A cucumber cocktail won’t ask too much of you. Simply wielding a muddler or vegetable peeler will yield refreshing fizzes, coolers and sours all season long. The fruit’s clean flavor and subtle aroma make it a natural pairing for herbaceous, botanical gins, bittersweet aperitivo liqueurs, and vegetal tequilas and mezcals. Cucumber cocktails are more than a cliché springtime construction—they’re a relaxed, warm-weather mindset.
For a simple yet bold take, the Mexican Razor Blade marries the spirit of a spicy Margarita with the mellow, cooling sensation of cucumber, whose slices get added to the mixing tin. The straightforward formula welcomes riffs; try swapping simple syrup for agave or honey, or add strawberries for an extra layer of freshness and a hint of pink.
In the classic Southside Fizz, mint and cucumber are muddled together to create an herbaceous, vegetal note when mixed with gin, lime and simple syrup. Poured over ice and topped with soda water, it’s an easygoing entry to the moment of porch drinking. Similarly, Toby Maloney’s famous sour riff, the Juliet & Romeo, leans on mint, lime and gin to pair with the relaxing essence of cucumber. “I wanted it to taste like a walk through an English garden,” he says of his modern classic, which sees the muddling of a few slivers of cucumber, as well as the addition of floral aromatics via a dash of rose water and Angostura.
Aperol’s singular bittersweetness serves as an apt foil to cucumber’s subtleties. Using the Pink Gin—a spare duo of gin and Angostura bitters—as inspiration, Richard Boccato and Michael McIlroy’s Archangel achieves the forebears’ eponymous hue with added complexity. Though in this case, complexity is achieved through restraint. With just three ingredients—gin, Aperol and bruised cucumber—the Archangel embodies balance; it’s strong yet understated in a most unexpected way. In her “weird but delicious” La Bandida, Brooklyn bartender Fanny Chu concocts a citrusy yet bitter “house” Aperol–crème de pêche blend to accompany salty cucumber cordial, tequila and mezcal. Topped with IPA, it’s fruity and shandylike—a crushable oddball quencher.
Through many spring drinks reflect the change in weather with light, crisp and subtle flavor profiles, cucumber can adapt to the bolder side of the season, too. Kenta Goto’s Watermelon Cucumber Cooler gets a double dose of cucumber (muddled in and garnished with) plus an unexpected savory, mustardy zip thanks to the addition of wasabi salt, which highlights the fruit’s natural sweetness. Building on the basic buck template, the Mezcal Mule calls on passion fruit purée and agave for bright and tropical sweetness, while ginger beer matches spicy, smoky mezcal and cucumber adds its signature levity.