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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 rum fan or looking for a delicious zero-alcohol option, Julie Sheppard recommends a selection of easy-to-prepare seasonal drinks.

The weather might have been a bit hit-and-miss this summer – but that doesn’t mean your seasonal drinks selection should be the same. Of course, there are plenty of refreshing summer wines to choose from. However there are numerous other options to explore.

This is the time of year 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 ideas, from cocktails and spirits to no-alcohol alternatives.

Classic summer cocktail recipes include salt-rimmed Margaritas and 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. If you fancy a change from an Aperol Spritz try pairing a vermouth, such as Barcelona’s El Bandarra Al Fresco (see below) with tonic instead.

Are you in holiday mode and preparing mixed drinks just feels like too much effort? Then reach for a quality ready-to-drink cocktail to make life even easier. Simply fill your glass with plenty of ice, pour and enjoy.

Many distillers put summer ingredients to good use in seasonal editions of their spirits – from flavoured vodkas to summer gins. Floral and fruity botanicals such as strawberries and rose petals, or seaside plants like rock samphire and sea purslane help to conjure up seasonal vibes in a glass. And who doesn’t love unwinding with a crisp G&T at the end of a hot sunny day?

If you want to avoid alcohol altogether, the range of interesting 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 or hard seltzers… There has never been more choice for drinkers choosing to go alcohol free. Whatever your preference – and whatever the occasion – the selection below will give you plenty of bright ideas…

Hands holding summer cocktail glasses and raising a toast

Summer drinks to try

Recommended by Chris Losh and Julie Sheppard 

Agua de Madre Lemon & Ginger Kefir Water

If you want something citrusy and invigorating but without caffeine, sugar or alcohol, this is a good bet. The flavours of lemon and ginger are subtle and because it’s water-based it’s naturally light, with just a hint of funky kefir tang. Could work as a wine (or a mojito) alternative, and since it’s probiotic it’s good for your gut, too – just don’t drink too much of it! Alc 0.5%

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%

Bax Botanics Verbena

Created by Rose and Chris Bax, a wife-and-husband herbalist team in Yorkshire, this is a really distinctive gin alternative. Verbena, mint and fennel are craft distilled – and their flavours are faithfully reflected in a drink with precision, lift and the joyous lazy hum of a British country garden. Pair it with tonic water and lots of ice; ready-to-drink cans are also available. Alcohol 0%

£18.99/50cl Bax BotanicsThe Alcohol Free Co, Master of Malt

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%

Mirror Margarita

Tequila fans will love this stylish new crystal-clear bottled Margarita, made with Cazcabel Blanco Tequila. The signature serve from Hacha, the UK’s first specialist tequila and mezcal bar, the Mirror Margarita was created by mixologist Deano Moncrieffe. It blends Cazcabal with citrus oils and malic acid (naturally produced by the agave plant) to deliver a well balanced, clean and crisp Margarita, with elegant agave character. It’s launching nationwide in Sainsbury’s from 1st September, but for summer sipping the limited-edition El Rayo X Mirror Margarita is available now. Each 500ml bottle delivers five serves. Enjoy it chilled, over ice, with no garnish. Alc 15%

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%

£24/75cl, Gnarly Vines

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. Try it in an Old Tom Collins: build in a tall glass using 50ml Porters, 25ml lemon juice, 25ml sugar syrup and 125ml chilled soda water. Alc 40%

Saicho Darjeeling

This cold-brew sparkling tea will delight fans of fizz, tea and red wine alike. It’s delicate, balanced and ever-so-slightly tannic, which makes it a good red wine substitute. But it’s also lip-smackingly refreshing with a whisper of sweetness too, à la Champagne. It’s excellent simply served chilled or over ice. Alternatively you can get creative and try it with juices or alcohol-free spirits as a cocktail ingredient. Alc 0%

Cans of drinks and fruit

Sake Sling

Served in a slimline can that takes up minimal space in your fridge, sparkling Sake Sling is also light on alcohol and calories. These ready-to-drink Japanese serves are based on sake from the 200-year-old Daimon Brewery and were created by the late great British mixologist Wayne Collins. Mandarin & Cherry is a play on the flavours in a Singapore Sling cocktail. But my pick for summer is Yuzu & Melon, a fresh and elegantly fruity fizz, with delicate citrus notes that perfectly complement the floral character of the sake. Alc 5.5%

£14/4 x 250ml cans, Amazon

Bottle of wine, two glasses nuts and playing cards on a table

Wednesday’s Domaine Summer Cuvée

The Wednesday’s Domaine range of alcohol-free wines is ideal for anyone who fancies a glass of something delicious mid-week, but without the Thursday hangover. The label launched last year with Piquant White and Sanguine Red. The new Summer Cuvée rosé is a seasonal special created using a base of Airen Blanco and Tempranillo grapes from La Mancha in Spain. Light and refreshing, with delicate red cherry notes, it’s equally good on its own or paired with fresh summer salads. Alc 0.5%

£25.99/ 2 x 75cl bottles, Wednesday’s Domaine 

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