By Sarah Spencer

Summer is here, and with it comes numerous opportunities for an unforgettable get-together.  Whether it’s your wedding, bachelor(ette) party, or just a regular Saturday pool party, your event will need some refreshing seasonal beverages.  The best summer drinks are light, and frequently incorporate seasonal flavors. Several of these drinks are staples of New Orleans (we have a lot of experience with hot summers!) while others hail from around the globe. Keep your guests cool with these fantastic cocktails that are perfect to combat the summer heat.

Kir Royal

Named after the mayor of Dijon, France in the 1960’s, the Kir Royale (and its sister, the Kir) is both light and elegant.  Just a dash of crème de cassis (or Chambord), a blackcurrant-flavored liqueur, topped with sparkling wine (no need to go for the expensive variety here – the taste will be masked by the crème de cassis).  Garnish with a lemon twist to give a hint of citrus.  Just be sure to keep that champagne cold.

Pro-tip: For any wine-based drink that you want to keep cold, but not water down with ice, put a few frozen grapes in the glass.  In addition, if you can put the glasses in the freezer before using them, it’ll keep your summer drinks cooler longer.

Pimm’s Cup

Photo by whitneyinchicago, via Flickr

Although Pimm’s No. 1 is an English liqueur, the Pimm’s Cup has become a quintessential New Orleans cocktail.  Pimm’s is a derivative of gin, but it tastes almost like an iced tea.  Paired with gingerale, sweet and sour, and garnished with a cucumber, it’s hard to find a more refreshing drink for those hot summer days. No wonder it took off in the sultry Big Easy!


Sangria, a Spanish classic, is a perfect drink to make in advance and let your friends serve themselves from a punch bowl.  A traditional sangria is made with red wine, brandy, sugar, a little orange juice, and fresh oranges and lemons.  But the fun of sangrias is that you can tailor them to your liking!  Simply pick your favorite fruits, choose between red or white wine, add some brandy, and maybe top it off with ginger ale or orange juice to give it an added boost of flavor.  There are countless variations (many that are low-calorie) that are sure to please everybody, and it’s easy to make!

Pro-tip: Make sure you don’t add too much sugar if you’re using a sweet wine (such as a Riesling or a Moscato) as it can become overly sweet.

 Wheat Beer/ Saison

Don’t leave your beer-drinking friends high and dry at your summer party! Craft beers are on the rise and enjoying a few has become one of the most popular ways to imbibe.  Keep the beer-enthusiasts satisfied with a light (but flavorful) beer, such as a witbier or a saison. Witbier is a Belgian white ale that usually is lightly spiced with coriander or orange peel, while a saison is a pale ale that is also spiced and tends to a have a slightly fruity taste.  Some local varieties to try are Urban South’s “Charming Wit,” NOLA Brewery’s “Hurricane Saison,” or Courtyard Brewery’s “Blanche de Orleans.”

Pisco Sour

Photo by Dtarazona

The Pisco Sour (along with other pisco cocktails) is a great way to add a hint of the exotic to your party – without much effort.  Pisco is made in South America (primarily Peru and Chile), and is very similar to brandy. Both spirits are made from grapes, but pisco can be either aged or unaged.  You may want to save a pisco sour for a party with a bartender, as it calls for egg whites to give it a nice froth, and the wrong proportions can ruin the taste.  That being said, it’s fairly simple with its other ingredients (simple syrup, lemon and lime juice, and Angostura bitters).  And don’t be freaked out by the egg whites; several popular drink recipes use them.

Lemonade with Mint

For your non-drinking friends, serving lemonade infused with mint (or basil, or other herbs) makes a classic summer beverage that much more refreshing! (If someone really wants to doctor it up, they could always add some sweet-tea vodka for a twist on the Arnold Palmer.)


Nothing says summer in New Orleans quite like grabbing a giant frozen daiquiri from one of the several daq-shacks around town and enjoying an adult smoothie outdoors.  Give your summer event a similar fun vibe by making your own! Most recipes for frozen daiquiris require a copious amount of whichever fruit will be featured to be pureed in a blender with ice, lime juice, and your spirit of preference (typically rum).  The strawberry daiquiri is the most well-known, but now would be a great time to experiment with other summer flavors! Maybe you’d prefer mango, pineapple, or watermelon.  You could also serve a traditional daiquiri, which is shaken with ice and served like a martini.  The classic recipe is simply rum, lime juice, and sugar, and is much less likely to give you a brain freeze.

Beware of spilling lime on your skin in the sun – it can lead to a nasty burn!


Developed at the local establishment Pat O’Brien’s in the 1940’s and named after the glassware it’s served in, the Hurricane is boozy, fruity, and fun – perfect for tropical summer day! The recipe on Pat O’s website has several different types of liquor, making it akin to a tropical Long Island ice tea.  More simple recipes call for light rum, fruit juices, and bit of dark rum poured on top of the mixed concoction.  Of course, if you want to keep things simple, you can always add rum to the official Hurricane Mix.

Pro-tip: Use a tall glass with a small opening (either a Collins or a Hurricane glass) so that you don’t overdo the floater of dark rum.


With so many fantastic options, it can be hard to pick a favorite! No matter what you go with, these summer drinks are a fun way to stay refreshed on a hot summer day.


Love the idea of signature cocktails? Check out these fantastic Jazz Age cocktails.


Sarah Spencer is a cocktail enthusiast who has loved the Big Easy since she first moved here to attend Tulane.


All images without attribution are CC0; no attribution needed. Top image (gif) via