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10 classic summer cocktails everyone should know how to make

Enjoy the rest of your summer with these incredible, classic cocktails

We’re in the middle of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and while temperatures (and amount of sun) are different depending on where you live, there’s a good chance you’re in need of some liquid refreshment. And while a nice glass of wine or frosty beer is sure to hit the spot, we’d rather enjoy something with layers upon layers of fresh, seasonal flavors. We’re talking, of course, about summer cocktails.

And while we have no problem enjoying a white Russian while we stream The Big Lebowski in our backyard, a classic whisky-driven old fashioned on an unseasonably cool evening, or even a hot toddy if we’re feeling a little under the weather, summer is a time for lighter spirits and fresh ingredients. All in all, it’s a time for refreshing cocktails well-suited for sipping on a hazy, humid (sometimes unbearably so), sunny day.

There are many cocktails that fit this criterion. But you wouldn’t want to have to wade through dozens of cocktails to find the ones you’ll actually want to whip up for your friends and family. Lucky for you, we did the work for you. Below, you’ll find ten of summer’s best cocktails. The best part? None of them require a master’s degree in mixology to make. They’re all simple with few ingredients.

Margarita
Olha Tatdot / Unsplash

Margarita

In the hierarchy of fresh, flavorful cocktails, it’s difficult to beat the appeal of the classic Margarita. This simple, summery drink consists of blanco tequila, triple sec, and fresh lime juice. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can add a salt rim to really bring the flavors together.

Ingredients:

2 ounces blanco tequila
1.5 ounces triple sec
1 ounce fresh lime juice
Salt for the rim

Method:
Add tequila, triple sec, and lime juice to an ice-filled shaker. Shake until combined. Strain into a chilled glass. A salted rim is optional.

Tatyana Vega/Unsplash
Tatyana Vega / Unsplash

Mojito

The mojito is as close to summer in a cocktail glass as you’re ever going to find. This classic Cuban cocktail is made with white rum, sugar, lime juice, mint, and soda water. The combination of sweet, complex rum, fresh mint, and sugar makes for a truly refreshing seasonal cocktail.

Ingredients:
1.5 ounces white rum
1 ounce fresh lime juice
.5 ounces sugar or simple syrup
5-6 mint leaves
Soda water topper

Method:
Add mint, sugar (or simple syrup), and lime juice to a pint glass and muddle together. Add ice and rum before topping with soda water.

Laure Noverraz / Unsplash

Gin & Tonic

When it comes to two-ingredient cocktails, there’s one that reigns supreme over all others. The gin & tonic, when made at its simplest level, is just gin and tonic. And while you’ll be refreshed with this combination over ice on a hot day, you can level up by adding a squeeze of lime and a lime wedge.

Ingredients:
2 ounces gin
4-5 ounces tonic water
Lime wedge

Method:
Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add gin and tonic. Stir together to combine. Add a squeeze of lime and a lime wedge.

paloma grapefruit cocktail
Alexander Prokopenko / Shutterstock

Paloma

While the Margarita gets much of the hype when it comes to tequila-based cocktails, you shouldn’t sleep on the paloma. The simplest recipe calls for blanco tequila and grapefruit soda, while some recipes add lime juice. If you want to crank it up to eleven, you’ll opt for fresh grapefruit juice and soda water instead of grapefruit soda. The result is a tart, citrus-driven cocktail guaranteed to refresh you on the hottest summer days.

Ingredients:
2 ounces blanco tequila
2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
2 ounces soda water
1 ounce lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar (or simple syrup)

Method:

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shaker vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass and enjoy.

A serving of Ranch Water cocktail.
Brent Hofacker / Adobe Stock

Ranch Water

If you’ve never tried ranch water, you’re in for something special. This refreshing, warm-weather cocktail of tequila, lime, and sparkling water (usually Top Chico) has been a mainstay in West Texas for decades. But it doesn’t matter where you live, you can whip up this zesty, thirst-quenching cocktail anywhere.

Ingredients:
3 ounces blanco tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice
Topped with sparkling water

Method:
Add tequila and lime juice to a highball glass. Add ice and stir. Top with sparkling water of choice.

Victoria Kondysenko / Shutterstock

Moscow Mule

One of the most popular summer cocktails, the refreshing, lightly spicy cocktail gets its name because of the use of vodka as its base. The recipe is rounded out with ginger beer and lime juice. Not only is it delicious, but it’s visually appealing — especially when the drink is served in a copper mug.

Ingredients:
1.5 ounces vodka
4 ounces ginger beer
.5 ounces fresh lime juice

Method:
Add vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice to an ice-filled copper mug. Stir to combine. Add a lime wedge as a garnish.

Refreshing Cold Mint Julep for the Derby Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Mint Julep

The mint julep has a major connection to the Kentucky Derby. But just because that iconic horse racing event is in our rearview, that doesn’t mean you can sip on this classic cocktail all summer long. All you need to enjoy this drink from now until the leaves start falling (and beyond) is bourbon, simple syrup, crushed ice, and mint.

Ingredients:
2 ounces bourbon whiskey
4-5 mint leaves
.25 ounces simple syrup

Method:
In a highball glass or Julep cup, muddle the mint and simple syrup. Add crushed ice and bourbon. Stir to combine.

Daiquiri on a table
John Maher/The Manual / John Maher/The Manual

Daiquiri

If you’re not big into classic cocktails, you might assume that all daiquiris are frozen and contain strawberries, bananas, and other fruity flavors. The traditional daiquiri, on the other hand, is much simpler. All you need to make a cocktail Hemingway would have loved is white rum, lime juice, and simple syrup.

Ingredients:
1.5 ounces white rum
1 ounce fresh lime juice
.5 ounces simple syrup

Method:
Add rum, lime juice, and simple syrup to an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Geoff Peters / Flickr

Negroni

If you’re not one for overly sweet cocktails and you prefer a little bitterness mixed in, the Negroni is the summer drink for you. This popular Italian aperitif is made with gin, Campari, and sweet red vermouth. The result is a thirst-quenching, bittersweet, memorable cocktail.

Ingredients:
1 ounce Gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet red vermouth

Method:
In an ice-filled glass, add Campari, gin, and sweet red vermouth. Stir to combine. Garnish with an orange peel.

Refreshing Gin Tom Collins Cocktail with Lemon Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

Tom Collins

Tom Collins is one of those summery drinks that seems to get passed over in favor of more popular choices. While you can stop by your local grocery store and grab some Tom Collins mix, we prefer ours a little fresher with gin, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and sparkling water.

Ingredients:
1.5 ounces gin
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
.5 ounces simple syrup
2 ounces sparkling water

Method:

Add gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice to a pint or highball glass with ice. Stir to combine. Top with sparkling water.

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Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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