There’s no other word for it… summertime cocktails are just so fun. From frosty Margaritas and fragrant Mojitos to fruity Sangrias and spicy Micheladas, each makes you feel like you’re relaxing on a tropical island somewhere — even if you’re merely sipping from a plastic cup on the stoop of a brownstone, or on a crowded restaurant patio along a city street.
Since New York’s cocktail scene is only getting better and better, there’s no reason to limit yourself to the usual suspects this season. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the most unique summer cocktails, from the “Ouest” Daisy at Lafayette to the “Big Daddy Kane” at Tribeca Canvas and more!
This new, Tribeca supper club is a true departure for Michael White, with a cocktail program that’s currently gaining just as much attention as the food. That’s because it’s overseen by top mixologist Eben Freeman, whose resume includes wd-50, Eleven Madison Park, and White’s own Altamarea Group. You’ll want to check out Freeman’s contemporary riffs on classics, like a Tom Collins, made with Kaffir Lime, a Paloma laced with Tequila and rhubarb-infused Aperol, an iced Grasshopper made with real mint, Branca Menta and Pandan Extract, and even an Indian-spiced Mai Tai with cardamom, fennel and green curry leaves. White’s similarly elevated savory items make for perfect pairings, like Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Upstate Cheddar, a BLT with Kale and a Crispy 6-Minute Egg, and a sloppy Sundae with Coca-Cola Ice Cream, Caramel Popcorn and Amarena Cherries.
Wine may seem the obvious choice of tipples at Andrew Carmellini’s newest hot spot — the French café and bakery Lafayette. And yes, there’s an exhaustive and impressive 100+ bottle list. But there’s also a small handful of appealing cocktails, that push the envelope well beyond the expected Sazerac’s and French 75’s. Take the Ouest Daisy, a bracing combo of Maestro Dobel Blanco Tequila, fresh Cucumber Juice, Lime, Agave and Kümmel. Never heard of Kümmel? Originally from Holland, the caraway and cumin-infused spirit is poised to become one of the hottest new obsessions on the cocktail scene. And since it makes for an herbaceous, savory drink, the Ouest Daisy pairs perfectly with bistro favorites like Pate with Mustard and Cornichons, Nicoise Salad with Rare Tuna and Egg, and Dry-aged Strip Steak Frites.
Never considered heading to a Morimoto-owned joint for cocktails? The inimitable Iron Chef has let his hair down with Tribeca Canvas, a comparatively bare-bones bistro serving tongue-in-cheek, Asian interpretations of American comfort food (like Rock Shrimp Nachos, Wagyu Shepherds Pie, and Mac & Cheese with a poached Quail Egg). And he recently launched King & Canvas – a subterranean lounge located underneath the restaurant that features specialty cocktails from mixologist Shingo Gokan. Look for the “Sting Ray” with Gin, Wasabi Simple Syrup and Nigori, the “Big Daddy Kane” with Bacardi 8, Passionfruit Juice and Sriracha, and the tongue-twisting “Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique” with Bulleit Rye, Yuzu and Demerara — which incidentally, doesn’t get any easier to say after actually having one.
It’s not exactly groundbreaking to open a gastropub in New York City nowadays, unless you decide to do it on the Upper East Side. And The Penrose, from the Wilfie & Nell team, is a welcome alternative to buttoned-up destinations like Daniel and The Mark, with deep-fried McClure’s Pickles, tasty craft beers, and a variety of affordable cocktails with fun-to-say names. We’re all about the “Itty Bitty Pretty” this summer, made with Tito’s Vodka, Cocchi Americano, Lemon, Honey and Basil, a boozy “Horchata” with Spiced Rum, Horchata, Vanilla and Cinnamon, as well as a selection of refreshing “Soda Spikes,” like housemade Grapefruit Soda and Haber’s Tonic with Tequila, Root Beer with Bourbon, or Earl Grey Lemonade with Gin.
I don’t know about you, but we’re suckers for a great raw bar, but great drinks are a huge bonus, so we were stoked when this year-old cocktail and oyster bar from the team behind Fat Radish opened on the Lower East Side. Try buttery Kumamoto’s from California, saline Shigoku’s from Washington, and Montauk oysters, all washed down with “The Brazilian,” a take on the Caipirinha with Cachaca, lemon juice and yuzu, “The Spicy Pineapple” with Genever, Pineapple and Spicy Simple Syrup, and the “Cucumber Julep” made with Vodka, Cucumber Juice and Mint.
This new Greenpoint spot specializes in sustainably caught seafood and classic cocktails, and really, what could be more perfectly suited to summer than that? Start with raw bar selections, like Littleneck Clams, East Coast Oysters and Marinated Mussels en Escabeche, followed by Caesar Salad with White Boquerones, and the Whole Grilled Fish with Shaved Fennel, paired with a fruity Pimm’s Cup, refreshing Grapefruit Gimlet, or an utterly seasonal Watermelon Cooler, made with Aged Rum, Watermelon Juice, Lime Juice, Mint Tea and Soda.
Owned by accomplished mixologist St. John Frizell, this cozy Red Hook bar is already a popular neighborhood spot. But it’s also become a destination for its “Forbidden Island” cocktail series, currently being held every Thursday throughout the summer. In a celebration of all things Tiki, they’re serving drinks made famous at places such as Trader Vic’s (the Rum, Gin, Cognac, Orgeat and Cream Sherry-laden “Samoan Fog Cutter”) and the Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s Aviary Bar (the “Jungle Bird” with Blackstrap Rum, Campari, Pineapple and Lime). There are a few special food items on offer as well, like Watermelon and Radish Salad and Grilled Pork and Rice Vermicelli Noodles, which can be paired with Vic’s original 1944 Mai Tai for only $24.
This Williamsburg bar is best known for its creative Punches, which can be ordered by the cupful for only $5. Of course, the real fun is sharing with a gaggle of friends, so we recommend going for the 10-serving bowl (an absolute steal at only $43). Dive into the “Bora Bora” this summer, made with Denizen White Rum, fresh Pineapple, Xocolatl Mole Bitters and Mint, “The Coxswain” with Barbancourt Rum, Lime Juice, Sorrel Flower and Ginger, or the “Nassau Bay” with Coruba Dark Rum, Grenadine and Tiki Bitters. And since you’re bound to be tipsy (and hungry) by the time you get to the bottom of the bowl, you just might want to plan your visit around one of their weekly Maryland-style crab feasts.