In the tradition of summer drink-making, there are two basic tenets: Make it refreshing and keep it simple. Counter-intuitively, it’s this simplicity that most invites experimentation from bartenders, as they riff on timeless formulas—that of the shandy or the Paloma, for example—to make something new that’s just as thirst-quenching as the original.
Take the archetypal summer highball, the G&T: With just three components (counting the citrus), the pared-down classic may seem limited, but Chaim Dauermann from New York City’s Up & Up proves that boundaries really do breed creativity. He amplifies the drink’s iconic flavors, boosting the bitter and herbal quotients with doses of Suze and Angostura bitters and concentrating the classic squeeze of lime into a house-made lime cordial. The result: the aptly-named Insanely Good Gin & Tonic.
Similarly, in her Garden Paloma, Meaghan Dorman turns up the flavors of the original by combining fresh grapefruit (in place of the soda favored south of the border) with jalepeño-agave syrup and celery bitters to add heat and pump up the tequila’s inherent herbal notes.
In response to the modern drinker’s love of all things bitter, Violet Hour‘s Zac Sorensen upgrades what is perhaps the most sessionable of summer drinks—the shandy—by combining American Pale Ale and lemon juice and adding Cynar, Punt e Mes and grapefruit bitters. The resulting drink, the Hop Skip Jump, drinks like an aperitivo lover’s beer cocktail.
Pivoting away from the bitter and toward the fruit, there’s the cobbler, whose heaps of pebble ice and simple structure have made it a summer favorite since its debut in the early 19th century. In the Easy Street, Chad Larson of Denver’s Williams & Graham mixes Byrrh with gin, lemon and port, for a complex, yet dry and refreshing, variation.
Lastly, there’s the rich and textural Pisco Sour, which Chicago’s Brian Sturgulewski riffs on in his Chance Encounter. He combines pisco and citrus with Salers and Dimmi—both of which provides viscosity in place of egg white—for a lighter, summer-ready version of the southern hemisphere classic.