With warmer spring weather on its way, it’s now open season for backyard barbecues, lounging by the pool, or just sitting outside on your deck to watch the sunset.

 

Of course, the warmer weather calls for an updated bar menu, so here are 10 cocktails to get you started.

Your Summer Spirits

 

 

In general, for warmer weather and more refreshing drinks, you’ll want to stick to clear spirits. This doesn’t mean you can’t have brown spirits (dark rum, whiskey), but be aware of the downsides. Being out in the heat and sweating can already make you dehydrated, and drinking any alcohol without enough water can lead to hangovers. Darker spirits are more likely to provoke longer and more severe hangovers the next day.

 

Calorie-wise, there isn’t any significant difference between dark or clear liquors. The caloric content of any hard liquor is mainly a function of the liquor’s proof. Since 1 gram of alcohol contains 7 calories, the higher the proof, the higher the calorie content. If you’re watching calories for your diet, you’re better served by paying attention to your mixers, which usually are filled with sugar and empty calories.

The Standards

 

 

These are the tried-and-true drinks that we’ve all heard of. These are familiar to most people, require only a few ingredients, and are quick to make.

 

While they may not satisfy a curious mixologist, they can still provide a lot of refreshment for your lazy summer weekends.

Gin and Tonic

 

 

This drink can be made with almost any clear liquor if you don’t care for gin. Whichever liquor you choose, pick something that tastes good on its own. Since there isn’t much else going into this drink, a bottom-shelf liquor can make this drink suffer.

  • 1 to 3 parts gin (depending upon taste)
  • 3 parts tonic water
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 lime slice or wedge (for garnish)
  • Ice cubes (for extra points, make them out of tonic water)

 

 

Directions:

 

Fill a tall, narrow (preferably chilled) glass with ice cubes. Add the gin, then the tonic water, then the lime juice. Mix well. Garnish with the lime wedge, and serve.

Mojito

 

 

The mojito is one of the most famous rum-based mixed drinks around the world, and despite its relatively long ingredient list, it’s quite easy to make.

  • 2 oz. white rum
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. club soda
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 10 to 12 mint leaves (plus 2 to 4 small sprigs for garnish)
  • Ice cubes

 

 

Combine lime juice, sugar, and mint leaves in a tall 10-ounce glass (like a Collins glass) and muddle. Add half of the club soda, and stir for 10 seconds to partially dissolve sugar. Add ice cubes, rum, and remaining club soda. Stir again, then add the garnish and enjoy.

Mint Julep

 

 

If you’re getting mint for mojitos, why not use it to enjoy one of the most popular bourbon whiskey cocktails and the traditional cocktail of the Kentucky Derby?

  • 2.5 oz. bourbon whiskey
  • 1 or 2 tsp water (seltzer preferred)
  • 1 tsp powdered sugar
  • 5 to 10 mint leaves
  • Ice (crushed preferred)

 

 

Place the mint leaves in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, top with sugar, and muddle. Once the leaves have begun to break down, add half the water and the ice (fill glass ¾ full), then the bourbon, then top with the remaining water. You can also garnish with any remaining mint leaves.

Margarita

 

 

A classic cocktail for all, the restaurant versions can often be way too sweet. If you invest in a high-quality tequila, you can drastically lessen (or even eliminate) the need for any sort of sugar or sugary mixer.

 

If you don’t have a great tequila, use a half-ounce more lime juice and a half-ounce less triple sec. You may also add a ¼ to ½ ounce of simple syrup to each drink.

  • 2 oz. Blanco tequila
  • 2 oz. triple sec
  • 1 oz. lime juice (fresh squeezed)
  • 1 tbsp. coarse salt (optional, for the rim of the glass)
  • 1 lime wheel (for garnish)
  • Ice cubes

 

 

The directions for the drink itself couldn’t be simpler. Combine tequila, triple sec, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, shake (for 10 to 15 seconds), and then strain into a glass filled with ice cubes. Add garnish and serve.

 

For the salt-rimmed glass, rub the outer rim of the glass with lime juice (using a lime wedge makes it easy) and then dip the glass into the coarse salt.

Cosmopolitan

 

 

The Cosmopolitan is a classic cocktail that has exploded in popularity in the past quarter-century. The Cosmo recipes that you’ll find in restaurants are often overly sweet. This is a cocktail that is best enjoyed at home.

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • ¾ oz. triple sec
  • ½ oz. cranberry juice
  • ¼ to ½ oz. lime juice
  • 2-inch orange peel (for garnish)

 

 

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all the liquid ingredients and shake well (15 to 30 seconds) and strain into a martini glass. Garnish and serve.

Special Drinks

 

If you’re looking for something different than your average cocktail, this is the section for you. Some of these require less common ingredients or more elaborate preparation, but they may be just the thing for a summer backyard barbecue.

 

Greyhound (Salty Dog)

 

 

Although this is traditionally a gin drink, there are some who prefer vodka. With vodka, this drink tastes mostly of the grapefruit juice, while the gin version has more depth and complexity (if you like gin, of course). Although not an especially common drink, it’s simple to make and is bright and refreshing for sipping outside on a hot summer day. The Salty Dog is a variation on this drink with salt on the rim.

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 4 oz. grapefruit juice
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice (optional)
  • 1 spring of thyme (for garnish)
  • 1 tbsp. coarse salt (for a Salty Dog)
  • Ice cubes

 

 

Add gin and grapefruit juice (and lime juice, if used) to a tall 10-ounce glass filled ¾ with ice. Stir well, garnish (if desired) and serve. That’s it.

 

For the Salty Dog, simply wet the outside rim of the glass with either grapefruit juice, lime juice, or water and dip it in salt before you make the drink.

Dark and Stormy

 

 

Although most of these drinks use clear liquor, this one is an exception. The Dark and Stormy is made with dark rum, but don’t let that scare you away. It’s a great drink for sitting out on the porch and listening to a summer thunderstorm roll through. This is also the easiest drink to make since no real mixing is involved.

  • 2 oz. dark rum
  • 4 to 6 oz. ginger beer
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • Lime wheel (for garnish)
  • Ice cubes

 

 

Fill a tall 10-ounce glass ¾ of the way full with ice. Add the ingredients in this order: lime juice, ginger beer, dark rum. Garnish with a lime wedge if you like, and serve. While you can stir the ingredients, part of the appeal of this drink is its layered appearance, so it’s much easier to just serve it with a straw.

Paloma

 

 

Paloma is Spanish for “dove,” and while the margarita may be the most famous tequila-based cocktail, it’s not necessarily the best. While grapefruit soda may seem an odd combination in a cocktail, the citrus works great with tequila, and the carbonation gives this cocktail a wonderful effervescence.

  • 2 oz. Blanco tequila
  • 4 to 6 oz. grapefruit soda (Fresca, Jarritos, or Squirt are popular brands)
  • 1 tsp. lime juice (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. coarse salt (if desired)
  • Lime wheel (for garnish)
  • Ice cubes

 

 

Combine tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well (be careful of the soda’s carbonation), and pour into a tall 10-ounce glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.

 

If salt is desired, follow the same procedure used for the margarita.

Gold Rush

 

 

This is a variation on the Bee’s Knees cocktail, with the gin replaced by whiskey. Bourbon whiskey is preferred, but you can use anything. Since the honey syrup is quite sweet, a higher-proof alcohol helps to maintain balance in the cocktail.

  • 2 oz. whiskey
  • 1 oz. honey syrup
  • ¾ oz. lemon juice
  • Mint leaves (for garnish)
  • Ice cubes

 

 

To make the honey syrup, combine 1 cup of honey and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the honey is dissolved. Cool before using.

 

Combine the whiskey, honey syrup, and lemon juice in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake well and pour into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with the mint leaves, if desired.

Moscow Mule

 

 

Another cocktail with ginger beer, the Moscow Mule doesn’t hail from Russia. Like the Dark and Stormy, the ginger beer makes for a refreshing and unique cocktail.

  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 4 to 6 oz. ginger beer
  • ½ oz. lime juice
  • Lime wheel (for garnish)
  • Ice cubes

 

 

Fill a tall 10-ounce glass ¾ full with ice cubes. Add the vodka and ginger beer and stir a couple of times. Add the lime juice, stirring again, garnish, and serve.

 

If you’re trying to up your cocktail game, or just branching out from your mixed-drink rut, give some of these options a try. Like all cocktails, there are an almost infinite number of substitutions and variations that you can make on all these drinks, so be your own mixologist.