8 Grilled Cocktails To Enjoy This Labor Day Weekend

“Labor Day” and “barbecue” are obviously two very harmonious concepts, and we’re pleased to inform you that char-grilled goodness doesn’t have to be restricted to the food portion of your LDW menu. Fire-toasted fruits and herbs also make brilliant additions to cocktails, and the eight “grilled” libations that we’ve included in this round-up all deliver big flavors and high levels of refreshment.

Grilled Peach Smash

(By Ian Mendelsohn, beverage director, Alma Cocina, Atlanta, Georgia)

The sweet-and-savory flavor sensation evoked by grilled peaches feels summery in a way that few other tastes manage to pull off, and in this cocktail, beverage director Ian Mendelsohn ups the ante by adding bourbon. “The grilled peach smash is among the most classic of cocktails.The differences between the smash and the julep have been debated for years, but everyone agrees that this is a tremendous cocktail to enjoy with friends on a hot summer day,” Mendelsohn explains.


  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz Curaçao
  • 2 peach slices, grilled
  • 3 lemon wedges
  • 4-5 mint leaves
  • Grilled peach, sliced very thin; mint sprig (for garnish)


  1. Muddle the grilled peach slices and lemon wedges in a shaker with the Curaçao.
  2. Add mint leaves and the bourbon to the shaker and shake well.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a grilled peach slice and mint sprig.

Limoncello Cocktail with Grilled Lemon Thyme

(By The Institute of Culinary Education)

The herb known as “lemon thyme” bears plenty of flavor notes that call its namesake citrus fruit to mind. When grilled and added to a classic limoncello, lemon thyme provides a gently smoky undercurrent to the cocktail, resulting in a porch pounder for the ages.


  • 2 oz vodka
  • .5 oz limoncello (homemade or store-bought)
  • Juice of .5 lemon
  • 2 sprigs fresh lemon thyme, grilled until lightly charred (about 15 seconds), more for garnish


  1. In a mixing glass, muddle 2 sprigs of thyme with lemon juice.
  2. Fill the shaker halfway with ice, then add vodka and limoncello and shake until the tin is frosted.
  3. Double-strain into a martini glass and garnish with a sprig of grilled thyme.

Zacapa Quemado

(By Lynnette Marrero, bar director, Llama Inn, New York City)

When it comes to including grilled tomato in a cocktail, many people’s minds immediately go to the Bloody Mary, and for good reason. However, bar director Lynnette Marrero takes a very different approach with this ingredient, mixing it with aged rum (she prefers Zacapa 23, which loans its name to this cocktail), elderflower liqueur, and lemon to create a floral libation with a gentle sweetness and a hint of smoke.


  • 2 oz aged rum (Marrero prefers Zacapa 23 Rum)
  • 1 oz grilled tomato
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .5 oz elderflower liqueur
  • .25 oz simple syrup


  1. Add grilled tomato to a shaker and muddle.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the shaker with ice and shake until fully chilled and combined.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a cherry tomato.

The Living’s Easy

(By Jason Yu, bartender, Employees Only, Los Angeles, California)

Summer is upon us, and few things are more fitting than a well chilled, refreshing cocktail, especially one that incorporates the season’s favorite fruit: watermelon. But instead of the typical vodka or rum cocktail, I wanted to use one of my all-time favorite spirits, rye whiskey. In this particular recipe, I used a wonderfully peppery, stone-fruit rye from Heaven’s Door Whiskey, which marries amazingly well to the salted maple and caramel tones of the grilled watermelon,” bartender Jason Yu says of his whiskey-and-watermelon summer sipper.


  • 45 mL rye whiskey (Yu prefers Heaven’s Door Rye)
  • 45 mL salted & grilled watermelon juice*
  • 15 mL simple syrup
  • 10 mL lemon juice
  • 5 mint leaves
  • 2 dashes cayenne pepper (optional)


  1. Add all ingredients to a shaker tin, add ice, and shake until fully chilled and combined.
  2. Fine strain into a clean glass, add fresh ice, and garnish with mint sprigs and a grilled watermelon spear.

*Grilled & Salted Watermelon Juice:

  1. Slice watermelon into 1-inch thick triangles (rind on), salt to taste, and cook on a hot grill for about 2-3 minutes per side. 
  2. Once the watermelon is done, slice off the rind, toss the meat in a blender, and purée until perfectly smooth.

Let’s Go Spritzing

(By Jessica Stewart, bar manager, Fort Oak, San Diego, California)

In the dessert wine sphere, fino sherry is a bit of an odd duck; it’s famous for its delicate weight and almost dry flavor profile, making it a major divergence from more syrupy and sweet after-dinner drinks. These characteristics also render fino sherry an inspired addition to this spritz recipe, which bar manager Jessica Stewart describes as follows: “For this summer spritz, I used grilled plums to not only highlight the smokiness of the mezcal, but to also add the natural sweetness of cooked fruit over the tart raw flavor. Taking the plums and infusing them with fino sherry helps keep the freshness and color for up to two weeks and adds a subtle saltiness. Champagne provides carbonation, mouth feel, and a slight bitterness. Grilling over wood fire adds an extra layer of flavor that can take a drink to that next level of complexity and makes this spritz perfect to enjoy on a patio any summer evening.”


  • 1.5 oz mezcal (Stewart uses Vamonos Riendo Mezcal)
  • .75 oz roasted plum-infused fino sherry*
  • 3 oz Champagne, to top
  • Dehydrated plum chip, for garnish


  1. Add mezcal and fino sherry to a stemless wine glass and gently stir to combine. 
  2. Top with Champagne and garnish with a dehydrated plum chip.

*Roasted Plum-Infused Fino Sherry:

  1. Roast three plums on a wood-fired grill and add to one bottle of fino sherry.
  2. Allow the plums to sit in the sherry for 24 hours. Strain through a coffee filter and enjoy within two weeks.

The Shim Sham

(By Dwayne Allen, co-owner, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, Phoenix, Arizona)

“The Shim Sham is a popular summertime favorite at The Breadfruit & Rum Bar. Crisp, tropical sensation gives way to a slight juicy smokiness that lingers with a spicy effervescence,” bar co-owner Dwayne Allen tells us about his spin on a Dark & Stormy, which utilizes grilled pineapple, ginger beer, lime juice, and aged rum.


  • 1.5 oz aged rum (Allen prefers Appleton Estate Reserve Rum)
  • .75 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz grilled pineapple juice
  • 4 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 oz ginger beer (Allen prefers Big Marble Organic Ginger Beer)
  • 1 mint sprig, for garnish


  1. Place a whole ripe pineapple on a grill and roast until charred all around. Let cool, peel, and juice by squeezing.
  2. In a cocktail shaker, add ice, rum, lime juice, pineapple juice, and bitters and shake until chilled.
  3. Pour mixture into a rocks glass, top with ginger beer, and garnish with mint.

Grilled Fruit Margarita

(By Aaron Peña, bartender/owner, The Squeezebox, San Antonio, Texas)

Bartender and bar owner Aaron Peña believes that the process of grilling fruit has a significant effect on the fruit’s ability to impact the flavor of a cocktail, insisting that time on the grill “releases aromatics that take the flavors to the next level. These fresh fruits are perfect for a light and refreshing summer cocktail.” His grilled fruit margarita is ripe for experimentation; Peña urges home bartenders to play around with different fruits and find a combination that best suits their tastes. 


  • 2 oz blanco tequila
  • .5 cup fresh grilled fruit (Peña uses watermelon, mango, and cucumber)
  • 1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • .75 oz agave syrup (or more or less; Peña suggests adjusting to your tastes)
  • 1 cup ice
  • Flavored salt, to rim the glass (Peña uses Twang-A-Rita Sunrise Spice)


    1. Lightly cook fruit of choice on a grill.
    2. Add grilled fruit, ice, lime juice, tequila, and agave syrup to blender and blend on high speed.
    3. Rim glass with flavored salt and pour the margarita into the rimmed glass.

Smoke And Cure

(By Zyren Mae Posadas, senior food and beverage manager, FireLake, Chicago, Illinois)

Grilling fruits, vegetables, and herbs isn’t the only way to add a smoky taste and fragrance to your cocktail. You can also cut out the middleman by smoking the glass, a classic bartender trick. Beverage manager Zyren Mae Posadas assures us that glass smoking can be done at home as well as behind the stick; all you’ll need is a piece of wood and a bit of patience.


  • 1.5 oz rye whiskey (Posadas uses Few Rye)
  • .75 oz cinnamon syrup
  • .75 oz lemon juice
  • .5 oz China-China Amer
  • .25 oz Scotch whisky (Posadas uses Laphroaig 10)


  1. Take a small piece of wood (Posadas suggests pine) that’s larger than the diameter of your glass and use a fireplace lighter to light the center until the wood begins to create smoke. 
  2. Place a rocks glass upside down on the wood until it fills with smoke. Remove the glass and set it aside.
  3. Add ingredients to a shaker and shake until fully combined.
  4. Pour the cocktail into the smoked glass.

Editors' Recommendations