21 Classic Summer Cocktails to Beat the Heat

21 Classic Summer Cocktails to Beat the Heat

It’s summertime and the drinking is light and cool and often fizzy. When the weather heats up, nothing is more refreshing than an icy cocktail sipped at brunch or a casual lunch or dinner, or at a backyard cookout. (Before you fire up that grill, consult these tips for the perfect barbecue from the experts.)

Although a cold beer or chilled rosé may be your alcoholic beverage of choice this time of year, why not be more adventurous? A frosty cocktail combining spirits, fruit flavors, and maybe something carbonated quenches your thirst and cools you down at the same time. 

What makes a great summer cocktail? Plenty of ice is a must-have ingredient. A lukewarm drink will never satisfy your appetite for a refreshing beverage on a steaming summer day. Gin and rum form the basis of many hot weather drinks — for instance the classic Gin and Tonic and tonic and the always popular Daiquiri. But vodka, tequila, red wine, even beer can also form the basis for a satisfying July or August beverage. 

Summer cocktails tend to be sweet, either from fresh fruit juices or added sugar, but their sweetness can be toned down a bit by the addition of tart lime juice — a common ingredient in these tipples. Fizzy water finishes off many of these drinks so you won’t get dehydrated when you imbibe. (See 13 warning signs you’re way too dehydrated.)

This is by no means a complete list of great summer cocktails. They’re just the traditional ones that tend to come up time and again when people are deciding how to cool down and relax.

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Originally served in the 1860s at Gaspare Campari’s bar in Milan, Italy, the Americano combines Campari and sweet vermouth in equal parts with a splash of sparkling water. Fun fact about this drink: It’s the first cocktail James Bond orders in 1953’s “Casino Royale” (the book) proving that 007 didn’t only sip martinis, shaken, not stirred.

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Aperol Spritz

Another import from Italy, the Aperol Spritz is a light and refreshing cocktail made with Aperol, an orange-flavored apéritif, and the increasingly popular Italian sparkling wine called Prosecco. Add club soda and an orange slice to complete this fizzy beverage.

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The main ingredient in the Caiparinha, Brazil’s most popular cocktail, is cachaça, considered the country’s national spirit. Similar to rum, cachaça is distilled from sugar cane juice, not molasses as most rums are. A spritz of fresh lime juice and sugar make the drink both tangy and sweet.

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The Daiquiri gets its name from a beach and an iron mine near Santiago, Cuba, where a mining engineer was said to have invented the frosty mixture during the Spanish-American War. U.S. Congressman William A. Chanier purchased the mine in 1902 and brought the rum-and-sugar-based cocktail to the U.S. that same year.

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Dark and Stormy

Only dark rum — preferably locally made Goslings — will do for a Dark and Stormy, the national drink of Bermuda. But the drink is lightened up a bit with lime juice and ginger beer all poured over ice.

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Frozen Margarita

Nothing could be better than an adult slushie, and a Frozen Margarita is just that. Get out your blender and pour in tequila, lime juice, triple sec, agave syrup, and lots of ice to create a cold refresher.

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Gin and Tonic

The Gin and Tonic started out as a pleasant way for British officers in 19th-century India to consume quinine to prevent malaria. Quinine was bitter, though, even in tonic water, so the officers added gin, sugar, and a slice of lime to improve the taste. The tonic water you find in liquor stores today contains less quinine, so there is even less bitterness in the drink.

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Gin Rickey

Although gin is the favored ingredient in a Rickey, the cocktail can also be made with bourbon. In fact, it started that way when it was invented by a bartender and Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey in 1880s Washington, D.C. The gin or bourbon is mixed with lime juice and carbonated water.

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Mai Tai

Perhaps the most famous of tiki cocktails – a group of drinks known for their generous use of rum, fruity flavors, and garnishes – the Mai Tai burst onto the bar scene in the 1930s and 1940s. Both Vic Bergeron, founder of the Trader Vic’s chain, and Donn Beach, whose restaurants bore the name Don the Beachcomber, claimed to have invented it. It’s a mixture of dark or light rum, an orange liqueur (either triple sec or Curaçao), lime juice, and almond-based orgeat syrup.

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If you like your cocktails with a bit of heat and less alcohol, then the Michelada is for you. Recipes for this Mexican drink standby, but its basis is cold beer, lime juice, hot sauce, tomato juice, and sometimes Worcestershire sauce, all served in a salt-rimmed glass.

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A traditional Cuban highball, the Mojito can trace its origins back to 1586, when Sir Francis Drake landed at Havana. The original Mojita was made with aguardiente, an early version of rum. Today, it combines white rum, lime juice, simple syrup, and muddled (crushed) mint leaves, topped with club soda.

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Moscow Mule

Tired of gin-based cocktails? Try a Moscow Mule instead. Pour vodka, lime juice, and chilled ginger beer over ice into the distinctive copper Moscow Mule mug.

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Pimm’s Cup

The unofficial drink of Wimbledon, this British favorite is named after Pimm’s No. 1, a gin-based liqueur first sipped in mid-1800’s London. The liqueur is diluted with sparkling lemonade and lemon juice. Plentiful garnishes are a must and include strawberries, cucumbers, fresh basil, and lemon slices.

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Piña colada

Forget that annoying 1970s-era pop song and enjoy the Piña Colada for what it is: A refreshing concoction of rum, cream of coconut liqueur, and pineapple and lime juices poured into a chilled hurricane glass.

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Ranch Water

Said to be the unofficial drink of West Texas, Ranch Water is a light and bubbly highball that swirls together tequila, lime juice, and (insist diehard fans) Topo Chico mineral water from Mexico — though other sparkling water may be used.

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Rum and tonic

This tropical alternative to Gin and Tonic is a blend of white run, Fever-Tree Indian tonic water (ideally), and lemon bitters. Some recipes call for two types of white rum and sugar.

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Salty Dog

The Salty Dog is a variation of the 1930s-era Greyhound, a popular highball of gin or vodka and grapefruit juice. The Salty Dog gets its name by adding a rim of salt around the glass to counter the tartness of the grapefruit juice.

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Sangria is basically a wine punch, which makes it perfect for outdoor brunches. Stir red wine (Spanish Rioja is recommended), brandy, orange juice, and sugar with a generous helping of apple, lemon, and orange slices into a punch bowl filled with ice. Sangria can also be made with white wine.

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The Screwdriver is a simple combination of vodka and orange juice dating back to the 1940s. Where and how it was invented are a bit murky, but one legend has it was favored by American oil workers in the Persian Gulf who mixed the drink with a screwdriver when a spoon couldn’t be found.

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Sea Breeze

Popularized in the 1980s, the Sea Breeze is another vodka-based summer cocktail. A cooling combination of vodka and cranberry and grapefruit juices, the Sea Breeze is garnished with a lime wheel.

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Tequila Sunrise

To mimic the sky at sunrise, don’t mix the ingredients of a Tequila Sunrise. Rather, add tequila and orange juice to an ice-filled highball glass, top with grenadine and let it filter to the bottom to create layers of colors. Then garnish with an orange slice or a cherry.

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