It’s the twilight of summer, and no one should be spending any more time behind the bar—or in the kitchen—crafting complicated cocktails than he or she has to. After all, we have beaches and rooftops and pools to get to! So here’s a round-up of my favorite super simple cocktails that you can whip up in seconds, using things you likely already have in your home. (Then you can get back outside to enjoy the rest of summer!) And once you’ve mastered these, check out the 10 nightcap recipes that are sure to impress.
Martinis are one of my favorite cocktails. This is a classic, yet doesn’t require many ingredients or major mixology skills. But, there is an art to making them well. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that this drink is served very, very cold. Here are my tips on getting it right, every time.
- 2 oz Tito’s Vodka
- 1 oz Dry Vermouth
- (optional lemon twist or olives for garnish)
Swirl your martini glass with half of the Vermouth, coating it, then discard any excess. Place glass in the freezer to chill for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the vodka into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Grab your chilled martini glass and pour the remaining Vermouth into the glass. Swirl it around again, and then discard the rest of the vermouth. Strain the vodka into the martini glass. If garnishing with a twist, run the lemon twist around the rim of glass then drop in. If garnishing with olives, skewer them with a toothpick and drop in. (For a dirty martini, just add some of the olive juice to the shaker with the vodka).
Gin and Tea
“Gin & T’s” are the new gin-and-tonics. Worldwide, mixologists are getting on this new trend and brewing tea’s that specifically match up to the flavor profiles of certain gins. You can tweak this recipe by changing the type of tea, (green tea, fruity tea, etc.), or you can even take it one step further by infusing your gin with tea. But, for purposes of this article, we’re going to keep it simple… because sometimes best life is full of the simplest things.
- 2 oz London Dry Gin
- 3 oz Earl Grey Tea Brewed and Cooled
- 1 Orange Wedge & Sugar for garnish.
Pour raw sugar onto a small plate. Cut a slit in the orange wedge and slide it around the rim of a highball glass. Press the rim into the sugar to coat it. Remove the pulp from the orange and discard, keeping the skin. Mix ingredients and pour into the highball glass filled with ice. Place orange skin inside for garnish. (Tip: If you like your drink a little sweeter, add a teaspoon of sugar to your tea while it’s hot and brewing.)
This is a very basic cocktail that most everyone learned how to make in college. To elevate it a notch, I like to include a pinch of salt to tame the acidity in the orange juice.
- 2 oz Tito’s Vodka
- 5 oz Freshly Squeezed OJ
- Pinch of Salt
Fill a highball glass with ice, pour in your ingredients, and stir. Garnish it with a slice of orange optionally. That’s it!
The Greyhound is a lovely variation on the Screwdriver, subbing in grapefruit juice for orange juice. I love the refreshing flavor and the touch of sourness that comes from grapefruit.
- 2 oz Tito’s Vodka
- Freshly Squeeze Grapefruit Juice
- Rosemary Spring or Grapefruit Wedge
Add the vodka to a lowball glass filled with ice. Top with grapefruit juice and stir. Garnish with either a Rosemary Sprig or a Grapefruit Wedge. (To make a Salty Dog, coat the rim of the glass with salt and leave out the garnish.).
Turns out everyone’s favorite brunch cocktail is refreshingly easy to make—if you have the right ingredients.
- 2 oz Tito’s Vodka (or your favorite Vodka)
- Bloody Mary Mix
- (Optional Celery Salt and Lime Wedge for rim and garnish)
Cut a slit in the lime wedge and run it around the rim of a highball glass. Dip the rim onto a small plate covered in celery salt. Pour vodka into the glass filled with ice. Top with Bloody Mary mix. Garnish with a lime wedge and a celery stalk if you really want to spice things up!
For a fun twist on a Mimosa, whip up a Bellini instead. A Bellini doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need is some peach puree and some bubbly. (I prefer Cava to Prosecco, as it is less sweet, and is made in the same method as Champagne.)
- 3 oz Cava (Spanish Sparkling Wine)
- 2 oz Fresh Peach Puree
Place the peach puree at the bottom of a Champagne Flute, then gently top with the Cava. Opional garnish with a peach wedge. Cheers!
Everyone loves a good Sangria, especially in the summer. But Sangria doesn’t have to be time-consuming. All you really need is some wine and some fruit. Or fruit juice. Here is a great, simple sangria that is simple to make, but will still impress your guests!
- 2 ½ cups Good Quality Juice Blend, suck as Orange-Pineapple-Apple or Mango-Peach
- 1 bottle (750 ml) Dry Rose Wine, can be Sparkling or Still
- (Optional Fresh Fruit for garnish)
Pour the juice and the wine in a large pitcher. Stir in fresh sliced fruit if desired, or serve as-is over ice. (Note: I recommend using sparkling wine if serving immediately.)
This Mexican classic cocktail is refreshing, and very simple to make. A perfect summer libation!
- 2 oz Tequila Blanco
- Grapefruit Soda
- Optional Lime Garnish and Salt rim
Rim your lowball glass with the lime wedge and salt (optional), then fill the glass with ice and pour the tequila in. Top with grapefruit soda. Squeeze the lime wedge and plop it inside for a garnish.
Dark and Stormy
The Dark and Stormy allegedly got its name from an old sailor who compared the drink’s murky hue to the color of storm clouds—and is the unofficial drink of Bermuda. It’s also super-simple to make, so if you can’t get to Bermuda this summer, drink Bermuda instead! I love this recipe from Epicurious:
- 2 oz Myers Dark Rum
- 5 oz Ginger Beer
- (Optional Lime Wedge for garnish)
Pour the rum over ice in highball and fill with ginger beer. Squeeze in the lime wedge.
The Cuba Libre, also known as “the free Cuba!,” has a past that stretches back more than a century. The only thing distinguishing this cocktail from a basic Rum and Coke is a little lime wedge.
- 2 oz Bacardi Rum (or your favorite rum)
- Coca Cola
- Lime wedge for garnish
Squeeze the lime wedge into a highball glass. Fill glass with ice, then top off with Coca Cola. Drop the lime wedge into the glass and enjoy.
Gin and Tonic
You may think of Gin and Tonics as your grandma’s favorite drink—but no longer. This libation is essential drinking for summer.
- 2 oz favorite Gin
- Tonic Water
- Lime wedge for garnish
Pour the gin into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with tonic water. Garnish with lime wedge. It doesn’t get easier than this!
As the legend goes, the Black Russian was created on the eve of the Cold War; the American ambadassor to Luxembourg had a signature drink—Russian vodka and Kahlua—that caught on among the diplomats of the world, and, slowly but surely, the rest of us as well.
- 2 oz Vodka
- 1oz Kahlua
Pour ingredients into a mixing glass over ice and stir. Strain into a fresh lowball glass over ice. (For a Black Magic, serve with a dash of lemon juice and a lemon twist to garnish.)
Scotch and Soda
Among simple cocktails, the Scotch and Soda is king. It doesn’t get better—or easier—than this.
- 2 oz Scotch Whisky
- Club Soda
Pour Scotch over ice, and top with Club soda. That’s it. Enjoy!
The Summer Cooler
“The Summer Cooler combines the smokiness of the Hudson Baby Bourbon, New York’s first legal pot-distilled whiskey since Prohibition, and the spice of ginger beer for a simple summer evening cocktail,” Norman Bukiofzer, a bartender at New York’s Ritz Carlton, told Men’s Journal.
- 2 oz bourbon (Bukiofzer prefers Hudson Baby Bourbon)
- Ginger beer
Pour bourbon over ice and top with ginger beer. Voila!
For a two-ingredient twist on the iconic SJP Martini (a.k.a., the Cosmo), all you need is some some cranberry juice. Throw in a lime wedge to take it one step further…
- 2 oz Vodka
- 3 oz Cranberry Juice
- Lime Wedge optional
Pour vodka and cranberry juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Squeeze a lime wedge into the shaker, then shake vigorously. Pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a new lime wedge. Then think about Sex. And the City.
But hey, if you’d rather go out to get your drink on, see if you’re around any of the 20 best hotel bars in America right now.
Shana Wall is a writer and certified sommelier based in New York City. For more info, follow her on Instagram @ShanaWall. For more amazing advice for living smarter, looking better, and feeling younger, follow us on Facebook now!