15 Light Summer Cocktails to Cool Things Off

Grab your sunnies and sunblock! It’s officially that time of year and these light summer cocktails are here to bring you a sip of shade. They’re light, simple, and delicious on a summer day.

The start of summer and the Fourth of July mark two of the drunkest days of the year, my friends. And according to BACtrack, the average BAC is 0.082%. Not to mention, over June, July, and August alone, that average sits at 0.60%.

That’s a whole lot of hot, drunk humans. And as a bartender or bar owner, you can help them find a place to cool off and grab a signature sip.

For the best summer cocktail recipes to offer – gin, bourbon, vodka, and more – keep reading! But first, here’s a quick rundown on fruits that are in this season you might want to buy to keep behind the bar.

Are you reading this because you have zero inspiration to get through another tourist-trap season that is summer? I got you. Local Bartending School, on top of offering training and certification to new and entire teams of bartenders, is always looking for experienced bartenders to help teach. (Plus, you can earn extra cash with event gigs or even take their flair course.)

In-Season Fresh Fruits to Have Behind Your Bar

Summertime is the time for ripe a** fruit. I mean, they even dubbed July as National Watermelon Month.

Make sure you have plenty of berries and fruits ready. Fruits are light, refreshing, and perfect for those days where it’s so hot you feel like you can’t breathe.

And with the planet’s temperature rising making our summers even hotter, you’re bound to be asked for something fruity. And if not, then these make for good variations on signature recipes to really hone in those summer vibes.

Actually, we’ll use these in some of our recipes later on. Just keep reading!

  • Cherries
  • Melon
  • Peaches
  • Strawberry
  • Passion Fruit

Top 15 Easy Summertime Cocktails

Credit: Bon Appétit | Recipe inspiration from our friends at Bon Appétit.

1. Boozy Salted Watermelon Juice

Since July is National Watermelon Month, what better way to celebrate than offering watermelon-themed summer cocktails?

This recipe is perfect for any barbeque, beach or boat day, or even a baby shower. Hello, pink-themed cocktails for gender reveal!

Ingredients (This recipe builds four drinks, so pay attention!)

  • 4 ounces vodka
  • 6 cups cubed watermelon, seedless
  • Lime juice, to taste
  • Kosher Salt
  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  • Blend watermelon until smooth. Fine-mesh sieve the juice through into a large pitcher or measuring glass, pressing hard on the solids to extract as much juice as possible; discard the solids. Add salt to taste. Pour 1 ounce of vodka into ice-filled glasses. Top with watermelon juice. Garnish with lime wedges.
Credit: Canva Pro | Sailors once thought a stiff gin could cure their bouts of scurvy.

2. Gin & Tonic

You might have seen from our spring cocktail collection (FUTURE LINK), we think gin is the perfect liquor for warm weather. It tastes like flowers on a fresh day! We can’t help it…

So on the list goes a tried-and-true bar favorite, the Gin & Tonic.

Originally meant to help cure scurvy, nowadays bar-goers will just want to cool off with help of G&T’s botanicals. We’ll swerve on the scurvy. No, thank you!

Credit: Bon Appétit | Have we mentioned Bon Appétit has some awesome summer cocktail recipes?

3. Bramble Smash

Merriam-Webster tells us that brambles are “usually prickly shrubs of the rose family including the raspberries and blackberries.” Concerning cocktails, though, it refers to a recipe brought to life by a London Bartender named Dick, created in the 80s.

Though the following recipe isn’t how Dick originally made the bramble, you can add creme demure or creme de cassis to follow in his footsteps.

The Bramble Smash will crush any thirst on a super hot day.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup
  • 4-6 blackberries
  • 4-6 blueberries
  • 4-6 raspberries
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • Lemon wedges
  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  • Muddle 2 lemon wedges and 2 lime wedges (each), simple syrup, 4 blackberries, 4 blueberries, and 4 raspberries a few times to release juices and oils. Add vodka. Strain into an old-fashioned glass. Add crushed ice halfway, stir, then add more crushed ice on top. Top with berries.
Credit: Canva Pro | Recipe from Liquor.com

4. Hurricane

Bartenders in New Orleans are probably quite familiar with this refreshing summer cocktail with rum. They sell more than half a million of them each year!

The Hurricane’s hometown is New Orleans and was born there in the 1930s. And kind of like the Moscow Mule, was created due to an excess of product. With the mule, it was copper mugs and vodka. The Hurricane? Too much rum.

And you know it gets hot down there in Louisiana! That’s why the Hurricane gets a spot on our list of thirst-quenching summer cocktails.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces light rum
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 1 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1 ounce orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • .5 ounce passion fruit puree
  • .5 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine
  • Garnish: orange half-wheel
  • Garnish: preserved cherry

Instructions

  • Combine the rums, juices, puree, syrup, and grenadine in a shaker with ice; shake until combined well-chilled. Serve over ice in a large Hurricane glass. To garnish, add an orange half-wheel and a preserved cherry.
Credit: Canva Pro | I’m not going to quote the song, don’t worry. But that won’t stop you from singing every time you make a piña colada.

5. Piña Colada

Piña coladas are perfect for capturing that summer feeling. Or maybe the taste of what I think tanning lotion? Either way, I love a creamy pina colada when I’m soaking up the sun. Even if your bar is inside, with a good imagination and a solid recipe, your guests will feel like they’re on a cruise, pre-pandemic. Super chill.

If you’re looking for a summer cocktail menu that’s as golden as your tan, a piña colada is a sweet choice.

Credit: Canva Pro | Recipe from What the Fork

6. Vodka Lemonade

Lemonade during summer is like hot chocolate during winter. Without this staple drink, did summer even happen?

Make sure your regulars, bar guests, and friends get their lemonade fix before the season ends. But being the professionals you are, you’ve got to add some vodka.

This recipe is light, tangy, and the right amount of sweet.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Stoli Gluten Free Vodka
  • 6 ounces lemonade
  • Lemon slices, garnish
  • Fresh mint, garnish

Instructions

  • Add the vodka and lemonade to a shaker to combine. Strain into serving glass over fresh rocks and garnish with lemon slices and a fresh mint leaf.
Credit: Canva Pro

7. Mai Tai

The Hurricane was born out of too much rum. But the Mai Tai caused a shortage of rum.

And before we go any further, it’s pretty well-known that some Mai Tai recipes should be 86’d from the menu. They’re filled with sugary fruit juice and sticky, old cherries.

The OG Mai Tai recipe layers and blends together complex, opposing flavors. My favorite part? The orgeat. Don’t forget the orgeat, bartender friends. Supes important.

Here are some other quick facts about Mai Tai’s:

  • Made somewhere in the 1930s-50s
  • Crafted in a tiki bar
  • Original recipe used 17-year-old Jamaican rum
Credit: Canva Pro | Recipe from Liquor.com

8. Aperol Spritz

Did you know this drink is the main post-work cocktail in Italy? Well this summer, it’ll be the perfect post-work cocktail at your bar.

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces prosecco
  • 2 ounces Aperol
  • 1 ounce club soda
  • Orange slice, garnish

Instructions

  • Pour the prosecco, Aperol, and club soda into a wine glass filled with ice and stir well. Add an orange slice for garnish.
Credit: Canva Pro | Recipe from Liquor.com

9. Mint Julep

A summer cocktail with bourbon, the mint julep is guaranteed to keep your bar guests cool. I mean, hello… mint. A lot of these ingredients you probably have behind your bar already, so suggest these all summer long.

Ingredients

  • 8 mint leaves
  • .25 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Mint sprig, garnish
  • Angostura bitters

Instructions

  • Muddle the mint leaves in the simple syrup in a Julep cup or rocks glass. After adding the bourbon, pack the glass tightly with crushed ice. Mix until the cup has a frosty exterior. Add more crushed ice to form an ice dome and garnish with a mint sprig and some bitters.
Caption: Picture and recipe from Pizzazzerie

10. Peach Smash

The Peach Smash screams southern summer. Plus, it’s a summer cocktail with whiskey or bourbon! Like picking a hot dog or hamburger at a barbeque, the choice is yours.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces whiskey or bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 3 slices peach
  • 1 splash seltzer water

Instructions

  • Fill glass with crushed ice. Combine whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into glass. Top with a splash of seltzer water and garnish with peach slices.
Credit: Canva Pro | Recipe from Beverage Dynamic

11. Passion Fruit Slushie

The Passion Fruit Slushie was first blended by a head bartender in Florida. If you think your mixology skills won’t get you anywhere – think again. Maybe your recipe will go viral one day. And if you need help sharpening your skills to be viral-level, LBS is here to help with that, too.

Remember, passion fruit is in season during summer. The people love a seasonal cocktail menu!

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1ounce Chinola passion fruit liqueur
  • 1 ounce Lemon and hibiscus simple syrup

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until the ice is slushy. Serve and garnish!
Credit: Canva Pro | Recipe from The Spruce Eats

12. Rum Runner

Fake your regulars into thinking they’re on a cruise. Unless you’re bartending on a cruise then, as you were my friend.

The rum runner belongs to the group of airy, tropical summer cocktails created in Florida. And it’s pretty much summer there all the time, so you know it’ll cool things off no matter where you are.

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce light rum
  • 1 ounce dark or aged rum
  • 1 ounce banana liqueur
  • .5 ounce blackberry liqueur, or blackberry brandy
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 splash grenadine
  • Fruit of your choice for garnish

Instructions

  • Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into a glass of fresh ice. Add fruit garnish and serve.
Credit: Canva Pro | Recipe from Cosmopolitan

13. Tequila Sunrise

I mean, this drink just looks like summer in a glass. It’s the perfect suggestion in the summer when your guest is looking for something fruity and packs a punch.

And sometimes, sunrises just need a little tequila.

Credit: Delish/Parker Feierbach | Recipe from Delish

14. Margarita

Deserving of a top spot on the list, the margarita is a year-round occasion. But it just hits different in the summer. Especially if you add an in-season fruit puree for an extra ray of sunshine. Watermelon margarita, anyone?

Your bar should have a standard recipe. If you’re a bar owner and you don’t have standardized recipes, you might need help from Local Bartending School. We can get your whole team trained, certified, and following the same recipes with perfect pours every time.

Credit: Canva Pro | Recipe from The Spruce Eats

15. Red, White, and Blue Shot

You know I couldn’t leave the infamous red, white, and blue shot off the summer cocktail list. It’s fun, festive, and fast. Just like ‘Merica.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 ounce grenadine
  • 1/3 ounce white crème de cacao liqueur
  • 1/3 ounce ​blue curaçao liqueur

Instructions

  • Fill a shot glass one-third full with grenadine. Pour the crème de cacao slowly over the back of a bar spoon and let it float on top of the grenadine. Float the blue curaçao on top of the crème de cacao to fill the glass.

Easy, Breezy, Bonus Summer Cocktails

Our list of easy-to-drink, easy-to-make, light summer cocktails had some recipes that might be new to you. But, there are a few classic cocktails and summer drinks that we haven’t mentioned.

If this is your first year behind the bar, or you have new staff, make sure you can crank out these refreshing summer cocktails.

  • Mojito
  • Strawberry Daiquiri
  • Sangria
  • Frosé
  • Negroni
  • Spritzer
  • Paloma

Quench Your Bar’s Thirst with Sweet, Light Summer Cocktails

Whether you’re tending the bar at a beach wedding, picnic event, or a dark, old bar these easy summer cocktails are the best to suggest to your bar patrons when the heat rolls in. With juicy fruit, cool mint, and the help of chilled liquor, your guests and regulars will be on vacation mode every time they sit at your bartop.

Do you like making drinks for your friends? Interested in bartending? Bartending classes are open for enrollment. Learn more about our bartending course.

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Carrie Jean Lipe

Carrie Lipe has been writing creatively since childhood but jump-started her professional writing after college. She's an Indiana native, Ball State Hospitality graduate, and a bartender with over 10+ years in the industry. You can find her making basil Moscow mules when she's not writing. Follow her professional journey on Instagram! @contentbycarriejean

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