Even though the kids have gone back to school, a few minutes in Texas’ merciless heat reminds you that summer lingers on. And that means summer cocktails are still in fashion — for another few weeks, anyway.
Balmy afternoon and evenings call for something cold, refreshing, and — dare we say — low in alcohol. Try any of these three less boozy late-summer cocktails, which make great alternatives to the typical vodka, gin, tequila, and whiskey drinks.
Sometimes bitter is better
Liqueurs bring sweet, savory, and bitter twists to summer cocktails. The king of the bitter category is the Italian amaro (it literally translates to “bitter”) with Fernet-Branca soaking in the spotlight. These spirits spiked with spices, herbs, roots, fruit, or botanicals are great as either an aperitif or a digestif, and they are great mixed in cocktails.
Amaro Lucano is made with a family recipe of more than 30 herbs that are dried, crushed, and steeped in alcohol. The recipe, passed down for four generations, makes a lusciously sweet and mildly bitter, caramely liqueur with loads of spice and herb flavors.
The sweetness makes it an impeccable companion to fresh fruit. Pureed strawberries and fresh lemon with a bubbly fizz make Amaro Lucano sunshine in a glass. Although it clocks in at 28 percent alcohol, it’s got far less kick than vodka.
Bitter Berry Bash
- 2 oz. Amaro Lucano
- 1 oz. fresh pressed lemon juice
- 1 oz. fresh strawberry puree (or strawberry jam)
- Splash of dry sparkling cider, such as Argus Cidery
Shake all ingredients except cider and strain into a cup with ice. Top with sparkling cider. Garnish with a strawberry.
Feelin’ fino with sherry
The fortified sherry wine might conjure images of old British women in floral dresses and big hats, but it’s actually a sophisticated wine worthy of sipping or mixing in your next cocktail. Hailing from Andalucía on the Southern coast of Spain, sherry is made with the cool breath of the Atlantic, a cozy blanket of yeast, and a slow ride through a complex system of barrels. The result is an absolutely unique wine that leaves an indelible impression, just like the Spanish seaside.
Try the Mr. Pepe cocktail, a riff on a traditional mojito using the light and dry Tio Pepe fino sherry rather than rum. It only has 15 percent alcohol, and the bottle keeps forever even after you open it. It’s a natural complement to seafood and a dip in the pool. Pick it up at Spec’s for $18.
Developed by Yamasaki Tsuyoshi, Star Bar, Tokyo
- 1.5 oz. Tio Pepe fino sherry
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- 1 oz. lemon juice
- 1.5 oz. soda water
- 6 pieces of lime
- 12 mint sprigs
Crush the six lime pieces and mint sprigs in a rocks glass and add all of the liquid ingredients. Fill the glass with crushed ice and garnish with a mint leaf.
Vermouth is one of the best-known aperitif wines with its heavy connection to popular cocktails like the Manhattan and martini. It’s also delightful served neat or over a smack of ice to get that appetite revved up with bittersweet goodness.
The first documented vermouth recipe was made by Italian distiller Antonio Benedetto Carpano in 1786. Carpano Bianco is still made with a similar recipe in Sicily and Romagna with Trebbiano, Chardonnay, and Cortese grapes, along with herbs, roots, and barks giving it mischievous citrus and spirited spice flavors.
Mix this 15 percent wine with orange soda in our Summer Spritz. This is super easy to make and even easier to love. Grab a bottle at Total Wine for $21.
- 2 oz. Carpano Bianco vermouth
- San Pellegrino Aranciata sparkling orange soda
Fill a tumbler or high ball glass with ice, add the Carpano Bianco, and fill with the San Pellegrino. Add a wedge of citrus for garnish.