Here are the best summer cocktails to try, from classic cocktails to frozen drinks to mixers with gin and vodka. Let summer drink season begin!
When it’s summer, there’s nothing better than a fruity, herby or frozen drink in hand! There’s a great variety of summer cocktails that play on the flavors of summer: sweet watermelon and juicy peaches, herbaceous mint and basil, and bright berries. Even better: icy summer drinks are the perfect way to beat the heat.
Here are all the best summer cocktails to try! We’ve got classics like the minty Mojito and the tangy margarita, and frozen drinks like daiquiris and pina coladas. There’s also gin and vodka cocktails, and fun fruity spins like watermelon cocktails and peach margaritas. Really: we want to drink them all.
Bubbly, citrusy, herbal, subtly bitter and lightly sweet…the Aperol spritz is a classic summer sipper! This drink is renowned the world over, reaching max popularity in the 2000’s. But did you know it’s actually a classic cocktail from the 1950’s? This Italian cocktail has been capturing hearts and minds for years. And it’s absolutely worth the hype.
What could be a better signature summer cocktail than the piña colada? This recipe is the perfect blend of pineapple, lime, coconut and rum. It takes only a few minutes to blend up with only 5 ingredients (plus ice).
This bubbly and fruity Vodka Spritzer is the quintessential summer drink! It’s just sweet enough with a subtle berry flavor: tangy, refreshing and sparkling all at once. Cranberry juice makes the brilliant red color, but it’s 100% juice so it’s tart and crisp instead of saccharine. It makes for the most satisfying party drink that you won’t want to end!
Another signature summer drink: sangria! There’s not much better than a fruity glass of classic red sangria. Sangria is easily done wrong here in the US, loading it with sugar or ginger ale. But the classic Spanish way to make it is all about nuanced flavor. It’s bold, it’s fruity, and the perfect balance of dry and sweet.
Here's a drink that screams summer cocktail: the tequila sunrise! It’s beautiful and vibrant, with layered colors of a summer sunset. Even better: it’s so easy to make! All you need is 3 ingredients: and no special techniques or equipment. The flavor is refreshingly sweet, with just a hint of tequila. Try it with our homemade grenadine!
This variation on the Gin & Tonic is less about the booze and more about citrusy bubbles. Gin is botanical and booze forward, but vodka melds right into the tonic water. It makes for a refreshing drink where you might not be able to taste the liquor at all (so beware!).
Here’s a summer cocktail you 100% must try ASAP. A rose spritzer! This is the perfect way to make a no-fuss summer drink that’s full of refreshing bubbles. This Austrian-born drink is one of the most refreshing on the planet. Enjoy a rose spritzer over happy hour, for an afternoon on the patio, next to the pool, or while smelling the charcoal at a grilled dinner party.
If there’s a cocktail that embodies the word refreshing, this is it. Meet the Lillet spritz! This spritz recipe is light and bubbly, tart and citrusy, and it couldn’t be easier to make. The star? Lillet Blanc, a subtly floral fortified wine that is an absolute must in your fridge! Mix it up with some bubbles, lemon and gin, and you’ve got a breezy light cocktail that has summer written all over it.
This icy strawberry daiquiri is the perfect summer drink! This homemade recipe is loads better than a daiquiri mix from the store! Even better: it's got a lime daiquiri layer as the garnish, which makes it look even more festive.
The best summer cocktails are made with watermelon! This Watermelon Martini features sweet melon with vodka and tangy lime. It’s seriously refreshing, and that little watermelon wedge garnish? To die for.
The best summer cocktails are made with watermelon! This gin cocktail features sweet melon with hints of botanical gin and tangy lemon. It’s seriously refreshing, and that little watermelon wedge garnish? To die for.
The classic Whiskey Highball is bubbly and perfect for summer! This two-ingredient cocktail originated around the turn of the 20th century and it’s still popular to this day. Why? It’s refreshing and so easy to make: no cocktail shakers or fancy ingredients required!
Want an easy and refreshing summer cocktail? Enter: the Bay Breeze! Also called the Hawaiian Sea Breeze, it has a vivid color and sweet tart flavor. It features the tropical taste of pineapple with vodka and cranberry juice, and has a carefree and beachy vibe.
Here's a classic cocktail that’s perfect for summer: the Americano! It’s the original inspiration for the Negroni and tastes even better, in our opinion. It’s bitter, complex and bubbly all at once! Starring Campari and vermouth, it’s both sophisticated and carefree at the same time.
What's a list of summer drinks without frosé? Frose is a mashup between a frozen cocktail and that quintessential summery pink wine. Most froze recipes are sickly sweet. But this one tastes just sweet enough and is full-flavored from the rose. Truly the best way to beat the heat!
Ranch Water is the unofficial drink of West Texas, essentially a tequila highball made with lime juice and Topo Chico. One of our dearest friends, a Texan, suggested we try this drink…and after one sip it blew us away! It’s like a bubbly, lighter version of the classic margarita, with all the tangy lime but less sweetness and booze.
Want a summer vodka cocktail? Try the Sea Breeze! This cranberry grapefruit cooler is laid-back, tart and refreshing. It tastes just like its name: light, breezy, and all about no-frills vibes. It's also seriously easy to make: it's just got three ingredients.
Who can turn down a frozen margarita? Meet your new summer entertaining trick: it's seriously tangy, a little bit sweet, and tastes just like a margarita. For a festive touch, garnish the glass with colorful Margarita Salt.
Want a citrusy cocktail with a salted rim that’s not a margarita? Enter, the Salty Dog! This summer gin cocktail’s got a unique name and a beautiful pale pink color. It’s got a light summery vibe (though it also works in winter when citrus abounds!).
Here’s a light and refreshing drink that’s vying for best summer cocktail: the St Germain Spritz! It’s floral and bubbly, full of lightly sweet flavor and effervescence. It’s easy to drink, perfect for poolside sipping, brunch, or with an afternoon book. Oh: and it takes 3 minutes.
Move over, classic gimlet! This basil gimlet is where it’s at! It's the perfect summer gin cocktail for when you have a full bush of fresh basil. This refreshing drink features lime juice, gin, and muddled basil, which gives it a fresh peppery essence.
The Madras is another perfect summer cocktail! Similar to the Sea Breeze, this vibrant vodka cocktail is zingy and refreshing, featuring cranberry juice for tartness and color. It takes no time at all to make: just mix it right in the glass and serve on ice!
Cousin of the classic margarita, this easy Mexican cocktail recipe features tequila with grapefruit instead of lime! It's got the perfect summery vibe, and is a nice change-up from the margarita. It's a simple drink that’s sweet tart and refreshing.
The smash is a perfect summer drink! This bourbon smash (or whiskey smash) is a classic sour cocktail that’s tangy and refreshing, featuring lemon juice and mint. It’s like a citrus spin on the mint julep! Or a minty spin on the whiskey sour.
Here's a summer cocktail that’s bubbly and flavored with pure lemon: the Limoncello Spritz! Limoncello is an Italian liqueur that’s often sipped for after-dinner shots…but we’ve taken to making cocktails with it! This ultra strong lemon liquor is at its best in mixed drinks. This spin on the Aperol spritz is full of bright lemon flavor and even better than the original, we think. It’s bubbly and effervescent, with a searing citrus bite.
Perhaps the perfect frozen summer cocktail is frozen sangria! This variation on the traditional Spanish wine punch is frozen like a slushie. It's sure to be a favorite: red wine-forward and just sweet enough, with a hint of citrus.
The classic daiquiri is one of the easiest drinks there is! The 1920's style daiquiri is actually not frozen but served in a coupe glass. Rum cocktails are perfect for summer, and this one is simple to make and ultra refreshing!
Fruity spins on the margarita are fitting for summer cocktails: as is this mango margarita! This sunny spin on the classic is icy and creamy, with an underlying mango essence. It’s sweet, it’s zingy, and against the bite of the salt: it goes down pretty easy.
Here's a perfect summer vodka cocktail: the vodka smash! Tangy and refreshing, it features muddled blackberries, mint, and lime. It's sweet tart with a bit of back-end booziness from the vodka, though it’s not too strong. Basically: these go down easy — so beware!
Something about a mule screams summer cocktail, doesn't it? It's fizzy, it’s tangy, it looks festive, and it goes down easy. What could be better than a classic Moscow mule? With only 3 ingredients and 3 minutes required, it’s perfect to serve for entertaining: or a lazy evening on the patio.
Here's a summer gin cocktail that's bubbly and refreshing: a Southside fizz! A cousin of the Southside Cocktail, this gin cocktail features bright citrus, herbaceous mint, and fizzy soda water. It’s tart and fizzy: essentially a Tom Collins plus a Mojito!
Here’s a refreshingly tart summer drink: the Greyhound cocktail! It’s citrusy and light, perfect as a brunch drink or for sipping at happy hour. It feels light and beachy for summer (though it works when citrus abounds in winter, too).
One last summer spin on the margarita cocktail: the strawberry margarita! This one is icy and fruity, full of berry flavor but perfectly complimented with tangy lime and the bite of tequila. It's made in a blender so it's more like a frozen margarita: great for summer dipping.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.