The 15 Absolute Best Cocktails For Summer

There is nothing quite like an ice-cold cocktail that beats the heat. Summertime brings lots of food and drinks out of hibernation for a few months, and cocktails are no different.

Seasonality definitely contributes to a great drink. A spicy Manhattan or warming hot toddy is a better fit for the cold months of winter, while easy-drinking, effervescent, fruit-forward drinks belong to June, July, and August. Also, summer means fewer spirit-forward drinks and more light and approachable ones that won't weigh you down. Bubbles, ice, and fruit tend to distinguish summer cocktails from the pack.

In the interest of not being stuck drinking the same cocktail over and over throughout the summer, here are some drinks that will keep you cool in addition to putting your entire home bar to good use. Some are familiar favorites and others maybe not, but all of them deserve to be in your cocktail rotation all summer long.

Aperol spritz

This cocktail really requires no introduction. The Aperol spritz has been a summer drink staple for nearly a century and it will continue to be one for years to come. This drink's simplicity, reliability, and refreshment make it a go-to cocktail order year-round.

The spritz is a category of cocktails consisting of a liqueur, a sparkling wine, such as prosecco, and a topping of soda water. Spritzes have been around far longer than the Aperol spritz, but it was not until 1919 when Aperol was invented by the Barbieri brothers. It was the 1950s when the bright, bittersweet liqueur made a real name for itself through this cocktail. Since then, it has been one of the most popular cocktails in Italy and Europe.

This drink is a classic because it is easy to make, it's delicious, and its lower alcohol content keeps it very light and approachable. It is also very customizable, so you can add as much Aperol, prosecco, or soda water as you like depending on how bitter, sweet, or effervescent you like it. Just be sure to remember the orange slice.


The mojito is another cocktail that has been around for quite a long time, dating all the way back to 16th-century Cuba. After British explorer Sir Francis Drake arrived in Cuba, his crew became ill and were made better by a mixture of sugar cane distillate referred to as "aguardiente de caña," mint leaves, pressed sugar cane juice, and lime juice. Of course, this was not called a mojito then, but this is the earliest known origin of the cocktail.

Today, a mojito is recognized as a highball consisting of white rum, sugar, lime juice, mint leaves, and soda water. It can be built directly into the glass with common, readily available ingredients that come together for a truly delectable, mind easing treat.

Mojitos are also very inexpensive to make. A decent white rum can be bought for a low cost, and the other ingredients can be bought at any grocery store. If you have never had a mojito, there is no better time to fix your very first one than a hot summer's day. It may become the only cocktail you drink for the rest of the season.

Tom Collins

The Tom Collins may have the most amusing origin story of any cocktail on this list. The drink came about as a prank over a century ago, where people would tell a friend that a man named Tom Collins was speaking ill of them at the bar. When the friend would go to the bar to confront the profane gossiper, he wouldn't be there. So the defendant would approach the bartender and ask if they had seen Tom Collins, to which the bartender would respond by presenting this cocktail.

The first published recipe of the Tom Collins lists the cocktail as its own category, with the type of spirit used to make it up to the drinker. Today, Tom Collins is recognized as a gin drink, the other ingredients being lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water.

If you are someone who claims to not like gin, this cocktail will surely change your mind. The herbaceous and floral botanicals of the gin are brightened by the fresh lemon juice, and the soda water makes the whole thing an even more effortless delight. Any prank that ends with this cocktail is one played out of love.


Although it is not a direct descendent, the paloma is essentially a Mexican version of a Tom Collins. The gin is swapped for tequila, the lemon juice for lime, and the soda water is replaced by an intensifying and vibrant grapefruit soda.

The origins of the paloma are uncertain, but many credit the cocktail to Don Javier Delgado Corona, a bartender and owner in Jalisco, Mexico. The popularization of the paloma in the U.S., though, came about after the drink was published in Evan Harrison's "Popular Cocktails of the Rio Grande" in 1953, in which Harrison allegedly stole the recipe from another supposed inventor of the drink, Manuel Gonzales.

Where the paloma came from exactly will likely remain unknown, but what is certain is the paloma is an excellent cocktail. Grapefruit soda is easier to find than one might think, but if you cannot seem to locate it, you can also make this drink with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and a topping of regular soda water. The paloma is sprightly and quenching, the perfect cocktail for when you want tequila and also something bubbly.

Negroni sbagliato

While most Negroni variations are carefully constructed, the Negroni sbagliato was created by accident. The cocktail is credited to Mirko Stochetto, who worked at Bar Basso in Milan in the 1970s. The story goes that a customer ordered a Negroni and Stochetto accidentally added prosecco to the Campari and sweet vermouth instead of gin. The customer enjoyed the new concoction, and the Negroni sbagliato, or "mistaken Negroni," caught on.

The traditional Negroni is a great cocktail year-round, but this bubbly rendition is a better fit for summer. This is because it has a lower alcohol content than a regular Negroni, which can sometimes be too boozy and stiff for a hot day. With the Negroni sbagliato, you get everything wonderful about the timeless combination of Campari and sweet vermouth combined with the dry sweetness and liveliness of the sparkling wine.

This cocktail is also a great introduction to Campari, which is intensely bitter. It is definitely an acquired taste, and while it is most popularly found in a classic Negroni, the Negroni sbagliato makes it more inviting, refreshing, and quaffable.

Pimm's Cup

The Pimm's Cup is another low-ABV cocktail that deserves to be in your cocktail repertoire throughout the summer. The drink is made with Pimm's No. 1, a gin-based fruit liqueur invented by James Pimm in England in the mid-1800s. The Pimm's Cup remains an immensely popular cocktail in England, and it even became the official drink of the Wimbledon tennis tournament in the 1970s.

The traditional Pimm's Cup is made by mixing together Pimm's No. 1 with lemonade and adding fresh strawberries, sliced cucumber, or mint. Many different versions of the Pimm's Cup have been made, one most commonly featuring lemon-lime soda instead of lemonade.

This is what makes the Pimm's Cup such a great drink. You can make it however you like. Different fruits add new layers of flavor, and an added ounce or so of gin can fortify this drink to your liking as well. You can also easily make a whole batch of a Pimm's Cup if you are entertaining a crowd. This fruity, charming libation is sure to make every type of drinker happy, refreshed, and satisfied.

Frozen margarita

Having a well-stocked home bar throughout the summer means you have quality booze ready to be mixed into delicious cocktails. But it also gives you an array of bartending tools that make drink-making easier and more enjoyable, and regarding summer cocktails, there is none more essential than the blender.

The margarita works as a frozen drink arguably better than any other cocktail. Grab your favorite tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and ice. Using store-bought margarita sour mix may be slightly more convenient, but the minimal task of pressing fresh juice and getting a bottle of triple sec makes for a far superior frozen margarita cocktail. Also, a small addition of agave nectar is a great way to enhance the character of the tequila so that it stands up better to the added dilution from the ice.

After a quick blend to crush up all of the ice and mix the ingredients together, the question then emerges of whether to sip straight from the glass, from a straw, or scoop the drink with a spoon, which truly could not be a better problem to have.

Hugo spritz

The spritz cocktail comes in many forms, including the ever-present and tantalizing Aperol spritz. However, the lesser-known Hugo spritz is actually one of the most commonly preferred spritzes in northeastern Italy, and it should definitely make its way to your front porch this summer.

The Hugo spritz was created in the South Tyrol region of Italy and did not become popular until the past few decades. It was invented by a bartender named Roland Gruber in 2005 and exploded in popularity throughout the Italian region and up into Austria and Germany.

This very simple cocktail consists of elderflower liqueur, fresh mint, sparkling wine, and soda. It would be difficult to find a better cocktail to indulge in when the sun bears down and all you want is an easy-sipping, straightforward alcoholic beverage. Hugo spritzes are botanically rich and bursting with floral character and bubbles, a delightful alternative to your typical spritzes. Elderflower liqueur, such as St. Germain, can easily be found at most liquor stores, so be sure to take your spritz game to another level with this drink come summertime.

Lemon drop

While the lemon drop martini is not actually a martini it is a delicious, puckering, citrus burst of a cocktail that is easy to make and a great way to say cool. The drink was invented sometime in the 1970s. The lemon drop was part of the range of drinks created by a bar called Henry Africa in San Francisco, but the identity of its creator remains unknown. The drinks at Henry Africa's were introduced specifically for single women, who ventured out to bars by themselves for the first time in the 1970s.

Drinks like the mudslide and grasshopper are others, but the lemon drop remains widely popular to this day. The cocktail was revitalized after Oprah Winfrey claimed it as her personal favorite cocktail in 2006.

Lemon drops are made by shaking vodka, triple sec, lemon juice, and simple syrup together and straining them into a sugar-rimmed glass. If you like more tart, citrusy cocktails like a daiquiri or gimlet, the lemon drop is definitely for you.

Piña colada

Even if you aren't able to travel to Hawaii or a Caribbean island this summer, there is no reason why you should not be able to bring tropical vibes to your own home. With a piña colada, you can accomplish exactly that.

Of all the tiki drinks out there, the piña colada reigns supreme. This iconic frozen treat is arguably credited to three different bartenders, each one claiming to be its rightful creator, but the drink was definitely created in Puerto Rico sometime between the 1950s and 1960s. The truth is, some combination of rum, coconut, and pineapple had probably been mixed many times prior, but there is no disputing that the piña colada is delicious.

Making piña coladas at home is much easier than you might think, and a batch of them is sure to bring a smile to the faces of yourself and any company you have over. All you need is coconut cream, fresh pineapple and pineapple juice, rum, and ice. Blend all that together and you have yourself the quintessential vacation beverage ready to be enjoyed, tiny umbrella optional.

Moscow mule

The origin story of the Moscow mule sounds less like the creation of a cocktail and more like the set-up for a joke. The drink came about by chance in a Los Angeles bar in 1941, when the new owner of Smirnoff, a man with a surplus of ginger beer, and a Russian immigrant with a full inventory of copper mugs met and combined each of their situations to make a new drink. It's safe to say that it ended up working out.

The Moscow mule, which consists of vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer served inside its iconic copper mug, is only the original version of the mule, which works with virtually any liquor you want. Whether it's a London mule with gin, a Kentucky mule with bourbon, or a Mexican mule with tequila, you really can't go wrong with this cocktail.

No matter how you fix yourself a mule this summer, doing so inside a copper mug will always make for a better experience. Copper acts as a natural temperature conductor, which helps to keep its contents colder for longer. Therefore, the ice inside will not dilute as quickly, and all of the complimentary flavors will stay fresh and potent throughout the drink's lifespan.


The bramble is one of the only modern classic cocktails on this list and is courtesy of legendary bartender Dick Bradsell. Bradsell came up with this gin-based drink out of inspiration to create a distinctly English cocktail. Essentially, the bramble is a gin sour without the egg white and with the addition of crème de mûre, or blackberry liqueur. In addition to being a tart, bittersweet, botanically rich cocktail, it's the aesthetic appeal of the bramble that makes it so memorable.

Bradsell originally made the drink with crushed ice, over which he poured the shaken combination of gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup followed by a drizzle of the crème de mûre at the end. This makes for a cascading effect of the liqueur that slowly makes its way to the bottom of the glass for a layered and enticing appearance.

The bramble is another drink that will turn any supposed gin hater into a gin lover. The crème de mûre naturally enhances the botanicals inside the gin as well as provides a rich sweetness to balance out the sharp lemon. This drink is simply a keeper.

Mint julep

Whiskey is often perceived as a winter spirit, but there is no reason why your bottles of whiskey, especially bourbon, can't be put to good use in the summer. The mint julep is not only one of the most simple bourbon cocktails that are best in the summer, but it is also one of the oldest cocktails around.

The mint julep is another drink that will forever be connected to a sporting event, this one the Kentucky Derby. The precise origins of the mint julep are unknown, but the first known record of the cocktail goes back to 1803. As time went on, the mint julep became known and solidified as a simple combination of bourbon, mint, and sugar.

Long-considered the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, an estimated 120,000 mint juleps are served every year at the event. They are served in julep tins, which essentially serve the same function that copper mugs do for mules. These are not required to make the drink, but they keep it ice cold and stiffen the dilution. The mint julep is one of the most simple cocktails out there, which is exactly what makes it so classic.

Whiskey smash

The whiskey smash is another very simple cocktail that is quite reminiscent of a mint julep, but whiskey smashes also include lemon juice and are shaken. Jerry Thomas likened the two to each other in his 1862 book, "How to Mix Drinks," but the official definition of a smash came about in 1888 in a book by Harry Johnson, whose recipe also calls for seasonal fruit.

This is what makes the whiskey smash such a special and versatile cocktail, especially for the summer months. You can add pretty much anything you want to a whiskey smash, such as in-season peaches, berries, and any other fruits you like. Whatever you choose is muddled together with sugar syrup, lemon wedges, mint, and your preferred whiskey, shaken together, and poured over ice.

Traditional whiskey smashes are dirty dumped, meaning they are not strained into the serving glass, but if you want to avoid any bitter lemon pith, seeds, or tiny bits of mint, a double strain is the best practice. No matter what ends up becoming your preferred whiskey smash, this cocktail will be a reliable one all summer long.

Frozen Negroni

Despite the countless variations on the Negroni, the original is a perfectly balanced classic that will always be best in its original form. However, there is a great way to reimagine the Negroni for summertime in addition to the Negroni sbaglaito, and that is the frozen Negroni.

One might assume that this simply means adding the equal parts combination of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth to a blender with ice and blending, but bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler made the concept even better. To account for the less controllable dilution from blending, Morgenthaler added simple syrup to help retain the character of the booze and fresh orange juice to enhance them. After all, there is a reason Negronis are always garnished with an orange twist.

The frozen Negroni, or frogroni, is the Negroni variation you did not think you needed but is already right in front of you. If you are keen on keeping your home bar well-stocked, you probably have all of the necessary ingredients to make one already.