shaker boys” to achieve maximum fluffiness in each cocktail.
Once you have one, you never forget it. The best versions are still made in New Orleans, like this one at the famous Sazerac Bar (130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans, 70112), which makes around 20,000 a year.
The Sazerac Bar Ramos Gin Fizz
1 ½ ounces Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
1 ounce simple syrup
3 dashes orange flower water
½ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce lime juice
1 ounce egg whites
2 ounces heavy cream
Add ice to chill a Collins glass. Set aside. In a shaker, add all ingredients with ice. Shake incredibly vigorously exactly 50 times. Dump ice out of the Collins glass and strain mixture in the glass from a distance to ensure froth. Top with club soda.
Said to be named after a World War I field gun used by Allied troops, it’s fitting that this drink is one of the mainstays of the Hôtel Ritz Paris’ Bar Hemingway (15 Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris): The author served in that war as an ambulance driver and penned a number of classic war novels.
Whatever you think of Papa’s terse prose, the French 75 — bright and bubbly, perfectly balanced between dry and sweet — is a quintessential aperitif on warm summer evenings.
Ritz Paris Bar Hemingway French 75
1 teaspoon sugar
Add sugar to a chilled tumbler. Fill glass a third of the way with gin, add a splash of lemon juice, and fill with chilled Brut Champagne. Stir to mix and dissolve the sugar.
This was the drink post-war America picked up to transport themselves out of conformist suburbia and into a tropical fantasia. Trader Vic’s — a tiki chain that flourished in the 1950s — was one of the best places to do that. Though it’s a matter of some dispute, the restaurant’s founder claimed to have invented the rich, fresh, fruit-infused drink in 1944.
Of the locations left open today, Tokyo’s Trader Vic’s (4-1 Kioi-Cho, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo) is a global destination for fans of Polynesian-inspired drinks, as it still employs the original recipes. If you can’t book a trip to Tokyo, here’s the next the best way to get your tiki on at home.
Trader Vic’s 1944 Mai Tai
Squeeze of half a lime
¼ ounce rock candy syrup
½ ounce orgeat syrup
¾ ounce orange curacao
2 ounces amber rum
Shake all ingredients with crushed ice and pour into a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with mint, the spent half-lime shell and a straw.
The Stack (Leinster Hall, 7 Weltevreden Street, Cape Town) is one of Cape Town, South Africa’s most talked-about bars, an ultra-chic, impeccably designed member’s club for the city’s creative class. Behind the bar, summer classics come in for expert modern rejiggering, like this house drink that’s an herbaceous take on the gin and tonic.
Rosemary gin and lavender syrup elevate the basic highball, calling to mind aromatic Provencal fields in August.
The Stack Cocktail
2 ounces rosemary gin
1/3 ounce lavender syrup
4 ounces Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water
¼ ounce red currant essence (homemade or store bought)
5-10 dried juniper berries
Put two sprigs of rosemary in your favorite bottle of gin and seal the bottle tightly. Put the bottle in your dishwasher for a single cycle (which significantly speeds up the infusion process). Leave the rosemary in the bottle overnight so that it sufficiently infuses. Remove the the rosemary after one day.
Build the drink over ice in a Collins glass minus the essence and give a brief stir. Put a sprig of rosemary in the palm of your hand and give it a smack, before adding it the drink along with juniper berries and essence.
What’s summer without a margarita? The saline bite of salt gets washed away by the lime-citrus sting and the cool, sweet earthy notes of tequila.
Perhaps the most famous and acclaimed version in the U.S. is served at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant (5929 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, 94121) in San Francisco — it may also be the simplest. Subbed in for Cointreau, agave syrup lends a rich mouthfeel and honeyed flavor. The perfect refresher after a day at the beach.
2 ounces blanco tequila
1 ounce lime juice
½ ounce agave nectar
Salt rim of old-fashioned glass if desired. Combine ingredients in shaker, fill with ice, shake hard and strain into glass over fresh ice.
Basil’s Bar on Mustique (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) is one of the world’s greatest beach bars. Situated on a Caribbean island, it’s a place where blues music floats out through the windows over the waves and where celebrity fans like Mick Jagger or Kate Middleton occasionally pop in for a drink.
The cocktails — like this Hurricane David, named after the storm — are strong as hell and expertly mixed.
Basil’s Bar’s Hurricane David
1 ounce strong white rum (Wray & Nephew brand if you can find it)
1 ounce vodka
1 ounce dark rum
½ ounce Kahlua
½ ounce lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup
Combine in a shaker with ice, shake hard, and serve in a rocks glass on ice with lime wedge and local Mustique floral garnish.
The Pimm’s Cup is the definitive summer drink of the Brits, thrown back by the rosy glassful since the middle of the 19th century. The refreshing highball is served at practically every posh event in England, from the Henley Royal Regatta to the Chelsea Flower Show, but it’s most inextricably tied to tennis’ Wimbledon tournament (The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Church Road, Wimbledon).
A Pimm’s Cup is also a wonderfully easy drink to assemble, especially after a trip to the farmer’s market, with the cool cucumber and bright strawberry highlighting the spirit’s aromatic botanical character. Here’s the official recipe as served in Wimbledon’s stands.
Wimbledon’s Pimm’s Cup
1 ½ ounces Pimm’s No.1
2 strawberry halves
2 orange wheels
2 cucumber slices
Sprig of mint
5 ounces lemonade
Fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Pour in the Pimm’s No.1. and lemonade. Add strawberries, orange and cucumber and stir. Top with a sprig of mint and serve with a paper straw.
Mexico City has become an international hot spot for cocktail culture, drawing on the region’s deep history of producing artisanal mezcals and tequilas. For a dose of old-school sophistication, head up to the St. Regis’ wood-paneled King Cole Bar (Paseo de la Reforma 439, Colonia Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City 06500).
The signature drink, Sangrita Maria, is a piquant but lighter-bodied take on a Bloody Mary, with mezcal and pasilla pepper supplying smoky depth. The ideal leisurely summer lunch cocktail.
St. Regis Mexico City King Cole Bar’s Sangrita Maria
¼ ounce chile pasilla purée
½ ounce mezcal
1 pinch black pepper
1 pinch salt
5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
5 dashes Maggi seasoning sauce
½ ounce lemon juice
8 ½ ounces cold tomato juice
1 lemon wedge, for garnish
For chile pasilla purée, blend a pasilla pepper with a little water. Mix all of the ingredients in a tall 12-ounce glass rimmed with agave salt. Garnish with the lemon wedge.