32 Summer Drink Ideas from Seattle Bartenders

Seattle's best shakers talk warm-weather imbibing
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As the calendar told us not long ago, summer is officially here, which means that summer drinking is in full swing – or should be soon. But what to sip during the sunnier months? Because no one would know better, we’ve asked some of our favorite Seattle bartenders four questions about summer drinks and drinking:

What makes a good summer drink?

What drinks will you be serving most this summer, and why?

What drinks will you be drinking most yourself this summer?

What’s your favorite drinking season and why?

Laura Bishop, Liberty

1. A good summer drink can be a few different things. Bright and citrusy cocktails do well as do drinks with a spicy little kick. The best, though, are the kind of drinks that are so refreshing they make you want to fill a pint glass with it and sit on a sunny porch and sip all day.

2. I'll for sure be serving a bit of the more classic summer cocktails like Pimm's cups, Moscow mules, margaritas, tiki's, juleps and so on. I always say that classics are classics for a reason. I'll also be serving quite a few Liberty original cocktails off of our new summer menu. Our staff has put together an impressive list of house drinks that are sure to appeal to Seattle's discerning palate. Including the Foxfire, with Suerte tequila, prickly pear purée, fresh lemon juice, and house made burnt honey and wildflower syrup with an IPA float.

3. Definitely rosé all day! Make it sparkling! I'll be having the occasional Smith and Cross daiquiri for sure, and agave lends itself well in hot weather. Give me a nice shot of Suerte, Tequila Ocho, or a new and exciting mezcal, and I'm real happy.

4. I'm going to have to go with summer. I mean, nothing beats an ice cold citrusy something or other on a hot summer day. Also, there are way more opportunities to light cocktails on fire with all of the tiki's going on, and who doesn't love that?

 

Michael Cadden, Meet the Moon

1. So summer drinking to me means a longer leisurely session of relaxing and sipping on a cocktail. With that it needs to be lite and refreshing, and not to potent. Something with a citrus and sweet balance, interesting spirit and maybe a sub flavor from a bitter or tincture. Balanced and delicious of course. You want to be able to have a few without the fear of a killer hangover the next day.

2. I serve everything still, just because it’s summer, I don’t ban Old Fashioned drinkers. That reflects in our menu as well, but people do tend to go for a lighter drink in in the summer. Our sparkling rose sangria is the perfect day drink. A nice Blanc vermouth balanced with citrus and guava topped with a sparkling rose cava. Using a good vermouth keeps the ABV strength down, add a little gin if you really need the party to get started.

3. I have a batch of prickly pear shrub I made. Some tequila or mezcal mixed in with insure my hammock in the back yard will get plenty of use!

4. Always the switching of the seasons, I love the anticipation of something I haven’t had in a while. Summer’s great because we get so many fresh things here in the Northwest for cocktails! If you’re drinking “fresh” strawberry margaritas in January, stop! Use a nice local strawberry liquor or fresh cranberries. Even if that strawberry looks good in your supermarket, it’s not very flavorful, being hot house grown or shipped and stored from a thousand miles away. Enjoy the seasonality of drinking, switch it up and go outside your comfort zone. You might be pleasantly surprised.

 

Elias Shyne, Heartwood Provisions 

1. I gravitate toward drinks that are bitter, bubbly, and low in alcohol.  Americano style cocktails (amari, vermouth, soda) are delicious.  Beer on a hot day is the best, especially a style that is sessionable and refreshing like a Gose.

2. I sure do love making daiquiris and negronis.  There is so much variation within just those two styles of cocktails alone that I feel you could make something that would be able to satisfy almost any palate.

3. Definitely all of the above.

4. Summer and the holiday season for sure.  They’re the seasons that brings the most people together.

 

Casey Robison, Barrio

1. For me personally, something cooling and long. Refreshing, either citrusy or carbonated. Anything from a gin & tonic to a Michelada, and many other drinks in between.

2. I just got a slushy machine at Barrio. So lots of frozen margaritas. But good ones using high quality spirits and liqueurs. And as always, our Micheladas will be popular this summer. We’re also going to be doing a Paloma with Stiegl Radler grapefruit beer instead of grapefruit soda.

3. Micheladas, rose and mezcal. Probably not at the same time, but who knows!

4. My favorite drinking season is whatever season it happens to be. I’m an equal opportunity imbiber.

 

Cara Stuber, Bar Noroeste 

1. I think fresh, summer fruits make great summer drinks, especially if you add a little spice to it to you get that sweet/spicy/boozy taste over ice, it makes me just want to sit out on the patio and keep the drinks coming!

2. Besides our tasty margaritas, and we always have some fresh seasonal fruit purees to add to them, we have been going through a lot of our sangria since adding that to the menu. Lots of fresh fruit, rum and wine. We have red sangria at the moment and are moving on to our white sangria next with nectarines, peaches, plums, orange and raspberries.  We are definitely going to be getting out our sno-cone machine though, and get started on some great drinks with that as the weather gets warmer and warmer!

3. I will definitely be drinking those boozy sno-cone cocktails, or some Great State milkshakes and a mezcal shot, or mezcal inside my milkshake. :)

4. My favorite drinking season is pretty much every season, but if I had to choose one I would probably say Fall/Winter.  I love my bourbons and I love how such a tasty drink can warm your belly when you come in from the cold.  I also love the vast amount of bourbon cocktails you see on every bar menu and love trying them all out.

 

Nick Barkalow, Brimmer & Heeltap

1. Everyone says a good summer drink should be refreshing, which is too broad of a word. To me a good summer drink usually involves citrus, and maybe a few more ingredients than a booze forward, colder weather drink. Summer is a good time to experiment with new combinations.

2. This summer is looking to be perfect patio weather, and at Brimmer & Heeltap we have a badass patio, so I’ll be serving some of the new cocktails I’ve been working on this spring, including the Porch Reviver, which is a Mezcal take on the Corpse Reviver. I will also be serving a new drink called Market Champs, which is a bourbon take on the classic Champs-Elysées. My summer menu reflects what I would want to drink if I was sitting on the patio enjoying our famous steak tartare or our incredible duck fried rice. One such drink is the Jungle Grouse, which is a scotch and dark rum cocktail with Campari, lime, Drambuie, and pineapple.

3. During the summer I usually alternate between two of my favorite classics: a Last Word and The Aviation. Both are well balanced with citrus, sweetness, flavor, and botanicals. I also love a good margarita (no salt!) or a beer and some mezcal.

4. My favorite drinking season is summer because it involves a new space which changes the drink, the food, and the way you interact with others. I love the way a good patio can make any night worth remembering and the way the outdoors bleed indoors.

 

Connor O’Brien, Sun Liquor Lounge and Sitka & Spruce

1. I feel like a good summer drink shouldn't be too boozy or too sweet or too insipid.  A lot of sugar seems to cut the cooling properties you're looking for – a lot of so-called "tropical drinks" leave me feeling like I need to chug soda water and brush my teeth; and drinking something light on flavor like, say, vodka-sodas, in the sun, well, they're gonna go down real easy, you're gonna get all loopy, and it's gonna be a very short croquet game/day at the beach.  So I guess what you want is that word craft bartenders and home cocktail practitioners seem to have repeated into oblivion: balance  Between proof, flavor and refreshment.  Oh, and ease of deployment – obviously there is much more latitude when a professional is mixing your drink for you, but I appreciate summer drinks that are above all unfussy.

2. At work I'm sure it will be rosé all day, every day, until all the rosé is gone.  Sparkling rosé, still rosé.  Rosé, rosé, rosé.  Which is great, as good rosé is a lovely thing, and I love drinking seasonally.  It's just funny how trends work – I feel like 10 years you couldn't give it away to people, and then on Saturday at Sun I sold almost all the stock we had to a crowd I doubt would categorize themselves as wine people. Other than that, the usual suspects: Moscow mules, margaritas, anything-and-grapefruits.  I'd always like to sell people more Palomas, more of the classic Daiquiri variations from the Floridita hotel, and more Jasmines and variations thereof, that's one I guess I like to play with a bit.

3. Personally I will always enjoy the simple dignity of a Tom Collins. I still favor the recipe from "The Fine Art Of Mixing Drinks" by David Embury, who wrote, "This is a long drink, to be consumed slowly and with reverence and meditation" – a statement with which I wholeheartedly agree.  I make a large drink – as per his suggestion – so I can meditate more deeply.  Take a 14 oz Collins glass (look, you can use a pint glass, but the drink has a whole style of glass named after it, and again: dignity), pour in 3 or 4 oz of London Dry Gin – make mine Beefeater, please – the fresh-squeezed juice of one medium lemon (about an ounce and a half), a couple of tablespoons of simple syrup, add 4 or 5 large ice cubes – I like the 1-inch square cubes from the silicon Tovolo molds – top up with fizzy water, and give it a gentle stir to combine throughout.  No need to garnish. I don't futz around with orange and cherry flags or the like at home.  Use a straw if you must, I don't.

The other thing I serve a lot of around the house is a punch I developed a few years ago to be our house punch at backyard parties.  It's in a classical style but uses Tequila as the base. I soak fresh, ripe pineapple for several hours or overnight in a combination of Reposado Tequila and Oloroso sherry, add fresh lemon and lime juice, sugar, and lower the proof with fresh (still) water.  It's served on the rocks with a fresh grating of cinnamon.  The pineapple gets all spodied out and makes a delicious, boozy snack.  We ran it at Rumba a couple of times and it was on the menu all last summer at Artusi and I've actually seen at least one other bar I wasn't working at selling it.  To this day it is my most requested recipe.  The thing about punch that's great is you can batch it out and throw it in the fridge. I've had even citrusy punch like this last in good shape in the fridge, fully diluted even for weeks.

4. My favorite drinking season is summer.  Hell, my favorite everything season is summer – Seattle summers are decidedly Where It's At. And anymore if I drink drinks that aren't a beer and a shot, I tend to favor citrus, a bit more than the brown/bitter/stirred I seemed to drink exclusively when I first got into this. I tend to like crisp.  I also just love the carefree feeling the summer brings.  If I could I might spend the whole summer drinking Carta Blanca supplemented with shots of Mezcal, watching baseball and running in the sun.