The All-Time Best Vacation Drinks

Whether you’ve escaped to the destination of your dreams, or just want to sip something that’ll make you feel like you have, we’ve got the ultimate kick-back cocktail rundown for you. From low-brow classics (updated for your grown-up tastes) to an exclusive NoMad creation, here are eight of the finest ways to raise a glass for summer and all the splendid sips it provides.


Top-Sider Fix

Developed exclusively for the Style Compass by Chris Lowder (of high-profile NoMad fame, now Head Bartender at the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Korea, the Top-Sider Fix is our favorite on-deck tipple. Smokey peated Scotch and hypnotically summery strawberries combine for a flavor profile that simultaneously evokes both a fine, hand-rolled cigar and the popsicles of a dreamy childhood summer. Anchors aweigh!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 oz. Port Charlotte Scotch whiskey
  • .75 oz. Cocchi Americano Rosa
  • .8 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • .25 oz. cane syrup (make this as you would simple syrup, for a fuller, more natural flavor: 2 parts cane sugar to 1 part water)
  • 2 medium-sized strawberries

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Place one strawberry in your cocktail tin. Add cane syrup, lemon juice, Port Charlotte, and Cocchi Americano Rosa, and muddle. Set aside.
  • Prepare your crushed ice by placing ice cubes into a clean dish towel, folding it closed, and beating the ice cubes with your muddler or other blunt, heavy object. Get that stress out! Then pack the crushed ice into a double rocks glass.
  • Add a few whole ice cubes to your cocktail tin and shake for about four seconds to aerate and immulsify the drink.
  • Strain over the crushed ice, and add a little more ice to the top to form a dome. Stick in a few cocktail straws and garnish with the second strawberry.

Caipirinha

The national drink of Brazil, the Caipirinha is fast replacing the mojito as summer’s go-to tropical refresher. Its base, cachaça, is made from fermented and distilled sugar cane, and has been a beloved local intoxicant for over 400 years.

INGREDIENTS

  • Half a lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 ounces cachaça

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Slice the lime into 1/2-inch rounds, cube them, and muddle them with the sugar in an Old-Fashioned glass.
  • Add a couple of ice cubes, pour in the cachaça, stir, and serve.
  • For an updated twist that capitalizes on the sweet/tart tropical flavors, mix in a few rounds of peeled ripe kiwi and muddle very lightly to release the juices.

Zombie drink

Zombie

If you’re looking for a narcotically tropical experience, nothing transports like a tiki drink, the Zombie being the the mother of them all. You’ll need a well-stocked rum bar for this one (and a strong constitution), but the revelry that’s sure to follow a round of these will be well worth it.

INGREDIENTS

  • 0.5 oz white rum
  • 1.5 oz golden rum
  • 1 oz dark rum
  • 0.5 oz 151-proof rum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1 tbsp papaya juice
  • 1 tbsp superfine sugar
  • Mint for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Stir together all the ingredients except the 151 and pour into a Collins glass (or other large glass) three-fourths full of cracked ice.
  • Float the 151 as a lid by pouring it into a spoon and gently dipping it under the surface of the drink.
  • Feelling like a showman? Light this puppy up! Carefully take a match to the top of the drink, and the top layer of rum will burn off in a delightful display (possibly sparing you 10% of a hangover in the process).
  • Garnish with mint, either straight or dipped in lime juice and then superfine sugar, and/or fruit. Stay true to the genre’s showy tradition and impale the fruit on a toothpick for extra decorative flair

Descanso Beach Smash

If you’re put off by the incessantly sweet profile of so many a beach bar bev, your bitter-loving palate will fall for L.A. mixologist John Coltharp’s deliciously dignified cooler.

INGREDIENTS

  • 0.25 oz. simple syrup
  • 0.75 oz. Aperol
  • 5 mint leaves, plus 1 sprig for garnish
  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • 4 lemon wedges
  • 3 small orange wedges

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Muddle the lemon wedges and mint leaves in a cocktail shaker
  • Add the whiskey, Aperol, simple syrup, and ice and shake well
  • Pour through a fine strainer into a double rocks or stemless wine glass filled with ice
  • Garnish with the orange wedges, skewered on a pick, and mint sprig

Descano Beach Smash


Mojito

No summer drink list is complete without this perfectly delicious number. Touching on all the notes of a perfect island sipper, the first known recipe for this Cuban national drink appeared as a Mojo de Ron in a 1929 edition of the “Libro de Cocktail” (The Cocktail Book).

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
  • 2 oz. Cuban white rum
  • 0.75 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 0.5 oz. chilled club soda

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Muddle the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker
  • Add ice, rum, lime juice, and simple syrup and shake well
  • Strain into an ice-filled collins glass, stir in the club soda, and garnish with the mint sprig

Spiked Agua Fresca

Agua fresca is a classic Mexican cooler of watermelon, lime juice, and sugar—by itself, a superlative warm weather drink. Post-noon (come on, it’s vacation!), tequila makes it positively sublime. Plus, batching it is a breeze. Below, the basic recipe, followed by a few variations to suit your (or your guests’) fancy.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 chilled seedless watermelon, cubed and rind discarded (about 20 cups)
  • 1 cup tequila blanco
  • 0.5 cup simple syrup
  • 0.5 cup simple water
  • 6 limes, sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 mint sprigs, plus extra leaves for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a food processor or blender, puree the watermelon in batches until smooth. Strain the puree into a large bowl or pitcher
  • Stir in the simple syrup, tequila, lime slices, mint sprigs and water
  • To serve, pour the watermelon agua fresca into ice-filled glasses, and garnish with mint leaves

VARIATION 1: Add a splash of Aperol to each individual drink for a bitter, citrusy flair that tames the drink’s inherent sweetness.

VARIATION 2: To add a fresh and smoky kick, infuse your tequila with jalapeño. Simply quarter 3 medium-sized jalapeños (leaving the seeds attached), and combine with 100% pure agave tequila in a quart-sized, air-tight jar. Store in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 3 days and up to a week, depending on your heat preference.


Sidecar

An elegant classic that’s also hella refreshing, this refreshed Sidecar recipe comes from Eben Freeman of NYC’s Tailor Restaurant.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 oz. Cognac
  • 1 oz. Cointreau, Triple Sec, or other orange liqueur
  • 0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. superfine sugar
  • 1 lemon wedge

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Spread sugar on small plate. Rub lemon wedge halfway around rim of chilled martini or coupe glass. Dip moistened side of glass in sugar to lightly coat. Set aside
  • Combine Cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously until well chilled, about 30 seconds
  • Strain into prepared glass and serve

Carton Brewing Rub

No, it’s not a cocktail, but yes, you need to know about it. If you’ve ever wondered what the perfect beer is to nurse while you’re working the ‘cue, the ever-inventive minds at Carton Brewing have answered the call. This “Dry-Rubbed Smoked Porter” is literally infused with barbecue spices—cocoa powder, brown sugar, black pepper, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin, and others—and is the perfect brew to tide you over while you’re slow-smoking that long-anticipated rack of perfect summer ribs.

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