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Great summer drink ideas: Cocktails, spirits and no-alcohol alternatives

Celebrate the bank holiday weekend with a glass of something special. Whether you're a cocktail lover, a G&T fan or looking for a delicious non-alcoholic option, Julie Sheppard recommends a selection of easy-to-prepare seasonal drinks...

Summer is the season when long drinks rule: thirst-quenchers that are simple to prepare and easy to mix up in pitchers or jugs to share with friends. Below you will find some great summer drink ideas, from cocktails and spirits to no-alcohol alternatives.

The current trend for quality ready-to-drink cocktails makes life even easier: simply fill your glass with plenty of ice, pour and enjoy.

There are plenty of classic summer cocktail recipes: from salt-rimmed Margaritas to rum-laced Tiki drinks like the Mai Tai. But if you enjoy experimenting with flavours and preparing mixes that your friends and family might not have tried before, drinks writer Laura Foster suggests simple summer twists on classics.

Meanwhile spritzes continue to be a popular, lower alcohol choice, with Waitrose recently reporting an increase in Aperol sales, up 148% year-on-year. If you fancy a change from an Aperol Spritz try pairing Barcelona vermouth El Bandarra Al Fresco (see below) with tonic instead.

Many distillers put summer ingredients to good use in seasonal editions of their spirits – from flavoured vodkas to summer gins. Botanicals including strawberries and rose petals, plus seaside plants such as rock samphire and sea purslane help to conjure up summer days in a glass – and who doesn’t love a crisp G&T on a hot summer’s day?

If you want to avoid alcohol altogether, the range of low- and no-alcohol drinks continues to grow at a rapid pace. From convincing gin alternatives such as Seedlip and Sea Arch Coastal Juniper to bottled and canned mocktails and hard seltzers: there has never been more choice for drinkers choosing to go alcohol free. But whatever your preference – and whatever the occasion – the selection below should give you plenty of drinking inspiration…

Summer drinks to try

Aluna Coconut Rum

For a totally tropical taste try Aluna: a blend of five rums from Guatemala and the Caribbean, made with toasted coconut and sustainably sourced coconut water. Slightly lower in sugar and alcohol, there are lots of fresh creamy coconut aromas with nice spiciness on the palate, plus toasted coconut notes and vanilla – like sipping rum out of a coconut shell. Rum fans can enjoy it neat over ice; pair it with cola and lime for a coconutty Cuba Libra or pimp their Piña Colada. Alcohol 37.5%


This no-alcohol spirit is an ideal option for fans of citrus gins. Fresh, sweet orange citrus aromas on the nose, with mandarin and hints of orange barley. The palate is a zesty mix of citrus and spice. Lemon, orange and lemongrass feature alongside a green chilli kick and a dry earthiness on the finish, which is crisp and slightly bitter. Pair it with Fentiman’s Pink Grapefruit Tonic Water for a refreshingly zingy take on a G&T. Alc 0% 

Available on Amazon

Buck and Birch

I love the unusual foraged flavours that Tom Chisholm and Rupert Waites create at their East Lothian Distillery. As well as their Aelder Elixir wild elderberry liqueur and Amarosa rum and rosehip liqueur, the duo also produce a range of ‘wild bottled cocktails’, each in a 150ml bottle that serves two. My pick for summer is The Thornstar Martini, a blend of Amarosa, woodruff vodka, hawthorn blossom syrup and sea buckthorn. It’s tangy and bitter-sweet, with the distinctive spicy dried orange peel and dried mango notes of the sea buckthorn coming through nicely, plus a crisp, lip-smacking finish. Alc 16%


Four bottled cocktails in a garden

Carluccio’s Amalfi Pompelo Margarita

Italian restaurant and deli brand Carluccio’s launched its own range of bottled cocktails in May. Made with blanco tequila and Pampelle Italian ruby red grapefruit liqueur, the Amalfi Pompelo Margarita has a spicy lime and pink grapefruit palate with a tang of Maldon sea salt. The range also includes sweeter takes on a Strawberry & Balsamic Sour and a Honeyed Fig Daiquiri, all in 135ml aluminium bottles. There’s also a 700ml sharing bottle Negroni, made with Portobello Road Gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, that’s perfect for aperitivo hour. Alc 14%


El Bandarra Al Fresco

Step aside Aperol Spritz, there’s a new summer tipple in town… Made in Barcelona, El Bandarra Al Fresco is a bitter-sweet vermouth that you can pair with tonic for a vibrant aperitif. With lower alcohol than a G&T, vermouth and tonic is a lighter, more refreshing take on a sparkling summer cocktail. Mix 50ml El Bandarra Al Fresco with 100ml tonic in a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with an orange slice. The eye-catching graphic bottle – inspired by tapas menus – looks great too. Alc 14.5%

Wine glasses and a box of Jukes Cordials on a summery table

Jukes Cordialities

Wine writer Matthew Jukes is the palate behind this range of alcohol-free drinks designed to appeal to wine lovers. Each numbered blend combines natural fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices and flowers with organic apple cider vinegar. Each 30ml bottle can be mixed with still or sparkling water to create two 125ml glasses. My pick for summer, Jukes 8 is inspired by Provence rosé, with notes of rhubarb, melon, pomegranate and apple. Alc 0%


Manly Spirits Marine Botanical Vodka

A vodka for gin lovers, this Australian spirit is distilled in Sydney using foraged marine botanicals including sea parsley and kelp. Salty, savoury aromas with underlying spiciness make your mouth water. The slightly sweet palate is creamy and savoury with some seaweed umami depth, balanced by lovely breezy ozone freshness and a clean mineral edge. Just like a day out at the seaside… A great alternative to gin with tonic or try it neat with oysters. Alc 41.6%


The bottled Mocktails range will suit anyone who doesn’t want to drink alcoholic cocktails, but doesn’t want to have sweet syrupy fruit juice drinks either. Low in sugar and vegan friendly, these are well-balanced alternatives to popular cocktails that you can enjoy instead of or in between alcoholic drinks. My summer picks are The Vida Loca Mockarita, packed with fresh lime notes, and the ginger-spiced Scottish Lemonade Mockscow Mule. The range also includes the Karma Sucra Mockapolitan and Sevilla Red Sansgria, all in 200ml serves. Alc 0%

Available on Amazon

Glass of wine on a table with lemons and a bowl of white currants

Muri Passing Clouds

Danish brand Muri arrived in the UK in May after making waves on Copenhagen’s restaurant scene. A food-friendly low-alcohol wine alternative, it’s made using a layered fermentation technique, producing nuanced flavours and aromas that will open up with time in the glass. Red wine drinkers will enjoy Nuala, but my summer selection is Passing Clouds, made from white currants fermented with Pichia kluyveri yeast and blended with quince kefir and jasmine tea. The aromatic floral nose is a delight – with notes of jasmine, orange blossom and beeswax, plus an undertone of russet apple – and the fresh, palate-cleansing acidity. Alc <0.5%


Porters Tropical Old Tom Gin

Created by bartenders in a micro-distillery in Aberdeen, this gin is made in an Old Tom style: a traditional 18th century recipe that’s slightly sweeter than London Dry. I love the fresh and faintly tropical aromas, with sappy leafiness, pineapple and floral touches. On the palate the Old Tom sweetness is balanced by fresh tropical fruit – pineapple, mango – edged in florals but also with earthy base notes, like walking through a humid rainforest. Makes the perfect summer G&T. Alc 40%

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