The best—if we’re being honest, maybe the only good—part of the summer of 2020 has been the books. From twisty thrillers to steamy romances, we’ve had it all. Our summer 2020 reads are hot, sweet, evocative—kind of like a really good cocktail. And since you’re likely reading any number of these with a drink in your hand anyway, I thought I’d do the work of pairing some of the biggest summer reads with the perfect drink. You’re welcome.
‘Luster’ + Death In The Afternoon
I love a Death in the Afternoon—and no, that’s not just when my coffee crash hits—because this cocktail almost begs you to drink it. It’s so glamorous, yet kind of out-there (tell me the last time you saw one of these on a cocktail menu… exactly). Not to mention, it’s delicious. I think Raven Leilani’s Luster is just as compelling. So much of this book is about that all-too-familiar striving for satisfaction, electric and desperate and wry. Luster is the perfect accompaniment to this cocktail because it hits those same dark and quixotic notes. Another irresistible point of symmetry is that this drink has only three ingredients, mirroring the open marriage at the center of this story.
- ¾ oz absinthe
- 4 oz chilled prosecco
- 1 sugar cube
Pour the absinthe into a champagne glass. Slowly add the chilled prosecco; if you do it right, your drink will turn an enchanting, iridescent green. Drop in the sugar cube and enjoy that gratifying fizz while it lasts.
‘Hysteria’ + Tequila And Habanero Sour
This book burns with sensual urgency, sort of like the burn from the habanero in this twist on a sour. Jessica Gross’ immersive and dark debut is complex and beautiful, hitting every note in that virtuosic range between desire and shame. I couldn’t resist matching Hysteria with this spicy tequila sour, a drink that encompasses an equally impressive range of flavor and fragrance.
- 4 oz blanco tequila
- 2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 ½ oz agave
- 2 dashes habanero hot sauce
Add the tequila, lemon juice, and agave into a shaking tin. Throw in the hot sauce and five to seven ice cubes, then shake vigorously for almost a full minute (if your arms can hold up). Fill two rocks glasses with ice and pour out the mixture through a strainer, dividing the cocktail between the glasses equally. Garnish each glass with a freshly sliced lemon wheel.
‘The Death Of Vivek Oji’ + Mezcal Aperol Gimlet
Akwaeke Emezi’s story about community and loss is the real deal. The masterfully rendered characters and shifting points of view create a poignant vision of the kaleidoscopic world surrounding Vivek. I found it nearly impossible to put this book down, which is why I had to pair it with a drink that I also find impossible to put down: this complex, bittersweet, vibrant mezcal Aperol gimlet.
- 2 oz mezcal
- ¾ oz agave nectar
- 1 ½ tsp Aperol
- ¾ oz freshly squeezed lime juice
- grapefruit zest for garnish
Combine the mezcal, agave, Aperol, and lime in a shaking tin. Add five to seven ice cubes and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds. Strain your cocktail into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a generous strip of grapefruit zest, if you have it.
‘Pizza Girl’ + Rum And Cherry Coke
Pizza Girl will take you for a ride in the very best way. Jean Kyoung Frazier so clearly, brilliantly—and almost harshly, because it’s so relatable it may feel like an attack—renders the mistakes, tragedies, and miracles of youth. I couldn’t resist going a little more literal with this one and pairing Pizza Girl with a riff on a rum and coke. This one’s hopefully a step up from what you were drinking in your high school friend’s basement while your parents thought you were studying, but it’s still a throwback to those days. (Not to mention, it goes great with pizza.)
- 2oz Flor de Cana rum
- 4 oz cherry Coke
- 1 maraschino cherry
You know this song, right? Fill a tall glass with ice and add your rum and cherry coke. Give it a little stir and add a maraschino cherry so you can practice tying the stem into a knot with your tongue when you’re finished.
‘Last Call On Decatur Street’ + Sazerac
Iris Martin Cohen’s Last Call on Decatur Street perfectly captures the blurry beauty of a long night out in one of the most bewitching cities in the world. (Ugh, remember nights out?) A Sazerac is really the only match for this dazzling ode to New Orleans, since the drink was created there in the early 19th century. The dreamy absinthe rinse along with a bold bolt of rye will bring you to the exact sort of summer night Cohen conjures in her page-turning second novel. Just maybe pace yourself with this drink, or you may find yourself having a blurry night of your own.
- 1 ½ tsp absinthe
- 2 oz rye
- 4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 1 ½ tsp simple syrup
Pour the absinthe into a glass along with two ice cubes; swirl the glass and coat the interior. Set aside and add rye, both bitters, simple syrup, and ice to a separate mixing glass. Stir for about a minute. Then, empty the absinthe and ice from the first cup and pour—through a strainer—the contents of the mixing glass into the rinsed glass.
‘Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop’ + St. Germain
Aside from my friends and family, I probably miss traveling the most. Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is a tonic for anyone craving adventure. For a more immersive experience, fix yourself a St. Germain champagne cocktail to go along with it. This drink is as lovely, effervescent and delightful as Roselle Kim’s transportive tale of Vanessa’s voyage to Paris. Plus, it’s French AF so it will really set the scene.
- 1 oz St. Germain
- ½ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 oz chilled sparkling wine
- lemon zest for garnish
Add the St. Germain and lemon juice in a shaking tin over ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds and pour into a champagne glass. If you want to get really fancy with it, chill the glass first. But if you can’t wait, don’t worry about it. Top with cold sparkling wine and garnish with a twist of lemon zest. If you don’t have a shaking tin, you can make this one right in the glass—just make sure you pour in the St. Germain and lemon juice first.
Image: Dragon Images / Shutterstock.com
If you asked anybody last fall what they thought their summer would be like, I’m sure nobody could have predicted we’d all be relegated to our homes, avoiding a deadly virus. (And if you did, give me your number because I need some advice on stocks.) Bars may be opening to varying degrees where you live, but maybe you don’t feel comfortable venturing out just yet. Or maybe you just prefer drinking in the comfort of your own home, which, before quarantine happened, we all complained was a better way to pass the time anyway! So if you’re not an overachiever who has taken this time to learn how to bartend (and who wants to buy random sh*t like vermouth and bitters anyway?), then it’s time to stock up on canned drinks for summer. They’re portable, they’re delicious, and you don’t have to make them yourself. Here are some canned drinks you can take to your next socially distant park hang.
Created in Los Angeles and produced in Ventura, CA, Livewire canned cocktails are created by top bartenders and the cans are designed by tattoo artists, which is good for your Instagram but bad for my hoarding tendencies. (What, I like to save pretty things…) Three drinks are now available: the Heartbreaker, a mix of vodka, oroblanco grapefruit, kumquat, jasmine, and ginger; the Honeydew Collins, which contains gin, honeydew, lime leaf, coconut, and elderflower; and the Golden God, which is made of Rye whiskey, brandy, apricot, green tea, and elderflower. Fancy. They’re available at select stores in Los Angeles, San Diego, and New York, or you can just buy a 4-pack online.
Cutwater Canned Cocktails
So basically you’ll never have to buy a bottle of liquor ever again if you just stock up on Cutwater Spirits, because they’ve put pretty much every cocktail imaginable in canned form. From a Bloody Mary to a tequila paloma to your basic vodka soda and so many f*cking more, they legit have it all. I sounded like an infomercial just there but it’s legitimately true. I the grapefruit vodka soda, which has a nice flavor kick without being too abrasive like ahem other grapefruit canned drink varietals, as well as the tequila margarita, which knocked me on my ass at 12.5% ABV. Truly something for everyone. They’re currently available in a bunch of states and on Drizly and Reserve Bar.
Prairie Organic Spirits
I love the design of these cans because they kind of look like you’re drinking an old-timey soda and not a cocktail with 5% ABV. Just in case, you know, you might need to disguise the fact that you’re getting buzzed…in front of your mom, not anything illegal, of course. Prairie’s canned cocktails come in three varietals, all made with Prairie Organic vodka or gin. The cucumber lemonade and grapefruit are made with vodka, and they are pretty self-explanatory in terms of flavor and ingredients. If you’re a gin person
I don’t trust you you can try the Minnesota Bootleg, a blend of gin, mint, lemon, and lime flavors. So like, kind of a gin fizz, maybe? Find them at a local retailer.
Speaking of super cute packaging, Two Chicks is a female-founded company that makes a number of equally tasty and pretty canned cocktails, and they’re all sparkling, because obviously. What I love about this brand (aside from what I already said) is that they have cocktails you’re not really going to find anywhere else, like a sparkling apple gimlet and vodka CuTea (vodka with peach, cucumber tea, and thyme). They also have your classics like a citrus margarita and paloma, though. I’ll take one of everything. Buy locally or through services like Drizly.
Started by Shay Mitchell, Noah Gray, Max Dworin, and Kelli Adams, this sh*t looks and tastes like summer in a can. Their canned tequila soda has 5% ABV and 100 calories, and it’s made with blanco tequila from a woman-owned distillery in Mexico and uses real lime and grapefruit juice. You really can’t go wrong with either of the two classic flavors, lime and grapefruit.
McBride Sisters Collection SHE CAN Wines
McBride Sisters was started by (you guessed it) sisters Robin and Andréa McBride, who had no idea the other existed until 1999. I’m going to need a movie about their life ASAP, and it will be the new Parent Trap. While they have a bigger bottle collection, they offer canned sauvignon blanc and rosé. The sauv b is a New Zealand wine and the rosé is a California wine, a nod to how one sister grew up in New Zealand and the other in California. I’m telling you, they need a movie!! You can bu the cans directly through their site, and stay on the lookout for SHE CAN spritzers.
Cupcake Canned Wines
If you’re more of a wine drinker, Cupcake wines have three types that come in a can: the sauvignon blanc, rosé, and sparkling rosé. All are perfect for summer and can be purchased at your local liquor store or, again, online. As an extra bonus that literally seems too good to be true, the cans are 375mL which means there is half a bottle in every can. Let me repeat that: HALF A BOTTLE IN EVERY CAN.
14 Hands Unicorn Rosé Bubbles
Speaking of wine, 14 Hands Unicorn Rosé Bubbles is pretty much the cutest canned drink ever, and that’s all there is to it. I am told the flavor is “light, fruity and crisp,” but I’m going to level with you guys: all wine tastes the same to me unless that wine is Chardonnay, which I categorically hate. This wine has scents of cranberry, pomegranate, and Bing cherry, but again, I went to a wine tasting once and was literally Michael Scott being like “this tastes like a red.” Regardless, this rosé is cute and it tastes good, and you can get your hands on some online or through Drizly.
Bud Light Seltzer
We have now reached everyone’s favorite portion of the article: seltzers. And I’m not going to cover the obvious ones, but I do feel the need to include Bud Light on here. The thing is that these are actually good!! And they’re one of the only companies that has a strawberry flavor, which is a personal favorite. You can pretty much get it wherever you can find Bud Light—I trust that you don’t need my advice on this one.
Volley Spiked Seltzer
Tequila drinkers (hi), this one’s for you. Volley is the first clean spiked seltzer since it’s made with only three ingredients: 100% blue agave tequila, sparkling water and organic juice (as if I care, I’m putting alcohol in my body). It’s made with 100% blue agave tequila, so to me it tastes like a tequila soda, which happens to be my go-to bar order. They’re basically like if you want the taste of tequila without all the commitment, and there are four flavors: zesty lime (tastes like your standard tequila soda with lime and it is, in fact, zesty), sharp grapefruit (like your skinny girl paloma), tropical mango (which is surprisingly really good and kind of tastes like soda), and spicy ginger (like a tequila mule). Check out their website where they will direct you to a third party retailer that ships to your state.
Another hard seltzer that is kinder on the body (well, as kind to your body as an alcoholic beverage can be) is Vizzy, which contains Vitamin C. This is bad news for me because I am known to drink when I am getting sick, because I subscribe to the “alcohol kills the germs” mentality. So now that we have alcohol that contains vitamin C, it’s game over. In any case, Vizzy has more ~elevated~ flavors like pineapple mango, black cherry lime, blueberry pomegranate (it’s getting wild over here), and strawberry kiwi. You can order through Drizly, Instacart, or at a retailer near you.
Crook & Marker
From spiked lemonade to tea to soda to coconut (water, I guess?) Crook & Marker has basically every type of hard fizzy drink you could ever want. I can always get down with a hard lemonade, and their classic, blueberry, raspberry, and watermelon flavors are a definite step up from the hard lemonade you stole from your parents in high school (not naming any brand names, but I think you know the one). You can find them at a local grocery store or similar retailer.
Images: Maria Oswalt / Unsplash; sipwhiskey.com; cutwaterspirits.com; prairieorganicspirits.com; twochickscocktails.com; drinkonda.com; mcbridesisters.com; cupcakevineyards.com; 14hands.com; budlight.com; jensensliquors.com; vizzyhardseltzer.com; crookandmarker.com
Thanks to a miraculous breakthrough of science, we now have alcoholic seltzer. Low calories, low to zero sugar, bubbles cause we’re so fun, and lots of alcohol make these a FANTASTIC choice for sippin’ at the pool, beach, or on your couch while wearing sweatpants and canceling plans. There are a shitload of alcoholic bubblies out there, but we narrowed down the five best spiked seltzers so you can get your drank on without being required to wear a larger size in pants. Bless.
1. Svedka Spiked Premium Seltzer
Holy tap-dancing Jesus. One of our vodkas from our college years has made the leap to spiked seltzers. And they’re DELICIOUS. Though Svedka’s spiked line offers a few flavors, the cucumber basil is the crowd fav. It doesn’t taste artificial at all, has a nice chill summer balance, and can still get you fucked up after a few cans. Praise be.
This gluten-free spiked seltzer is sure to become a favorite of white people everywhere. The best part of the Truly line, which has been around for a bit now, is all the varieties. Pomegranate is like, probs the best, but Sicilian blood orange, pomelo, lemon and yuzu, and other bougie flavors make this the LaCroix of spiked seltzers. Fight me.
3. Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water
Henry’s Hard is like, probs one of the OG hard sodas out there. Obv, they got the message that betches want calorie-free alcohol that doesn’t taste like dick, and they branched into the wide world of spiked seltzers. You only have a choice of a few flavors—none of which are mind-blowing. However, they work REALLY well if you use them as a mixer with like, juice … or more alcohol, idk. Also, at only 88 calories per can, you can drink a lot before feeling bad about it.
4. White Claw
When my cousin first bought me a pack of this so we could get white girl wasted while lying on pool floaties, I was ready to get my white trash on. However, this gluten-free, higher calorie spiked seltzer is actually super decent on alcohol and probably the best on taste. It tastes less like an 18-year-old’s first foray into alcohol, and more like something I can drink while playing bridge or joining a book club. I’m a classy lady, god damn it!
Alright—let’s break this down. SpikedSeltzer has 140 calories per can, but 6% ABV…so worth it? This is the can that’ll get you super drunk, super fast, so if that’s the goal, go for it. The biggest downside to these is that they’re really kind of sweet, and the higher sugar content may give you a worse hangover.
We’re praying for the day LaCroix becomes alcoholic. JUST SAYING LACROIX PEOPLE YOU’D MAKE SO MUCH MONEY PLEASE HIRE ME TO RAMP THIS UP FOR YOU BYE.
Images: Giphy, Walmart (4)
With summer upon us, it’s time for alcohol. I mean, like, it’s always time for alcohol, but there are ways to beat the heat while still being hella classy and better than everyone else. Because we’re kind of over rose at the moment after a not-to-be-discussed incident involving too much frosé (no yay), we’re all about Chenin Blanc now.
You may not have heard of Chenin Blanc, which instantly makes this wine more interesting. Pull up a chair, children, and let us tell you a tale of a crisp white wine made in France where summer is full of yachts and gourmet food and calories and hangovers don’t exist.
What Is It?
Chenin Blanc is a white wine which began in mostly the Loire Valley of France. This shit can be traced back to the ninth century and the grape responsible for this wine was used at one time to make dessert and sparkling wines. In 1655, the grape made its way to South Africa where it totally spread like cray. Wine makers, seeing the grape grow so rapidly, were all like OMFG LET’S MAKE BRANDY, but they got tired of that shit and wanted a grape all their own for like, classier shit (wine). SO people started experimenting with it and bing, bang, boom – South Africa became a major producer of Chenin Blanc. If you see a Chenin Blanc from South Africa or France, it’s probs legit.
WTF Does It Taste Like?
Think of Chenin Blanc as the ultimate sweet and sour wine. It has bright acidity BUT that shit is tempered by sweetness. So, you’ll get fruit like apple, pear and lime along with jasmine, saffron, and lemon. Shit, you may even get some buttered popcorn flavor in there. Are you picking up what we’re putting down? It’s like, all the flavors in a great way.
What Types Can I Get?
Chenin Blanc can be all of the spectrum – as evidenced by its flavor profile. When looking for types, you’ll see dry, off-dry, sweet, and sparkling. Obviously, sparkling is fucking sparkling and can be anywhere in taste from Brut to Demi-Sec. Sweet Chenin Blanc (for those of you who are new to drinking) will taste like tropical fruit and citrus … beware, this shit can be REALLY sweet and give you a HORRIBLE hangover. Off-dry happens when some of the grapes natural sugars are left in the wine, so the Chenin Blanc will be rich without being overpowering. Lastly, dry Chenin Blanc is minerally and tart. Drink this if you’re a goddamn adult.
WTF Do I Drink It With?
Because Chenin Blanc is so fucking versatile in flavor, it goes with goddamn everything! If you’ve got a drier Chenin Blanc, pair with typical diet summer fare like fish and salad. Sweeter varieties go well with the Thai food you ordered as well as the tacos you’re about to inhale. Somewhere in between can go with rich people shit like pate and cream sauces.
Read: Everything You Need To Know About Rosé
So, like, summer is officially here, and somehow I don’t have the bikini body of Gigi Hadid despite working super hard on not eating and only drinking vodka sodas. Rude. Since I’m all about giving up and giving in to temptation these days (lol yolo), I figured we skip the low-cal vodka drinks and questionable hard seltzers (we’ve hit a new low as a society) and go right for the drink of psychopaths—gin. Weirdly, this liquor reminiscent of cleaning solution goes beautifully with things like fresh berries and mint aka the prime farm-to-table crops of summer. To get in the spirit, we mashed ’em all up together and made an alcoholic bev that’ll keep us cool and happy when we’re getting our tan on.
- 1 6-oz container of blackberries OR raspberries … or a combination of the two. IDGAF, it’s your life.
- ½ cup white sugar
- 2 cups gin
- 1 cup fresh lime juice
- 1-2 bottles of that hard seltzer shit—we used Spiked Seltzer
1. Grab your Vitamix or poor people blender and combine the blackberries and sugar. Once you’re done blending, stir the concoction until the sugar looks dissolved, which honestly may take a while. You can also put it on the stove in a small saucepan and heat the mixture until the sugar is alllllll gone.
2. Once you’ve got that where you need it, strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a pitcher so you can throw out the seeds. Ain’t nobody want those.
3. Grab your gin and lime and pour into the pitcher with the blackberry stuff. Then divide among glasses and top with the hard seltzer and sprigs of fresh mint.
It’s like totally healthy because there’s fruit in it, fucking duh!