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How to Make 4 Classic Summer Cocktails (Including the World’s Best Margarita)

Porch. Lake. Sunset. Cocktail. It’s May, and for worker bees and stay-at-home folks alike, these words start to punctuate our daily thoughts like so many tulips blooming.

You might be in the middle of putting the kid to bed when you start seeing yourself on a beach somewhere, drink in hand. Or perhaps you’re midway through one of those double meetings—one of the endless ones that entail waiting till 2 o’clock to eat lunch. Your colleagues see you gloss over. You see yourself in shades and a sundress, or a seersucker suit. You look so relaxed, in your mind’s eye. How can you get there from here?

For days when you’re in a “Give me bourbon or give me death” state of mind, here are four stellar summer cocktails that always deliver. There’s something for the gin lover as well as the tequila fan. Bourbon fans, you’re covered with a citrusy punch. Tiki types, there’s a frozen rum drink that will tide you over until Jimmy Buffett comes on the radio.

These drinks are on constant rotation—like a lazy 45 on the hi-fi—in homes across America for a reason. 

We’ve provided all the recipes below. All you need to be is thirsty.

Tommy’s Margarita

San Francisco bartender Julio Bermejo dreamt up this clean twist on a drink often muddled, in my humble opinion, by Cointreau or triple sec. Here is a recipe you can memorize for parties: 1 to 2 to 4. That’s one part agave nectar, two parts fresh-squeezed lime juice, and four parts 100 percent agave tequila, shaken until very cold and served with or without salt. It’s fantastic—light, bright, and sweet-tart—and just as tasty as that other dog days go-to, the daiquiri.

Recipe by Julio Bermejo of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant

½ oz. agave nectar

1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice

2 oz. 100% agave blanco tequila

Prepare a rocks or cocktail glass with a salt rim.

Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice until very cold. Fine-strain into a rocks glass over ice (if desired) or into a cocktail glass, neat. Serve.

The Tom Collins

I recently learned that my own grandfather was a Tom Collins man. It’s a comfort to know the predilection runs in the family. Oddly enough, the drink pairs beautifully with deviled eggs, so if you’re thinking about a slightly fancy picnic or potluck, do it up and serve both. Lemon juice, gin, simple syrup and soda water pave the way to glory here. Caution: This one sure goes down easy.

Recipe adapted from St. John Frizell and Fine Cooking

2 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup (2 oz.) London dry gin, such as Tanqueray

2 Tbsp. simple syrup (recipe below)

½ cup (4 oz.) soda water

One orange slice (optional, for garnish)

One maraschino or fresh cherry (optional, for garnish)

Shake lemon juice, gin, syrup, and four or five ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Strain over ice into a highball glass, top with the soda, and stir. Garnish with the orange slice and cherry.

Simple Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

In a small saucepan, mix the water and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Immediately remove from the heat and let cool.

Frozen Piña Colada

Don’t let these outrageously froofy concoctions be indulgences restricted to glam resorts. Make them for yourself when you’re in need of a treat, when you see that your partner needs something profoundly delicious (and ridiculous), or during long, luxurious, beachy afternoons. Do try to find a cherry with which to garnish the cocktail; it helps set the over-the-top mood. And buy extra pineapple and coconut puree so you can make virgin versions. (If children are in the vicinity, they will flip when they see you drinking what looks like the best milkshake ever.)

Recipe adapted from Jeff Bell and PDT and Food & Wine

5 oz. fresh lime juice

5 oz. fresh pineapple juice

3 oz. coconut water

15 oz. chilled white rum, preferably Caña Brava

6 oz. frozen coconut puree, such as Perfect Purée of Napa Valley

3 oz. cane syrup

4 pineapple wedges and 4 cocktail umbrellas (optional), for garnish

Mix lime juice, pineapple juice, and coconut water and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, about 4 hours. Transfer ice cubes to a blender. Add the rum, coconut puree and cane syrup and blend until smooth. Pour into 4 chilled double rocks glasses or large coupes and garnish the drinks with pineapple wedges and cocktail umbrellas.

Strawberry-Lemon Bourbon Punch

The love child of strawberry lemonade and a mint julep, this punch can dress up or down. It looks stunning in a cut-glass crystal punch bowl with a lemon-studded ice ring, but it’s just as popular when concocted right in the Newman’s lemonade container and lugged to a picnic. Strawberries and mint are optional with this one, but they do add a lovely springy touch.

Recipe by Alex Van Buren, courtesy of MyRecipes

10-15 cups store-bought lemonade (such as Newman’s Own), or to taste

2 lemons, thinly sliced

375 ml. good-quality bourbon, or to taste

¼ cup fresh mint, plus 2 Tbsp. for garnish (pptional)

½ cup strawberries, hulled and sliced (optional)

Make Ice Ring: Fill a bundt pan or tube pan with approximately two inches of water, depending on the size of your punch bowl. (Make sure the resulting ring will fit bowl.) Add lemon slices and any additional edible garnishes, such as sliced strawberries or whole mint leaves, to float on top. Freeze for at least 6 hours, covered tightly with plastic wrap. When ready to serve punch, set pan, tin-side-down, in sheet tray of warm tap water until it is easy to invert and remove.

Make punch: Combine lemonade, bourbon, mint, and strawberries a large punch bowl. Stir well to mix. Adjust bourbon and lemonade to taste. Carefully set ice ring, lemons-side-up, in punch. Garnish with fresh mint, if desired. Serve.

Alex Van Buren—follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen—is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and content strategist who has written for The Washington Post, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Epicurious.

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