Spring is the time of year that drink writers live for. Let’s face it, no matter what we try to tell you to the contrary, drinking in the winter months pretty much sucks. It’s dark, you’re either alone or surrounded by family or coworkers at some crappy holiday gathering, and whatever it is you’re drinking is probably heavy as hell.

But spring is something worth talking about, and not in that “bounty of seasonal ingredients” kind of way. There’s one very good reason why drinking in the spring and summer is better than any time of year, and that’s because it’s music festival season.

I can’t think of much I’d rather do more than being surrounded by friends in a beautiful desert, listening to music and drinking all day long. Conversely, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less than be fall-down drunk in the middle of a beautiful desert, surrounded by friends and retaining no memories of my favorite bands. See this guy if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

That said, I need a drink that satisfies a few specific requirements:

It can’t be too strong. I can’t sit around and drink Old Fashioneds all day if you want to maintain your composure. I’ll be done in an hour if I do.

It’s got to be easy to make. I’m certainly not going to whip up some housemade ingredients in my hotel or rental. I need stuff straight from the shelf, but I want something more interesting than a handle of gin and a bottle of tonic water.

It should feed a family of four. Nobody wants to spend all day in the kitchen playing bartender. I want to set it up in minutes, so we can spend all day knocking it down.

The great news is that the Italians have already done most of the hard work for us, in the form of their afternoon cafe cocktails. These bitter refreshers are low in alcohol, simple to build, and easily scalable to a large group. I almost always reach for the Negroni Sbagliato, which is really just an Americano served royale, with sparkling wine in place of soda. I like to lengthen mine even further with some mineral water.

The thing I really love about this drink is that all of the ingredients can come straight off the shelf at the nearest supermarket or fancy liquor store, and there is no measuring involved. Zero. So leave the jiggers at home and get to daytime enjoyment without having to be in bed by noon.

Italian Punch

• 1 bottle Campari (Aperol if you want something a little sweeter and fruitier, this recipe is very forgiving)
• 1 bottle sweet vermouth. Cinzano, if they have it
• 1 bottle sparkling wine. Prosecco is fine, there’s no need to spend too much money on this
• 1 liter sparkling water
• 1 lemon (an orange works great, too, and a lime is acceptable if that’s all you’ve got)


To assemble, slice up the lemon into wheels, throw all of the ingredients into a large container, and be done with it. If your bottles are nice and chilled beforehand, even better. If not, serve with some ice on the side.