One of the true pleasures of summer is relaxing under the sun with some friends—whether it be on a beach or gathered around a grill—while you sip from a cold cocktail in your hand. Problem is, if you pick the wrong cocktail, you won’t be relaxing with your friends for so long. You’ll be stumbling, mumbling and faceplanting in no time.

But it isn’t just the booziness of a drink like the old fashioned that doesn’t quite mix with day drinking. You want something more crisp and refreshing when you’re baking under the sun. “When it’s hot, even if you’re drinking beer, you can get lighter styles that aren’t as heavy,” says Matt Tocco, director at some of Nashville’s best bars, including Patterson House and Pinewood Social. “You’ll be able to enjoy that drink longer without blowing out your palate.”

The key is finding a drink that backs off the booze a little bit, while still delivering you great flavor and an extended buzz that lasts you until you hit the bars at night. In the bar industry those are called low-ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktails. With the expanded use of fortified wines and Amari the last few years—which are lower proof than distilled spirits like whiskey, rum, vodka or gin—day drinkers have even more options to choose from for low ABV drinks.

So we asked a collection of America’s best bartenders to share what they’ll be sipping on this summer.


Porchlight, New York City
A Pimm’s Cup #1 has long been a great cocktail for summer, with the low-proof (25 percent abv) English liqueur, Pimm’s, at its core. Barman Nick Bennett has merged the Pimm’s Cup #1 with the lesser-known Roffignac, which is a cocktail named for 19th Century New Orleans mayor Count Louis Phillipe Joseph de Roffignac and made with whiskey and raspberry syrup. The merged version of these two cocktails eschews the high-proof spirits, but keeps the liqueurs, then adds in some sparkling wine for a bright, effervescent drink.

Roffignac Cup #1

• 1½ oz. Pimm’s #1 Cup
• ½ oz. PAMA Liqueur
• ½ oz. Lime Juice
• ½ oz. Ginger Syrup (2:1 Raw Sugar to Fresh Ginger Juice)
• ¼ oz. Raspberry Vinegar
• Topped with Sparkling Wine

Directions

Build all the ingredients in a tin, except the sparkling wine, and shake. Strain into a wine glass over fresh ice and top with the bubbles. Garnish with cucumber slice and raspberries. By Nick Bennett.

Marcus Baney

Marcus Baney

The Patterson House, Nashville
From one of Nashville’s best bars—the speakeasy inspired Patterson House—comes this complex cocktail. The red wine and plum brandy base gives the drink a really fruity quality when it mixes with the orange cordial and lemon juice. The richness of the demerara syrup also adds a little bit of a raw sugar and molasses, like you’d get in a tiki drink.

Leftfielder

• 2 oz. Guild Red Wine
• ¾ oz. Rhine Hall Plum Brandy
• ¼ oz. Luxardo Maraschino
• ¾ oz. orange cordial
• ½ oz. lemon juice
• ¼ oz. demerara syrup

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker tin and shake lightly with ice. Strain into a hurricane glass filled with crushed ice, then garnish with mint, an orange slice and a cherry.

Aaron Polsky

Aaron Polsky

Harvard and Stone, Los Angeles
Tom Collins are an amazing and refreshing summertime drink, but they go down a little too easy, and my god a few too many will put you on your ass. So Aaron Polsky has taken to using Seedlip, an alcohol-free spirit that imparts the flavors of gin sans the booze. He cuts the actual gin in half and replaces the second ounce with the Seedlip. The result is a Collins that will take much longer to make you end up face down in a kiddie pool.

Leftfielder

• Spiced Collins
• 1 oz. Gin (Plymouth works well here)
• 1 oz. Seedlip Spice non-alcoholic distilled spirit
• ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
• ½ oz. lemon juice
• ¾ oz. simple syrup
• Dash Absinthe 

Directions

Combine all ingredients except for absinthe into the shaker.  Add dash of absinthe to collins glass, roll glass to coat absinthe, then add ice.  Separately, add ice to shaker, shaker and strain into glass.  Top with soda and garnish with a large sprig of mint. By Aaron Polsky.

Junoon, New York City
During the summer, we’re all trying to keep our beach bodies looking right, so Hemant Pathak of the high-end Indian restaurant Junoon created this low-alcohol drink with a minimal amount of added sugar. However, the coconut milk still provides some body to the cocktail, while the lime the ginger spice cuts through its richness.

Coconut-Ginger Colada

• 2 oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
• 1½ oz. Lime-infused coconut milk
• ½ oz. Lime Juice
• ¼ oz. Simple Syrup
• ½ oz. lemon juice
• Two small pieces fresh lemongrass
• One Green Cardamom bean 

Directions

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail tin filled with ice and shake vigorously, serve in a wine glass with cube ice. Garnish with lemongrass stick and edible flower. By Hemant Pathak

Thomas Lambiase

Thomas Lambiase

The Eveleigh, West Hollywood
Bartender China Morbosa has crafted an ode to the “sprezzatura,” a wine spritzer by Italians, who practically invented day drinking cocktails. “Apart from an ounce of vodka, there’s no component in this drink that weighs in at over 16 percent,” Morbosa says. “So as the days get longer and the poolside starts looking more inviting, this drink can keep you company from noon to night without feeling it the next morning.”

Rosé All Day

• 1 oz. vodka
• 1 oz. papaya shrub
• 1 oz. No Scruples rosé
• 1 oz. Champagne 
• 1 oz. Cocchi Americano
• ½ oz. lemon juice

Directions

In an ice-filled wine glass, add all ingredients and stir until chilled and then garnish with lemon twist. By China Morbosa.

Marcus Baney

Marcus Baney

The Patterson House, Nashville
This is the low-abv day drink for people who prefer a stirred, spirit-forward cocktail in the evening. This isn’t a sweet and fruity drink, instead it’s a “an earthy, herbaceous cocktail,” says Tocco at Patterson House. “The Suze gives it that earthy quality and the ex gratia has those alpine flavors similar to what you’d find in chartreuse, like a mint or eucalyptus.”

Chalet Martin

• 1 oz. Dolin Blanc
• ½ oz. Suze
• ½ oz. Golden Moon Ex Gratia
• ¼ oz. Salers

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass over large ice cube (to minimize dilution) and stir. Strain into cocktail glass and serve up, garnished with a lemon wedge. By Matt Tocco,

Motel Morris, New York City
Over in England sloe berries (they’re like little plums) grow wildly around the country. They’re not that great to eat, but steeping them in gin with sugar creates a delicious liqueur that’s a hit across the pond. Jamie Steinberg of Motel Morris in Chelsea uses sloe gin in her Kitty O’Sheas cocktail and adds in some vodka to up the ABV. She’s adapted her recipe for day drinkers by removing the extra vodka to create this sipper with some savory notes.

The Kitty O'Sheas

• 2 oz. Averell Damson sloe gin
• ¼ oz. balsamic vinegar
• 1 strawberry
• 2 basil leaves

Directions

Add balsamic, strawberry and basil to shaker tin and muddle, then pour in sloe gin and ice. Shake, then strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice and top with ginger ale. By GM/Beverage Director Jamie Steinberg.

Broken Spanish, Los Angeles
At one of LA’s best restaurants, the kitchen puts out some amazing, elevated takes on Mexican cooking. Behind the bar, they’re holding their own as well, with a cocktail program led by Darwin Pornel. For a restaurant that draws on its So-Cal roots for inspiration, Pornel did the same, sourcing an LA-made amaro to craft this summertime drink. “The citrus in the Amaro works so well with Tequila and mint, and the honey adds a little richness to round the whole thing out,” Pornel says. “The end result is refreshing and fizzy and so easy to drink, it’s beyond perfect for daytime patio sipping.”

Hecho en L.A.

• Pinch mint
• 1 oz. lime juice
• ¾ oz. honey syrup
• 1 oz. Tequila blanco
• 1 oz. Amaro Angeleno

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in a tin and shake. Strain over fresh ice and club soda in a highball glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint. By Darwin Pornel.

The Bennett, New York City
The beginning of summer is strawberry season, but with a good shrub, you’ll be able to preserve the flavor past Labor Day, while also giving an added dimension to your cocktail. A shrub is essentially a fruit juice with added acidity—in this case it’s the raspberry vinegar—and using them provides a cocktail a sweet-tart balance. This drink in particular pairs the shrub with rosé vinho verde, which is a relatively inexpensive wine from northern Portugal. At less than $10 a bottle for the vinho verde, this is a great drink to prepare for a crowd.

Strawberry Letter

• ½ oz. strawberry shrub (made with strawberries, raspberry vinegar, sugar)
• 1 oz. Aperol
• 3 oz. rosé vinho verde
• splash of club soda

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a wine glass over ice and stir garnish with 4 strawberry slices. By Meaghan Dorman.