Patio Pounders: 20 Light and Refreshing Low-Alcohol Cocktails
Prolong your daytime staying power by sipping on these low-proof cocktails. From sparkling spritzes to frozen wine slushies, these are the ideal drinks to enjoy on a sunny day.
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Warmer weather and longer days are often celebrated with pool parties, picnics, and barbecues.
But to keep you on your feet in the sultry heat and bright sun, you're better off trading those dangerously easy-to-drink but super-boozy tropical drinks for low-ABV cocktails. Bonus is that the sessionable options also tend to be more refreshing. Think a spritz made with sparkling wine, fresh fruit, and lots of ice versus a potent Manhattan cocktail.
Whether you want to prolong your summer-day staying power or just keep things light, consider these lower-alcohol cocktail recipes.
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Low-alcohol frozen cocktails >>
Answers to your low-alcohol cocktail questions before you head out to your patio chair, drink in hand
What are low-proof cocktails?
Low-proof cocktails are drinks that are light on alcohol. Typically they're made with sherry, vermouth, sake, or wine with no or very low amounts of hard alcohol, such as vodka, rum, or whiskey.
What are some good low-alcohol cocktails?
Cocktail lovers favor the Americano cocktail made with amaro and sweet vermouth. It's basically a Negroni that trades gin for club soda. Meanwhile the Aperol Spritz and the Bellini, both of which include prosecco, are the darlings of the brunch set.
What is the lowest alcoholic drink?
The ABV in beer can be as low as 4% and unfortified wine gets as low as 14%. In terms of cocktails, a bitters and soda is about 0.2% ABV.
These day-friendly classics are not only brunch favorites, but they often double as hangover cures
Low-Alcohol Pimm's Cup
This Wimbledon staple and favorite summer sipper has been dialed back a bit booze-wise thanks to herbaceous amaro Fernet Branca. Pimm's, the gin-based liqueur, is cut with Fernet here for a refreshing and balanced cocktail.
The classic sherry cobbler has been around since the mid-1800s, but for this recipe cocktail historian David Wondrich updated its specs to suit the modern palate. The recipe calls for superfine sugar but you could also use plain sugar. It'll just take longer to dissolve.
This favorite hangover "cure" is made in a variety of ways and sometimes suffers for it. But for this eight-serving recipe, the author didn't change up the ingredients — he changed how they are treated and assembled. He pre-chilled the beer and Clamato juice and saved the ice for the serving glass.
To transition the classic cocktail, the Negroni, to daytime drinking, swap out the gin for club soda and you have the Americano. Its simple mix of Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda makes it the perfect "hair of the dog" brunch companion.
The margarita is already a natural go-to for warm-weather festivities. But for this recipe, manzanilla sherry, the lightest and driest of sherries, steals the spotlight from tequila at 1.5 ounces versus the tequila's 0.75 ounce.
Bubbly cocktails that tickle your nose are made for enjoying sunny days
Mint Peach Rose Spritzer
On a day that's so hot all you can do is sit on the porch fanning yourself, batch up a pitcher of this ice-cold spritzer. Muddle fresh mint and sugar, add luscious white peaches, top with rose wine, and chill overnight. When you're ready to serve it, add a bottle of champagne or sparkling rosé.
Transport yourself to the Amalfi Coast with this delightful citrusy spritz. It's made using limoncello, an Italian liqueur. You can either make your own, as most Italians do, with lemon peel, sugar, and vodka or simply pick up a bottle from the store. It's the perfect drink to serve before a meal or alongside light summertime bites.
Italians have been throwing back Aperol Spritzes for aperitivo hour (aka happy hour) for over a century. But the refreshing mix of Aperol, prosecco, and club soda only recently took over American brunch menus by storm in the 2010s. Most online Aperol Spritz cocktail recipes say to garnish it with an orange slice, but this one recommends adding the delicious savory component of three pitted green olives.
The touch of elderflower liqueur paired with mint and bubbly makes this a very pretty and refreshing drink to enjoy during brunch with friends. The beautiful thing about this recipe is that you can tweak it to your taste by adding as much elderflower liqueur or prosecco to your heart's desire.
Yes, this would be a spritz cocktail that you can actually enjoy while in the shower. That you can mix and drink it right out of the LaCroix can helps make that possible. Style up that colorful can by garnishing it with lime zest, grapefruit zest, a lime wheel, an edible orchid, edible glitter, and a straw.
Low-ABV tropical drinks
Tropical drinks are notorious for masking their potency with sweetness, effectively knocking you off your feet. But not these low-alcohol drinks!
Sherry Piña Colada
Fortified wine lowers the ABV and contributes a welcomed nuttiness to this beloved tropical classic. There is still some aged rum here, but it's only half an ounce versus the 1.5 ounces of amontillado sherry.
This cocktail was created by Tiki cocktail historian and bar owner Jeff "Beachbum" Berry to be enjoyed as an intermission between potent Tiki cocktails. It's made with amontillado sherry, sweet vermouth, pineapple juice, Angostura bitters, and chocolate orange liqueur, which can be swapped out for allspice dram.
Bitter Mai Tai
Craving this Tiki classic but want to get on with your day? Try this lower-proof variation that trades the blended rum for Campari and adds just enough Jamaican rum to funk it up.
Golden Nugget Tiki Cocktail
This low-ABV tropical drink features just a whisper of cachaca, Brazil's distilled spirit made from freshly pressed sugarcane juice, as well as sweet vermouth, orange juice, coconut puree, and falernum. Its coconut and almond notes will give you beachy vibes but the drink won't knock you out.
A pink blended tropical cocktail served in a hulled-out pineapple with a 375ml bottle of prosecco inserted upside-down into it? Fun! Even though it may look like trouble, however, the sparkling wine lowers its ABV.
Low-alcohol frozen cocktails
The best and most fun way to lower your core temperature is with a frozen low-proof cocktail
Love for this ingenious mix of Aperol, lemon juice, simple syrup and rosé wine has not waned one bit. To make it, you pour a 750ml bottle of a full-bodied (pinot noir- or merlot-based) rosé into a 13-by-9-inch pan and freeze it for up to six hours. Afterward, you scrape it into a blender with the other ingredients, puree and serve in coupe glasses.
The most labor-intensive part of this cocktail recipe is the peeling of oranges and hand squeezing limes. To batch up four servings, simply throw a bag of frozen mixed berries, dry red wine, Cointreau, lime juice, and sweetener into the blender and mix it up. This could be made right before you need to serve it.
The Guinness Milkshake can be enjoyed on St. Patrick's Day but it's even better on a hot summer day. The maltiness of the Irish stout works beautifully with the richness of the vanilla ice cream. Remember before you serve the shake to prep the pint glass by first chilling it in the freezer and then drizzling chocolate syrup down the insides of the glass.
Fernet and Coke Granita
Fernet and Coke is the favorite highball cocktail of Argentina, and here it's made even more refreshing transformed into a granita. It requires some prep time such as freezing the ingredients overnight and then scraping it up with a fork. But the stomach-soothing amaro and Coke would be perfect after a barbecue meat fest.
Watermelon White Wine Slushie
Prepping for this white wine slushie is key. Not only will you want to freeze your watermelon ahead of time for a creamier texture but you'll also want to freeze half of your wine as ice cubes to replace the regular ice cubes. This way it won't dilute your drink as much.
More refreshing drinks to mix at home
From mocktails to the strongest drinks, we've got it all. Explore more Yummly cocktail articles for drinks at every alcohol level: