Southern summers were made for fun, fresh, fruity drinks. Berries, peaches, and other delicious delights of the season are at their peaks and deserve to be imbibed as well as eaten. But you can do better than the standard slushy daiquiri squeezed from some machine. Make your own cocktails to enjoy on your porch, patio, or deck, and invite some friends over so you can impress them with your bartending skills and share the fruit flavors of your labor. And, of course, even if you “don’t do alcohol,” you can still enjoy these drinks—just leave out the spirits.
BOOZY BASIL LEMONADE
Basil and lemon are classic partners. Throw in a little sugar to sweeten them up and some club soda for some pizazz, and you’ve got a drink that’s easy to make and even easier to enjoy.
For four drinks:
2.5 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup to 1 cup basil simple syrup (see method below)
1.5 cups club soda
1/2 cup vodka
Mix all together in a small pitcher and serve in glasses over crushed ice.
Basil Simple Syrup
Mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan and add ½ cup of basil leaves. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat and let cook for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Pour through a sieve to remove the basil leaves and into a sealable container. Keep in the fridge for a week.
This drink is a great one to make without alcohol and is fun to do in a big batch and serve from a punch bowl for a pretty presentation; just triple or quadruple the recipe. It’s also a great way to use up strawberries that are about to be too ripe.
For four drinks:
1.5 cups very ripe strawberries, caps removed
2 limes cut into very thin slices
1/2 to 3/4 cups light rum
1 cup of ginger ale
1 cup of club soda
Smash the strawberries a bit with a fork and place in a bowl with the lime slices and the rum. Let the mix soak for an hour or two in the fridge. Pour the mixture into a pitcher (or punch bowl if you made enough) and top with ginger ale and club soda. Give it a stir and serve over ice.
Kick up any celebratory toast (or just a Tuesday evening) with this embellished bubbly. Feel free to use any sparkling wine, but don’t use anything too sweet on its own, or you’ll have sugar overload once you add the sorbet.
For one drink:
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
2 small scoops of lemon sorbet
4 to 6 ounces of champagne
Put the sorbet into a champagne flute or other fun cocktail glass and sprinkle the chopped mint on top. Pour your bubbly over it all and enjoy!
BLACKBERRY-BASIL CUCUMBER SPRITZER
Blackberries, with their intense hue and flavor, are my hands-down favorite fruit, so my go-to form of refreshment on an early evening in summer is this crisp, effervescent cocktail that’s just as delish without the vodka.
For one drink:
1/2 cup fresh blackberries, plus a few extra berries for garnish
1.5 tablespoons simple syrup (see below)
1.5 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
2, 1/2-inch cucumber slices, chopped into quarters
3/4 cup club soda
1 to 1.5 ounces vodka
Fill a tall glass about 1/3 full with crushed ice. Add 1/2 cup of blackberries to the ice and use a spoon to crush the berries into the ice. Add the chopped basil and simple syrup. Add the cucumber quarters. Pour the vodka and club soda over it all and stir. Toss in the extra blackberries and drink it down! If you’d like it a bit sweeter, just add more berries and/or more simple syrup.
Basic Simple Syrup
Mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat and let cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Pour into a sealable container. Keep in the fridge for a week.
SEE ALL SUMMERTIME COCKTAIL PHOTOS HERE