Though it may seem like Americans mostly enjoy their drinks after the sun has gone down, daytime drinking has been part of American identity since colonial times, when people would start their days with beers or spirits over breakfast. Still, in recent decades, it’s largely fallen on Europeans—namely, in those countries that straddle the Mediterranean—to carry the joie de vivre flag for midday libations.
“Anywhere in Europe? It’s kind of the norm,” says Ivy Mix, co-owner and head bartender at Brooklyn’s Leyenda. The deeply held aperitif traditions and sociable café cultures of France, Italy and Spain are just a few examples of how drinks are incorporated into the everyday routine. “I like daylight, I like sun, I like low-ABV cocktails and wine,” adds Mix. “Day drinking is for me.”
When it comes to doing it well, Dan Sabo, beverage director of downtown L.A.’s Ace Hotel, says, “sessionability is really important,” a point that highlights the chief rule of daytime drinking: Go low-proof. For many, that also means going long, as in the Surf City Spritz, which features a blend of pineapple-infused rum, gin and two types of liqueurs, all kept in low doses and diluted with coconut water and seltzer for a drink that’ll keep giving all afternoon.
Caitlin Laman similarly takes the low-ABV highball route, swapping in sherry and St-Germain for the usual measure of gin in her San Pancho, which is accompanied by strawberry syrup and soda. Meanwhile, The Broken Shaker Miami’s Brian Griffiths triples down on the fruit, lengthening a pour of gin and St-Germain in his Nudie Beach with honeydew, lime and passionfruit, plus a touch of rosewater.
One thing all drinks designed to be consumed during the day share is an easygoing, thirst-quenching character—but that’s not limited to long drinks. Back in Brooklyn, Mix goes for a short but still light and refreshing take: Her Da Hora riffs on the Caipirinha template by mixing citrus and cachaça with St-Germain and topping it all with sparkling wine, for a Latin-inspired, afternoon-friendly Royale.
And down in New Orleans—a town that’s embraced day drinking as much as anywhere—Neal Bodenheimer pays tribute to his home city (and its attendant love of liqueurs and all things anise-flavored) through a mix of Ojen and elderflower liqueur that results in the aptly named For Rex.
Of course, the ultimate appeal of day drinking is rooted in its ability to act as a mini-vacation, which all these cocktails aid in doing. “It’s this idea that you can blow off the responsibility,” says Bodenheimer, “and go and do something that’s fun during the day.”