Long drinks for long days – summer serves

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It’s hot. Like, really hot. And not only in all the places that normally complain about it being hot, but also here in merry England. With the longest day of the year now behind us, it seems that the sun has been turned up a notch right across Europe. Unless you’re in Scotland, where it’s hailing.

For the rest of us, it’s time for something cooling and refreshing to keep us going through the scorching afternoons and evenings. It’s time to break out the long-drink ideas.

Spritz it

The Spritz. Less a drink, more a philosophy. There are way too many variations to choose from, but the core idea is simple: wine, something fizzy and maybe something else to pep it up. Whether that’s a simple wine spritzer – a crisp Italian white fizzed up with a splash of soda – or an Aperol spritz glowing orange in the evening sun, there’s something for you.

The folks at American food mag Bon Appetit recently came up with their favourite spritzes, and while I don’t always agree with editor Adam Rapaport’s ideas (ice in beer? blasphemy!), writer/chef/excellent-red-pesto-creator Molly Baz’s Fall Spritz is one that piques my interest, although I suspect it’ll do better towards the end of the night: mix one part amaro with four parts dry cider. Bitter amaro balanced by crisp and fruity cider sounds like a an evening-ending winner – I’ll be trying it with Telegraph Hill cider and Londinio Amaro for a very London take on this American take on an Italian classic.


The highball is an even wider category of drink than the Spritz – I’m not even dignifying it with a capital letter. The definition of it is particularly simple: a long drink made with a little bit of spirit and a larger amount of mixer.

From a back of an envelope guess, I think we list about 6000 relevant spirits and 150 different mixers on our site. That’s almost a million combinations. Here are a few ideas so you don’t need to work through them all.

Whisky and soda – the classic highball. It’s one of the original long drinks and still has a huge following around the world, especially in the far east – you can get whisky and soda on tap in many bars in Japan. When choosing a whisky, the most important consideration is how it will react with soda: fizzy water is full of bubbles of carbon dioxide, which add a sourness to both the soda and your drink.

First choice for us is something sweet to balance the fizz, with enough power to stand up to the dilution – step forward Suntory Toki. This newly-released blended whisky is designed to be drunk with soda, and as I write, we are currently giving away a pair of bottles of Fever-Tree soda and a tall mug with every order of Toki so you can try it yourself at home.

Up next is my preferred summer drink: a smoky highball. Something simple, youthful and punchy does the trick here, and my go-to whisky is Elements of Islay Peat Full Proof. However, I was talking to some bartenders about smoky whisky earlier this week, and one of them picked out one dram in my line-up as the perfect summer highball: our personalisable Islay 10 Year Old. It’s got the strength of flavour needed and a kick of sweetness to balance the soda. A winning combo.

Aperitivi and soda – it may be looking over its shoulder at the spritz, but one of the many aperitivi (Italian aperitifs) with soda is a different, more refreshing take – the Italians have years of expertise when it comes drinking in the sun, and we would be fools to ignore it.

While vermouth is the most well-known of aperitivi, there are a whole range of aromatised wines and more, and digging into their ranks can reveal some excellent summer selections. Especially if you like pink drinks…

Pink drinks for the win!

My go-to: Cocchi Americano Rosa and soda. The original Americano was the first aperitivo I tried, and it quickly made me into an aromatised-wine evangelist – vermouth and Italian bitters are the most commonly replaced bottles in my house. Fill a tall glass with ice, pour over equal parts of Rosa and soda, and then top it up with more ice – add a slice of pink grapefruit if you want to take things to a next, colour-appropriate level. Always add more ice than you think you might need, it’ll keep your drink frosty even if you take a while to drink it, and the more ice you have the slower it’ll melt.

…and tonic

It wouldn’t be an article about drinking in the British summertime without a mention of tonic. However, while tonic is definitely on the list, this year gin is not. With so many new gins appearing every week, I’m ginned out, and while a G&T is still on my inhouse drinks menu, I’m looking for alternatives to pair with my tonic.

While Jim Beam’s suggestion of a Beam Tonic (yes, it’s a real thing) leaves me cold, mixing spirits other than gin and vodka with tonic water can work rather well.

Cognac and tonic – this has become a regular appearance at Whisky Exchange events, with our recent love of Cognac spilling over from Cognac Show into not only our regular tastings but also the occasional office party. We’d recommend going for something younger and less complicated, as a delicate old Cognac will get entirely lost when you add tonic.

Don’t be scared of garnish…

For a more refreshing, early-evening drink, H by Hine with Fever-Tree elderflower tonic boosts the Cognac’s floral notes, while still keeping its fruity character. Switching to Rémy Martin VSOP‘s punchier style with a more traditional Indian tonic water will give a more rounded and richer drink to enjoy as the sun gets lower.

White port and tonic – a drink that sits in my head alongside port and lemon, despite being a much more modern take on a warm-weather cocktail. A crisp, dry port and a splash of tonic work wonders together, and this has been a slowly rising star of the summer.

While any of the white ports on our website will fit the bill, it’s Graham’s Blend No.5 that I turn to as a first choice – it’s been designed from the ground up to work with tonic, with wines selected to have more of a citrus-forward character. Just fill up a glass – a Spanish style copa goblet is great if you have one – stack it with ice and add 1 part port to 3 parts tonic. Give it a stir, and you’re ready for the summer.

To find even more ideas, head over to our Summer Serves page for all of these and more.

Posted in Cognac, Japanese Whisky, Other Cocktails, Port, Vermouth

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