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What Drink Pros Are Stocking in Their Summer Coolers

With plenty of sunny, long days and warm evenings ahead, summer get-togethers are best enjoyed outside. And when it comes to drinks, simplicity and seasonality are key, so with that in mind, we tapped drink pros around the country to find out what they’re packing in their coolers this summer. From “bubbly things” to sake, freezer door cocktails, session beers, hard seltzers, and more, here’s what they’re stocking for this year’s season of sunshine.

Richard Beltzer, head bartender of Monteverde, Chicago

“When packing a cooler, I always make sure to load up on: a bottle of sparkling wine (whether it’s rosé, prosecco, or Champagne); a bottle of aperitivo or vermouth to make spritzes (vermouth and prosecco are the best); the Lyre’s canned products are perfect because they are no ABV but easy to add to make low-ABV aperitivo … specifically, the prosecco, Amalfi Spritz, and G&T. And if there’s room for Topo Chico, I’m always putting some in there because it can help everything! Moral of the story: Pack bubbly things.”

Ran Duan, owner of Blossom Bar and The Baldwin Bar, Boston

“My top three items for cooler season are prebottled Paloma, Twisted Teas, and High Noon guava. I personally enjoy crushable drinks in the sun, and these three items are not only delicious separately but can be mixed together easily to make something delicious!”

Courtney Kaplan, co-owner of James Beard award-winning sake bar OTOTO, Los Angeles

“We always love a glass of something bubbly at summer parties, and lately we’ve had no shortage of sakes made with a little bit of light, refreshing effervescence. Our cooler often has a bottle of something from the Kaze no Mori line made by Yucho Shuzo. Lately, we’ve been turning to the ‘black label’ as it’s got a little more wildness than its ‘white label’ counterpart, a quality that helps it pair well with smoky grilled things. Another favorite for afternoon sipping are the fruit sakes from Heiwa Shuzo, particularly the ’tsuru-ume yuzu.’ Made by blending equal parts junmai sake and yuzu juice, it comes in at a nice mellow 7% alcohol and drinks like a tart and lightly boozy lemonade. We like it over ice or topped with a splash of soda.”

Justin Lavenue, owner of The Roosevelt Room, Austin

“Whenever I’m hosting a party where a cooler will be the focal point of guests quenching their thirsts, I try to stock it with a little bit of everything that people like to enjoy on a hot summer day. This includes sparkling white wine (preferably Champagne), a nice still rosé, one or two types of sessionable beer (such as Modelo Especial and Miller High Life), a dry cider (such as Austin Eastciders), and a hard seltzer (such as Topo Chico Hard Seltzer or White Claw). I’ll also throw in a bottle of mezcal, fresh lime juice, and Stiegl Grapefruit Radler to make a quick and easy Mezcal Paloma Shandy, which is just delightful!”

Justin Park, co-owner of James Beard award-winning Bar Leather Apron, Honolulu

“[I go for] light and refreshing. A blended Japanese whisky or something floral from the highland region of Scotland, paired with my favorite soda water and fresh fruits.”

JM Hirsch, author of Pour Me Another and editorial director of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, Concord, New Hampshire

“I just finished writing a book on freezer door cocktails (Freezer Door Cocktails: 75 Cocktails That Are Ready When You Are, spring 2024), so I have two chest freezers full of the tested recipes. All you do is start with a full bottle of liquor, then pour off enough to have room to add the other ingredients to make a full bottle. We have an annual block party every July. I plan on putting them out in a huge cooler of ice.”

Amalfi Lemon Margarita

“My warm-weather picks often involve tequila. So I’d go for an Amalfi Lemon Margarita.”

750 ml. tequila
5 oz. limoncello
3 oz. coconut water
1 oz. agave syrup or simple syrup

Pour out 9 oz. from the bottle of tequila (and reserve for future use) and add the rest of the ingredients. Chill and serve on ice.

JM Hirsch, Concord, New Hampshire

Tequila Spritz

“Or I’d make a Tequila Spritz, which is similar to an Aperol Spritz.”

10 oz. blanco tequila
6 3/4 oz. Aperol
6 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1/4 tsp. orange bitters

Combine all of the ingredients in a 750 ml. bottle. To serve, pour over ice and top with tonic water.

JM Hirsch, Concord, New Hampshire

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