The summer cocktail sweetheart of 2017 was obviously frosé, in all its millennial pink glory. But a new year has brought new trends, and we're raising a glass to plenty of inventive cocktail creations in 2018. From juicy cantaloupe martinis to pineapple-doused bourbon to cocktails that put veggies in the spotlight, summer 2018 is all about striking that guilt-free balance between fun and healthy. (Well, fine, as healthy as a cocktail can get.)
Fresh juice cocktails
For all of you who wish their juice cleanse came with a boozy chaser, boy have we got a trend for you! Mix fresh-pressed juices with naturally flavored liqueurs for a healthier concoction that'll still feel plenty indulgent. Here's one we dig: The Betty Sue, a cocktail coined by Jacob Strawn of Nashville's 404 Kitchen . It starts with fresh carrot juice, lemon and ginger, and finishes with gin, yellow chartreuse, and a couple drops of absinthe.
Make this one at home by combining 2 ounces Plymouth, ½ ounce Yellow Chartreuse, ½ ounce canton ginger, ¾ ounce fresh carrot juice, ½ ounce lemon juice and 2 drops of Absinthe in a shaker. Shake for 5 to 10 seconds, then double strain over ice in a Collins glass and garnish with parsley.
If there's one fruit that could win a popularity contest, it's pineapple. You can add fresh-pressed pineapple juice to pretty much any cocktail your heart desires, but the Big Bubba is a favorite of ours. It's a light and refreshing bourbon-based drink created by South Carolina’s Swig & Swine .
Mix 1½ ounces Virgil Kaine Ginger Bourbon, 3 ounces pineapple juice, 3 ounces ginger beer, 1 ounce soda and 3 sprigs of fresh basil in a shaker. Mix for five to seven seconds, then pour over large ice cubes in a rocks glass and garnish with fresh basil.
The Aperol Spritz
Move over, frosé! "The Aperol Spritz is the most popular cocktail in the country at the moment, especially in NYC,” says Sarah Boisjoli, beverage director at Brooklyn’s The Springs . For a twist on the classic, use Chandon as the sparkling wine.
Mix one part lemon juice, one part gin, two parts Aperol and two parts Perrier in a blender with ice. Blend until smooth before pouring into a glass and topping with Chandon. Garnish with an orange wedge and HAGS (that's "have a great summer," for those of you who have never signed a grade school yearbook).
Spice up your life
Craving a cocktail with kick? We got you — drinks infused with pepper and spice are tickling tongues all over the country this summer. A great place to get acquainted is with The Hot Mezz, a summer favorite at Chicago’s Barrio . It's got smoky mezcal, juicy watermelon and fresh jalapeño, so it's the perfect spicy complement to taco night.
Combine 1½ ounces Sombra Mezcal, 1 ounce sage syrup, 1 ounce lime juice, 1 ounce watermelon and 3 jalapeño slices in a shaker with ice. Shake for 10 seconds, then strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass that’s garnished with a black and cayenne pepper rim.
Started from the cobb
Corn in a cocktail: Does it even get more American than that? This summery recipe, from Stacie Grissom of Garden Cocktails , riffs on a classic Brandy Alexander. The Corny Alexander uses a handful of fresh, in-season corn that’s been cut straight off the cob, along with cognac and lime juice. It's the ultimate sipper while you're grilling this summer.
Blend 1½ ounces cognac v.s. and ¾ cups of fresh sweet corn cut off the cob in a mixer, then strain through a fine mesh strainer into a cocktail shaker. Be sure to push all liquid out of the mixture using the back of a spoon. Once you've done that, add ½ ounce simple syrup, ¾ ounces lime juice, and a few basil leaves to the shaker and muddle. Add ice, shake for 10 seconds, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a corn husk curl, corn kernels or a basil sprig.
Call for cantaloupe
Candy-loupe deserves its time in the spotlight too. Scottsdale, Arizona’s Jade Bar crafted this satisfying stunner for its guests this summer, and it's definitely one you'll want to recreate.
Combine 1½ ounces citrus-flavored vodka, 2 ounces watermelon liqueur, a splash of orange juice and a splash of fresh lime juice in a shaker and shake for 5 to 7 seconds. Pour into a chilled martini glass and garnish with cantaloupe balls.
If you can't stand the heat, get behind the bar! For an extra-cool cocktail, look to the coolest fruit out there: cucumber, of course. Fresh cucumbers and cucumber vodka take the flavor to the next level in this martini made by Florida-based Duffy's Sports Grill .
Combine 2 ounces Effen Cucumber Vodka, ½ ounce agave, ½ ounces lime juice, 4 torn mint leaves and 4 cucumber slices over ice in a shaker. Shake for 10 seconds, strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a thin cucumber slice.