What’s the Best Summertime Cocktail?

Whisler’s and Tigress bartenders talk summer sips

Tastes like summer: the negroni

With summer firmly underway (just ask the mosquitoes), the internet has been returning to everyone’s favorite debate: What’s objectively the best summertime drink?

Not the Aperol Spritz, cried The New York Times, in a viral piece trash-talking last year’s patio sipping darling. And palomas, while undeniably delicious, have been making the rounds for long enough that seeing them on a cocktail menu is a delight rather than a surprise. The experts agree: It’s time for a new fashionable summer cocktail to fill the void. But what could it be? We hit some of our favorite hot-weather-friendly bars to find out.

Always on the cutting edge when it comes to cocktail trends, from their early adoption of the punch bowl fad to their au courant emphasis on digestifs, we hit up Alyssa Swadley, our favorite bartender at Whisler’s, to get her hot take on cool-down drinks. “I’d say 2019 is the summer of the negroni as it’s celebrating its 100-year anniversary,” she says.

In fact, Austinites just celebrated the purported creation of this much loved aperitivo with Negroni Week, so we were curious to find out what variations Swadley would suggest. “In these hot summer months, I prefer a negroni sbagliato – a lower-proof negroni riff that replaces gin with sparkling white wine,” she shared. “I also like to replace the sweet vermouth with Dolin blanc and garnish it with grapefruit peel.” Swadley’s light summertime take on a classic hit us in the summer cocktail sweet spot, combining that lovely classic negroni bitterness with the floral sparkle of white wine, the perfect (slightly less intense) cocktail to sip post-swim and pre-dinner, a weekend delight.

Justin Lavenue, owner of Roosevelt Room*, agrees with Swadley about the importance of bringing down the alcoholic intensity during these days of dehydration. "Low-ABV and nonalcoholic drinks are really having a moment right now,” he says. “So much so that bartenders and beverage directors are creating elevated nonalcoholic cocktails with complex and carefully considered flavor profiles. The Castaway, which is one of our zero-ABV drinks, is super refreshing and a great antidote to the summer heat." The refreshing blend of mint, cucumber, lime juice, coconut cream, ginger beer, and a house-made sweetgrass tincture is sophisticated enough that you barely miss the alcohol.

Over at Tigress, one of our favorite neighborhood bars, bartendresses Kelsey Caudebec and Holly Coleman are playing in that same garden-friendly summer space with a little more booze thrown in. Their summer menu is full of exciting new additions that make the dark inside space and air conditioning they’re served in nothing more than a welcome bonus.

Can't argue with a classic: the Tom Collins

One of Coleman’s new creations is the appropriately named Boys of Summer, which Coleman describes as “a Collins-style cocktail featuring fino sherry, tequila, yellow chartreuse, lemon juice, rosemary, and tonic water.” A fresh take on a classic summertime cocktail style, Coleman describes the drink as “dry, refined, herbaceous, and refreshing.” Caudebec’s own favorite contribution to Tigress’ summer drinks menu is Swim Team, a blend of white corn whiskey, pineapple gum syrup, honey, bitters, lemon, and orange oil that she describes as “a fun, juicy, slightly buttery bourbon sour-style cocktail.” The playful combination of flavors is the perfect slightly sweet, slightly sassy sip to end a sunny afternoon.

Whether you’re going low or no ABV, looking for twists on summer classics, or striking out to new territory entirely, the spirit of summer 2019 seems to be herbaceous, experimental, and flavor forward. So get out there and report back with your favorites! Just don’t forget the mosquito repellent.

[*Editor's note: Scranton Twohey is the owner of Whislers, not Justin Lavenue. Lavenue owns Roosevelt Room. We corrected the error.]

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