Photo: Yulia_Davidovich, Getty Images.
The hazy, humid, sunny days of summer are upon us. Some of you are lucky enough to have summers off (we’re looking at you, teachers) and others just need a break after a long day at the office. One of the best ways to spend a relaxing summer evening is by enjoying a cocktail or two (or three). But in a world full of summer drinks, how do you pick the one that is right for you? Well, that’s where bartenders come in. They spend their days mixing up cocktails, so they know what people are sipping on this summer. We asked 13 of ’em for their summer drinking picks.
Rory Snipes, general manager and partner at Soca in L.A.
“I know this is the season of frozen drinks, but most of the time I still prefer a summer cocktail that can be consumed in icy gulps. For me, Spanish-style gin and tonics are perfect for warm weather – lots of ice, great aromatics, and super refreshing.”
Hoang Nguyen, beverage director at Connie and Ted’s in L.A.
“This summer’s drink is the Mexican Michelada. I like a version that features German Gose Beer – which includes spices and seasonings such as coriander and salt – against the backdrop of refreshing melon rind. We dash in American hot sauce, liquid tomato, and Worcestershire for a tangy, thirst quenching beverage that’s perfect for the summer heat.”
Billy Nichols, bar manager at Faun in NYC
“Definitely seeing a rise in popularity of frozen drink machines. I love them. They are fun and can be as high or low concept as the bar wants them to be.”
Kim Stodel, beverage director at Providence in L.A.
“Zero-waste cocktails featuring re-purposed fresh summer produce as well as kombucha cocktails are hot right now. Everything from grape skins to aprium (a hybrid of plums and apricots), charred tomato, and strawberry-rhubarb scraps are making their way into delicious, refreshing cocktails. I’ve also seen people spike their home-brewed kombucha with gin.”
Caroline Blundell, manager at Plan Check in Santa Monica
“Slushie machines aren’t just a thing of the past anymore. Last summer, frozen rosé was a huge hit. This year, bartenders everywhere are upping it a notch by freezing our favorite classic cocktails. One of my favorites is a frozen Aperol Spritz; throw prosecco and Aperol into a slushie machine, and let it ice down. Garnish with a slice of lemon or orange, and you have the perfect afternoon refresher on a hot summer L.A. day.”
Morgan Zuch, corporate beverage director for Datz in Tampa, Florida
“My favorite summer cocktail trend by far is the Frose! Frozen wine slushies and cocktails are super hot right now just like the Florida heat. We offer this refreshingly tart beverage at Datz made with a Rose from Provence and it is a perfect pair with any cuisine. Our recipe has flavors of fresh citrus, peach, strawberry, and prickly pear and is light enough to have seconds or even thirds.”
Josh Holliday, beverage director at 50 Eggs Inc. in Miami
“Summertime means amazing fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, so my favorite summer trend is utilizing these amazing and fresh seasonal flavors. The hot weather is the perfect excuse to trade in your Manhattan for a cocktail that features what the season has to offer.”
Tim Hagney, bar manager at Maven in San Francisco
“In summer, I typically prefer low ABV bubbly cocktails like The Americano and our Maven Sebastian Spritz cocktail. The Sebastian Spritz combines house made vermouth, using Muscadet as a base, with saffron chamomile and vanilla that’s been fortified with Armagnac and sherry. We then charge with a mix of CO2 and Np2 for effervescence.”
Brendan Mercure, bar manager at Pagu in Cambridge, Massachusetts
“Our philosophy at PAGU with cocktails is very similar to our culinary approach. We love to highlight the flavors of the season and use local ingredients. The window for produce in New England is very fleeting so we take full advantage of the summer months! We currently have a drink called the Semester Off, in homage of the college academic history of Boston and Cambridge. We infuse London dry gin with Thai basil and pink peppercorns. We then make a gin-and-tonic variation with this infusion, fresh lemon juice, strawberry purée, and artisanal tonic water. It’s a great summer sipper for the patio season!”
Jeremy Allen, lead bartender and general manager at MiniBar in L.A.
“Cold red wine, cans of sangria, and more bubbles in cocktails. For example, people are rediscovering the French 75. At MiniBar, our version is made with a local gin distilled from clementines (hence us naming it Darling 49), our own jujube bitters and pink prosecco. Another top seller this July has been our Queen Bee Spritz, made with sparkling Moscato spiked with bourbon and Campari on ice with mint.”
Cameron Dodge-White, lead bartender and general manager at Little Dom’s in L.A.
“I’m most excited to see the use of fortified wine products and amaro taking center stage. Vermouth and sherry (especially fino) being the driving components of cocktails is great for the industry and our guests. Lots of people have had an aversion to vermouth, missing out on an incredibly varied and fun category. Currently, I have a cocktail on Little Dom’s menu that is inspired by the classic Italian drink Sbagliato using vermouth and amaro ramazotti with prosecco, making for a layered but refreshing sip that is perfect for drinkers who want something playful and bubbly but don’t want an overly sweet profile. It’s accessible while being different from most cocktails the average drinker might have encountered, and gives barkeeps the opportunity to be guides and teachers in getting guests excited about new-to-them products and the possibilities of those items.”
Matthew Horsley, director of food and beverage at BackYard at Waller Creek in Austin, Texas
“It has to be the use of creative shrubs (drinking vinegars) in drinks. Shrubs are a great way of getting a balanced, crisp tasting drink that would be too sweet if a syrup was used in its place. While they have enjoyed a recent revival, the use of shrubs in drinks date back to Babylonian times, where the word ‘shrub’ originates. At BackYard, we have the Gin’s In made with Dripping Springs artisan gin, strawberry and white balsamic shrub, rhubarb bitters, and cucumber peel. This drink is a personal favorite of mine. Strawberry and balsamic is a tried and tested flavor profile, and the addition of rhubarb bitters rounds this drink out perfectly.”
Jason Stevens, director of beverage and bars at La Corsha Hospitality Group in Austin, Texas
“I’ve loved watching the trend of quality frozen cocktails gain steam this summer. Even a year or two back, the vast majority of frozen drinks offered in Austin were a cheap tequila and sour mix. Now, bars are beginning to embrace fresh and inventive frozen drinks, and we’re seeing a lot of fun and delicious options pop up around town.