Ten summer drink recommendations from Charleston pros

Libation Liberation

Fruity, bubbly, lots of ice. Chilly lager with a fresh lime slice. Aperol spritz or dry white wine. Pineapple and rum means it’s tiki time. Mojitos and Caipirinhas are playfully exotic. Cucumber-lime infused gin and tonic. And who could forget Instagrammable frosé? Are we still drinking those all day?

Deciding which cocktails are cooling — and cool — enough to drink with your friends on a steamy Southern patio is a spin of the summertime roulette wheel. Every year, we see the rise and fall of the trendy drink of the season, but is reaching the pinnacle of cool even a factor in 2019 — the era of White Claw and canned wine? Let’s be realistic. Relaxing a little is now refreshingly vogue.

Are you feeling something fruity and shameless? Drink it. How about a rum floater? Time to bust out the paper umbrellas. According to the experts, we’re seeing a move away from complex concoctions filled with difficult-to-pronounce ingredients. “I feel like people are going to stop drink shaming,” says Effin B Radio podcast host Lindsay Collins. “Don’t make things so painfully cool that you have to pretend you don’t like a mojito because they’re delicious.” The point is, you should drink whatever floats your boat whether you fancy a vintage vino or a cheap-AF citrus-spiked crispy boy. Summer ’19 is the summer of freedom.

Lindsay Collins — Effin B Radio

“There was that big New York Times article basically taking a shit on the spritz, but it’s back in a way that’s pretty furious in America. That’s my summertime go to. It’s not an Aperol spritz, but I do this stripped down version with Cynar, which is artichoke amaro, and soda water with a splash of lemon juice, a little lemon peel, and that’s it. I sip on this all summer because it’s kind of fool proof. It’s bitter and quenches your thirst while keeping your palate interested. It’s really good to work the palate if you’re just hanging out, and it won’t get you hammered.”

Simon Stilwell ­— Wild Common

“My go-to drink when it’s summer is a Ramona, a super refreshing grapefruit wine spritz. While a spritz isn’t a hard drink to make (just combine wine and a carbonated drink), now that my wife and I have a two-year-old it’s far easier for us to just grab a can from the fridge and know that it will taste delicious. I know this isn’t a ‘true cocktail’ but it’s the truth.”

Brandon Plyler ­— Edmund’s Oast, Pocket Liquor podcast

“I’ve been getting into highballs, basically a larger cocktail glass with ice plus a spirit, in my case I like blended Scotch whisky, and soda. I know that doesn’t sound super tantalizing, but it’s a great drink, very refreshing. I try to avoid things that are really sugary or too strong because, if you’re outside in the heat, that can kind of put you in a weird spot. There’s something about blended Scotch whisky. It’s dry. There’s a little smoke to it. It completely works for me. And as far as whiskey drinkers go, it’s like, what else do you do in the summertime? Completely switch over to a clear spirit?”

Craig Nelson — Proof

“This summer, my go-to has been the Naturday from Natty Light. Strawberry lemonade beer. It’s great over ice, and you can mix just about any clear spirit in with it to ‘spike’ it. So far, I’ve tried gin, blanco tequila, and rum, and they have all been quite tasty. Cut up some fresh strawberries and lemon slices if you want to go for a fancy look, or pour into a pitcher with said fruit.”

Sean Fleming — Revelry Brewing Co.

“Summer Sour Ale. This is a wildly popular beer here at the brewery. We stepped it up this year. We’re rolling four different versions of the beer out through the summer in 12-ounce cans. This fruited sour ale is the first of four summer releases to come. The mix of blackberry, raspberry, and pomegranate makes this 4 percent summer sipper the go-to beer for all Charleston activities… boat, beach, or pool! ”

Brooke Warden — Pink Cactus

“When it is hot out, all I like to drink is mezcal. The smokiness of mezcal is perfectly complemented by all of the subtle vegetal notes agave is known for having. I like to sip on mezcal in a Negroni. The Negroni is traditionally served with gin, another clear spirit. A Negroni can make for the perfect apéritif aready, and when it’s hot outside, all I want is a spirit-forward cocktail without all the sugar. Negronis are clean and herbaceous; perfectly complimentary when framing mezcal’s smoky nature.”

Michael Whiteley — Dalila’s on Spring

“A lot of the cocktails on our menu were created with summertime in mind. My personal favorite for the hot weather is the Hermosa. It’s made with silver tequila, grapefruit infused blanc vermouth, Aperol, and lemon juice. I’m not big on lots of sugar, so there isn’t any added to this cocktail. This leaves the drink feeling crisp, tart, and slightly bitter, a perfect thirst quencher to break the humidity.

If I’m going with a classic, my top pick for the summer is a Caipirinha. This mix of Cachaça, fresh muddled lime, and raw sugar always transports me to the beach. Eating little bits of crushed ice and lime as I make my way through the cocktail always reminds me of some of my favorite summer days off.”

Cody Held — Zero Restaurant + Bar

“I’m a sucker for a proper pina colada! My fondest memories of having pina coladas was when I traveled to Cuba. I probably drank a year’s worth when I was there, so every time I have one it brings me back to those days in Cuba on the beach. My go-to recipe is:

2 oz. white rum

1 oz. dark rum floater

1 oz. Coco Lopez

½ oz. lime

½ oz. pineapple juice

Shake all ingredients except for the dark rum. Pour into a rocks glass and float the dark rum on top. Garnish with a lime wheel and pineapple slice.”

Joshua Walker — Wine & Company

“If the summer inspires you to reach for Prosecco, consider shaking things up and grabbing something unfiltered for an extra pop of fruit. It’s not hard to see why pétillant naturel is one of the hottest trends in sparkling wine — this hazy fizz is sure to be your go-to, gulpable option for sunny summer days. And if you find yourself thirsty on a cloudy day, consider Lambrusco Salamino for a richer, sparkling option with some serious punch. This once sweet-only option is gaining traction as more and more producers are making a completely dry, completely red sparkling wine. Give your bottle a chill, and you will have the best of both worlds for your summertime cookout. ”

Allison Havens — Low Tide Brewing

“Hands down, I would choose our Aloha Beaches pineapple wheat beer on a hot Charleston day. Nothing says summer better than pineapple, and why not combine it with a wheat beer?! I’d sip the day away with one of these smooth and refreshing beers poolside, beachside, or cruising through the waterways on the boat.”

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