Save the stiff cocktails to enjoy with Old Man Winter. The summer months are for the porch pounders—those light and refreshing low-ABV cocktails that you can enjoy in the sun without getting burned by a heavy pour of something 80-proof-plus.
Making a well-balanced, low-ABV cocktail involves the same bartending principles you’d use to concoct a boozier drink. You’re looking to match fresh citrus, herbs, or syrups against a bitter agent like an Amaro or Genepy or something complex such as a vermouth or a liqueur, says Beau Harris, a certified sommelier and master mixologist at Ziggy D’Amico’s Whiskey Bar & Diner in Naples, Florida.
“A word of caution though,” notes Harris. “The lower the ABV on a spirit, the higher the sugar levels tend to rise—so show restraint when it comes to sugary syrups, crèmes, and sweeter liqueurs or you could end up with too cloying of a cocktail.”
The following favorite cocktails from top bartenders around the country are light on booze but big on flavor. No hangovers here.
1. The California Sunset
Perfect for poolside sipping, this cocktail is bursting with citrus notes, grapefruit, and lime, and the muddled cucumber adds crispness, says Roberto Marín who created the drink for Cocina Milagro, a poolside restaurant at Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya.
- 1 oz Las Californias Gin Citrico
- 0.3 oz Aperol
- 1 oz lime juice
- 3 cucumber slices
- Club soda
- Muddle cucumber in a rocks glass
- Add ice and incorporate gin, Aperol, and lime juice
- Fill with club soda
2. Le Club 55
For this riff on a spritz, you’ll use Lillet Blanc, which, as an aperitif, has a low-ABV yet is complex. “Lillet has a beautiful flavor profile with notes of honey, flowers, and candied orange,” says Max Bratter, bar manager at Waypoint in Cambridge, MA.