Get that half drunk bottle of Bailey’s off your bar cart ASAP!
For those that enjoy making a nice summer cocktail after work or mixing up unique drinks with friends on the weekends, it’s essential to get the bar cart in order. Any heavy liquor like Bourbon should head to the back, and if there’s a peppermint flavored spirit …. well, just hide it away completely. Nothing kills the inspiration to make a unique summer cocktail like thinking of warming up with a winter drink.
Summer is the season to dive into clear-colored liquors such as vodka, gin, and blanco tequilas, along with all of the flavored varieties you can find at the liquor store. A summer cocktail made with cucumber or grapefruit vodka can taste more flavorful and unique than a plain vodka in the same drink. Plus, these bottles look pretty good on the bar cart. Bring them forward in your arrangement of barware so you use them up before the fall.
It’s also the time of year to try out different gins in your G & T and white rums made with cane sugar. However, don’t disregard the spiced variety! Many tropical rum drinks include both light and dark rum liquors with rich flavor that add depth and strength to the recipe, and pair well with pineapple, mango, and coconut flavors. And speaking of coconut, be ready for Piña Coladas and other tiki drinks with a few cans of Coco López, Grenadine syrup, and lime juice. Add a little jar full of umbrellas or a big bouquet of flowers and your bar cart will be ready AND give you inspiration to try out your bartending skills.
Summer is the season for botanical and fruit-forward cocktails — here are some of the staple spirits that everyone should include on their bar cart for a season of refreshing drinks …
STOCK YOUR BAR CART
Before mixing up a batch of summer cocktails, it’s important to have the bar cart armed and ready. It’s also the perfect time to try botanically-inspired and fruity flavored liquors! So head to your local liquor store, or browse online, and discover fun finds for your seasonal-inspired bar cart.
Even the biggest whiskey fanatic may be tempted to leave a dark-aged liquor off the shopping list, but believe it or not, Scotch and whiskey still have a place on your bar cart in the summer. That’s because drinks like Whiskey Sours, Jameson and Gingers, and even tropical whiskey drinks are best enjoyed when the weather is warm. Monkey Shoulder is exactly what your bar cart needs to accomplish summer cocktails made with blended Scotch. This liquor is full of flavor, but light enough to complement almost any mixer. Try the Monkey Colada, an aged-spirit lover’s perfect ode to the classic Piña Colada. You can also make a Rusty Nail (a sweet honey-like drink) when you stir Monkey Shoulder with Drambuie.
Speaking of tropical drinks, there’s no better summer base for your bar cart than a classic white rum. Plantation 3 Stars delivers with this traditional white rum that’s practically made for Mojitos, Hurricanes, Daiquiris, and Mai Tais. It’s an award-winning rum recognized for its natural sweetness and interesting flavors. Bring it to the neighbor’s pool party or throw a tiki-themed get together with friends and break out this award-winning bottle of rum. When a dark rum is called for, Bacardi 8 is an exceptional option aged for eight years and can be found for less than $40 a bottle.
Hold the tonic — if you thought gin couldn’t be enjoyed alone on the rocks, think again. This gin from California features layers of traditional botanicals like juniper berries and fir tree, with tasting notes of mint, almonds, and sea kelp. The result? A smooth and delicious summertime beverage that tastes different from any other gin on the market. If you lean sweet over savory and if a G & T is your go-to drink, then this liquor will take it to a whole new level. Pair with a quality tonic and a squeeze of lime for a truly perfect summer beverage.
If Ryan Reynolds puts his face on it, it must be good — right? Right. The actor invested in Aviation Gin in 2018, and people can’t stop raving about this summertime and year-round spirit. Aviation is regularly talked up as one of the best gins on the market, because of its balanced flavor profile including cardamon and French lavender, making it the perfect bar cart staple for all gin drinks. For a quality gin cocktail, you need high-quality gin, and Aviation Gin fits the bill perfectly without breaking the bank. To start, try Aviation Gin in the classic Aviation cocktail (it’s only fitting) — an upscale martini-like beverage that works year round, including in the summertime.
Be cool as a cucumber. Unlike a good G & T, cucumber drinks are not a year-round beverage, but they are perfect for after-work happy hours and drinking poolside on the weekends. However, it can be tricky finding a flavored cucumber vodka that doesn’t taste sickly sweet when the point of these cocktails is that they taste pure and refreshing. Lucky for us, Square One has a flavored vodka made for cucumber cocktail connoisseurs! Try a twist on your traditional Vodka Lemonade by using a flavored vodka instead, make a Cucumber Collins, or keep it simple and mix in club soda with some sprigs of mint.
When it comes to easy summer cocktails, nothing beats Tito’s Vodka out of Austin, Texas. It’s certified gluten-free and works with any juice or mixer. Plus, it’s more affordable than other quality vodkas on the market with the same smooth flavor that more expensive vodkas have. Browse the Tito’s website for some surprising cocktail variations like Tito’s Spicy Watermelon cocktail, the Tito’s Summer Breeze, and the Tito’s Berry Sparkler which is pretty much perfect for the Fourth of July. While this liquor isn’t the fanciest bottle to add to your bar cart, it will probably be the one you need to replenish the most due to its versatility and its affordability.
It’s not easy finding a reasonably priced tequila that works in just about anything, but Casamigo Tequila is exactly what every bar cart needs. With heavy vanilla notes, this tequila is definitely on the sweeter side, which makes it perfect in margaritas and other mixed drinks. Use it in tequila-based staples like a Paloma, Tequila Sunrise, and Spicy Margarita, or do a riff off rum drinks like this Casa Blanco Mojito. It’s also a “smoother” shot than most at this price point so get the salt and lime slice ready — good times are guaranteed.
What’s the difference between a blanco, reposado, and añejo tequila? Age. Blanco isn’t aged at all, reposado is aged less than a year, and añejo is aged 1-4 years. This particular añejo from Don Julio is aged 18 months, and is perfect in a tasting glass or on the rocks as an after-dinner drink. Like other añejos, it’s deep in caramel color and aged in oak barrels for a rich tasting experience. If you like whiskey, bourbon, and other barrel-aged drinks, this añejo might be your new nightcap for summer, and will impress any tequila aficionado that comes over to your house.After work, it’s spritz o’clock! All you need is this liqueur, bubbly wine, and club soda (orange slices and olives are optional) to make this Italian apéritif. Since it’s lower ABV than other popular summer drinks, this is the cocktail made for day drinking, pool parties, and after-work happy hours. You can find a lot of variations online, but we recommend keeping it simple. Fill a big wine glass or highball glass with ice cubes, pour in some Aperol, top with bubbly dry wine, finish off with club soda, and enjoy!
Erin Hooker is a writer with experience creating wine, food, and interior design content. She began contributing to Graham + Fisk’s blog in 2021.