4 summer cocktail trends that will upgrade your weekend

By Matt Chappell

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Summer is far from over. Despite being mid-way through August, if recent weather forecasts are even half reliable, summer is set to last until at least late September. Which means summer cocktails aren’t over yet either.

Whilst an icy cold lager or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc are strong choices, cocktails are the go-to for many on a long, hazy summer afternoon in 2019.

And, for those of you who like to stay on trend (so – all of us), this advice from award-winning bartender Ali Reynolds (who was the World Class UK Bartender of the Year 2015), will serve you well.

You might be relaxing on the beach. You might be entertaining in a hip rooftop bar. You might be a DIY mixologist trying to impress your mother-in-law. Wherever you are, go in loaded with these – Ali’s pick of 2019’s biggest summer cocktail trends.

1. The Whisky Highball

Summer cocktail trends

What’s the trend? Whisky.

Why? Right now, whisky is on the up – not in a Mad Men-inspired Old Fashioned but in a long and summery highball; a different take on something that, maybe, you thought you already knew how to drink.

“People are getting way more experimental with their food and drink, and they’re trying new things. But the problem with whisky has always been in whisky lovers telling other people how to drink it – neat, on the rocks, in front of a fireplace,” Ali says.

“Actually, you might be surprised if you ordered a whisky soda or whisky and ginger ale, because they are just as refreshing as a G&T and offer a lot more flavour than you would expect from a whisky category. Johnnie Walker have been leading the way on whisky highballs (a highball being a base spirit, highlight ingredient and mixer to lengthen) and what’s great is this isn’t just a whisky and ginger – it’s whisky with loads of different, experimental flavours; green tea, peach, lemon, elderflower.”

Take a look at whisky in a different light – in a different glass – and get just as experimental with your summer cocktails as you are with your food.

What to drink: Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky highballs.

The classic take is to pair your whisky with fiery ginger ale (which is still delicious). But, to get experimental, try pairing with cloudy lemonade for a Brazilian caipirinha-inspired highball, elderflower cordial and soda, for a taste of London’s English summer, or try carbonated American peach tea for flavours of New York.

2. The Tequila Paloma

Summer cocktail trends

What’s the trend? 2019’s party spirit of the moment – tequila.

Why? When the sun is just starting to set and the sky’s vibrant pink and orange colours bring everyone together, it’s time to move onto a summer cocktail that can carry you into the night and out onto the dance floor.

“Tequila isn’t ordered enough,” Ali says.

“As a spirit, it’s got a party vibe, and when you use something like Don Julio it has a premium feel, great for early evenings – you sit around with your friends and be social, you can see each other over the short bottles on the table.  Tequila is seeing a real resurgence, and people are realising it’s not just for margaritas and shots at the bar.”

What to drink: A paloma.

The longer version of a margarita, this cocktail combines lime, agave, pink grapefruit, and premium tequila. Tequila has a really nice earthy note to it – and citrus, especially Don Julio Blanco, as Ali recommends. There’s sweetness from the agave and then a wonderful citrus from pink grapefruit and fresh lime. It’s topped with a grapefruit soda and a salt rim for that sweet and sour effect. Paloma has your evening covered.

3. The Vermouth Signature Serve

Summer cocktail trends

What’s the trend? Low ABV.

Why? In 2019, being health conscious is cool. So, in comes a summer cocktail trend some bartenders like to call ‘no and low’. Either non-alcoholic or low-calorie and low-ABV alcohol, mixed with really fresh ingredients and very little sugar. And we’re not talking about 0% bottles of lager.

“Stats are showing, for first time, that younger generations are drinking less,” Ali says. “They go out, drink less but drink better, with the best products. Of course, there’s also the sustainability aspect coming in too, with fewer ingredients – or single ingredients – and the aim of maximising flavour.

“One way to add a premium feel to this trend is a vermouth signature serve; a short, with tonic, that’s like an old fashioned or a more accessible alternative to G&T. Vermouth is low ABV, made with wine and loads of botanicals, that offer a boost over a simple G&T. It’s easily enjoyed but has always been in the background (think your grandma’s martini and lemonade). So it’s nice to see it stand alone and be the star of the show.”

What to drink: A vermouth and tonic.

Whereas a classic gin and tonic would be one part gin and then lots of tonic, this drink is two-to-one – 50ml vermouth and 100ml tonic. Ali recommends Balthazar Vermouth Red – it’s rosé, made with wine, and delivers fruity, floral flavours that, instead of being overly bitter, bring out sweetness. You can then garnish it with pink grapefruit.

This combination screams of a rosé spritz but it’s got those added botanicals. It’s also a summery take on an old fashioned, for anyone and at any time of day. You could have this as an aperitivo because of its low alcohol content, or later in the evening as a pick-me-up.

4. The Gin Fizz

Summer cocktail trends

What’s the trend? Elevated classics.

Why? Summer would not be the same without the classic gin and tonic. It’s a much-loved favourite and, although the gin craze might be old news now, it’s not going anywhere. What we can do though, with gin, is elevate the humble G&T to match all those other creative summer cocktails you’ll see on rooftop bar menus throughout the city.

“Gin is still massive,” Ali says, “but there are now so many gins that it’s a bit of a battle ground.

“To the G&T haters out there, it might not be that you don’t like gin, it’s that you don’t like the bitterness of the tonic. Adding gin to a richer, fruitier drink can replace all of that bitterness. Gin is still alright – but this is taking a classic and elevating it with a different twist.”

What to drink: A gin fizz.

This is gin mixed with a fruity base. There’s orange, lemon, lime – lots of acidity – but the gin (Tanqueray No. TEN is Ali’s recommendation) is really fresh, with a citrus heart. You add orange marmalade for sweetness and a little bitterness – but top with cream soda for a balanced taste. It’s not too strong, really approachable and easy to read with the flavours.

And that’s your lot, four of 2019’s biggest summer cocktail trends. Next time you’re at the bar or making your own concoctions at home, these are the drinks, quite literally, on the edge of everyone’s lips. Happy shaking.

You can find out all about the new Johnnie Walker whisky highballs here.

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