Memorial Day is coming up, and that means that cookout season is officially starting. We'll be getting to the food soon, but for now let's focus on the most important part of any holiday bash: the booze. We have two requirements for great cookout cocktails. First, it goes without saying that they should be refreshing—this is the time for bright spirits, bitter aperitifs, and fresh fruit. Second, they should be easy—who wants to spend all their time at a party mixing drinks (especially when there's a grill to tend to)? Batched cocktails are the best choice because you can make them before your guests arrive and be ready to go. We've rounded up 18 of our favorites: an effervescent pineapple rum punch, a tequila-based twist on the Salty Dog, a fruity rosé sangria, and more.
El Diablo con Limón (Tequila Punch With Cassis and Lemon)
This vibrant tequila punch is made with crème de cassis, a rich liqueur flavored with black currants. The earthy liqueur pairs nicely with black tea, which serves as the base for the punch. For sweetness and acidity we turn to a simple lemon syrup and seltzer or club soda keeps it light and drinkable.
Quick and Easy Margarita Shandy
Cocktail purists, look away now. While we usually juice fresh limes to make a margarita, sometimes it's just too much of an effort for a cookout. Frozen limeade concentrate is a much quicker path to pitcher drinks that your guests will still love. Here we mix it with reposado tequila and beer—a pilsner or lager works best.
Bitty Salty Perro
This take on the Salty Dog replaces the traditional vodka or gin with blanco tequila, which we mix with freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice and tonic water. To serve, we pour the mixture into salted glasses and finish with a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters. If you want something with a little bit more of an edge, use smoky joven mezcal instead of tequila.
Tequila and Campari With Tangerine
Bitter Campari is a refreshing choice for a hot day. For this cocktail we mix it with bright, sweet tangerine juice and añejo tequila, which has a deeper flavor than a blanco or reposado. Make sure to buy an extra tangerine so that you can cut wedges to garnish each glass.
This cocktail gets its floral flavor and striking color from a hibiscus syrup made by steeping dried hibiscus flowers in water for 15 minutes. The recipe calls for making the syrup with lime, but just about any citrus works. Everything in the drink besides the tonic water can be mixed a few hours ahead of time, well before your guests show up.
Suns 'n Roses (Rum and Stone Fruit Punch)
Combining fresh peaches, dried apricots, lemon juice, white tea, and rum makes for a summery punch that's fruity without being overly sweet. The peaches and apricots are made into a syrup that we flavor with just a little vanilla to help connect the fruit and the barrel-aged liquor.
Isla Bonita Punch (Sparkling Pineapple-Rum Punch)
Vanilla and pineapple are a standard tiki combination—the aromatic vanilla helps bring out the fruit's sweetness. Along with the vanilla and pineapple—you'll really want to use fresh pineapple juice here—we flavor the punch with a generous amount of muddled mint.
El Gallito (Pineapple-Chipotle Pitcher Cocktail)
A little sweet, a little salty, and a little smoky, you can think of this as a lighter, more refreshing version of a Bloody Mary that's perfect for a crowd. And it couldn't be simpler to make: Throw some cherry tomatoes, cilantro, and pineapple into a blender with the adobo from canned chipotles, a little agave nectar, some water, and lime juice. Once it's all buzzed up, you strain the mixture and combined it with an equal amount of vodka, and it's ready to go.
Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler
Lemons are a standard part of any bartender's mise en place, adding brightness and acidity to all sorts of cocktails. But as good as fresh lemons are, charred ones are even better—searing lemons in a pan gives them a mellower, richer flavor that perfectly complements the gin and rosemary in this make-ahead drink.
5-Spice Bourbon Punch
Whiskey is perhaps most at home in the colder months, but there's no reason to put it away just because the temperature starts to rise. This summery bourbon drink brightens up the booze with lime juice and a five-spice simple syrup. Don't reach for the jar of five-spice powder, though—we make the syrup with whole Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and fennel seed.
Steak Island Beer Cocktail
Don't worry, there's no beef in this drink. The name refers to the fact that we use steak sauce to add a savory note to this beer cocktail. That's not the only unusual ingredient: Muddled bell pepper gives the drink a subtle vegetal flavor. Don't break out the fancy beer for this one—an easy-drinking lager is the way to go.
Pisco-Grapefruit Brunch Pitcher
If your Memorial Day festivities are starting early, ease into the day with this light, brunch-friendly cocktail. Start with pisco (Peruvian Encanto has an herbal flavor that works well), then mix it with a homemade grapefruit syrup and muddled thyme and keep it in a carafe or swing-top bottle until you're ready to serve.
Fizzy Strawberry Pisco Punch
This punch also pairs pisco and thyme, but brings sweet fresh strawberries to the party as well. The pisco is accompanied by equal parts lemon juice and Bonal, a French aperitif bittered with cinchona and gentian. Bonal has plummy flavors that pair well with the strawberries and it has just enough bitterness to keep the drink from being too sweet.
Passport to Chile (Grapefruit Pisco Cocktail)
The honey, grapefruit, and lime juice in this drink pair perfectly with pisco, but they also go well with vodka or blanco tequila. All you have to do is make a honey syrup by mixing 2 parts of honey with 1 part of hot water, and once that's cool, you can just mix the rest of the ingredients together in a pitcher and set it in your fridge until your guests arrive.
Sparkling Lemon-Suze Pitcher Cocktail
Light enough for all-day drinking, this cocktail is made with Suze, a French aperitif flavored with gentian root. We pair the bitter Suze with a tart, woodsy lemon-sage syrup to make a mixer, then finish with a bottle of sparkling wine (something on the cheaper side is fine).
Sparkling Grapefruit Sangria With Lillet Rosé
No list of cookout drinks is complete without sangria. In this version we spike a bottle of sparkling wine with fresh grapefruit juice and citrusy, bittersweet Lillet Rosé. We also muddle in aromatic fresh mint leaves, which are a natural pairing for the tart grapefruit. It's best to prepare the base the night before to let the flavors meld.
Sparkling Rosé Sangria With Aperol and Peaches
Reminiscent of an Aperol spritz, this sangria recipe pairs the fruity, bitter aperitif with fresh peaches, vanilla syrup, lemon juice, and a dry rosé. You can make the syrup a week in advance, though it only takes about 15 minutes.
Ginger-Cardamom Red Wine Sangria
You won't find any pieces of fruit in this sophisticated sangria, just red wine, sweet vermouth, orange juice, and a ginger-cardamom simple syrup. The syrup is made with green cardamom pods and ginger juice—juicing ginger without a juicer is a little bit of a pain, but an immersion blender and a strainer will get the job done.
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