Summer Sipping with Session Cocktails

Try low alcohol drinks for those moments when you want to get your buzz on, but you need to do it responsibly.

Now that the weather is warming up, we can enjoy the great outdoors with a cocktail in hand. From roof decks to backyard barbecues to brunch al fresco, there’s a drink for every occasion. While we’re busy soaking up the sun, daytime sipping is a given to celebrate the season, but we need an easygoing drink that doesn’t require a mid-day nap. Enter the session cocktail.

What exactly is a session cocktail? In short, it’s a beverage with lower alcohol content — so that you can responsibly sip without getting too boozed up. You may be familiar with apéritifs like Aperol Spritz or Kir Royal, commonly consumed before meals in Western Europe, which reflect a similar mentality.

Session Cocktails by Drew Lazor and the editors of PUNCH delves into the world of low A.B.V. drinks. They determine that a session cocktail has a maximum of ¾ ounces of stronger spirits, with additions of lighter elements like juices, liqueurs, and sparkling wines. “Think of mezcal, scotch, aquavit, and other strong spirits as flavorful seasonings, rather than the base of your drinks,” Lazor points out. With this rule of thumb, your at-home mixology opens up to a world of spritzes, cobblers, sours, and beyond.

It’s important to note that a weaker cocktail doesn’t translate to an inferior cocktail. These session cocktails still have plenty of depth and are every bit as complex as your conventional cocktail. These laidback beverages involve more than just the spritz-friendly Aperol and Campari, too. In this compilation of over 50 cocktail recipes, bartenders from all over the country contribute their takes on the session cocktail, from altering classic mixed drinks for lower A.B.V. variations to building upon brilliant combinations with a snappy splash of liquor. Their creative spins offer a fresh, modern view on mixing drinks.

And it’s not exclusive to light, fruity drinks, either. Session Cocktails hosts a range of well-balanced flavor profiles: drops of Angostura bitters, splashes of Fernet, fresh basil leaves for herbaceousness, a smoky dash of mezcal, fruity-dry Port, and bubbly sparkling wines. There’s something for everyone, along with combinations that will surprise and delight.

When planning your next al fresco get-together, consider making a batch of session cocktails that will keep the party going from day to night. These lower proof libations veer away from throwing back shots and chugging heavy-handed pours, and brings us back to a more leisurely approach. This way, you can get your buzz on responsibly and appreciate every element that’s gone into your cocktail.

When it comes to pool parties, the Watermelon Cooler is an easy crowd pleaser. It’s an instant refresher for lounging beneath an umbrella or basking in the sun on a floatie. Or, serve it as a sweet ending to some impromptu outdoor grilling. The brightness of the watermelon immediately shines through in this simple combination of sauvignon blanc, fresh watermelon juice, elderflower liqueur, and agave syrup.

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Watermelon Cooler

Watermelon Cooler

Once the humidity sets in, we’ll start reaching for a frozen cocktail for immediate relief. With a blender and some ice, you can take your usual rosé to the next level and meet its fun, warmer weather cousin: Frosé. This grown-up take on the slushy has taken happy hours over by storm, but it’s also something you can make at home. This recipe keeps it tame with the addition of Giffard Pamplemousse, a zesty grapefruit liqueur, and lemon juice, making the Campari optional.


Frosé cocktail

Lazor notes, “Session cocktails may be inspired by moderation, but that doesn’t mean they’re about deprivation. Rather, they are vehicles for a new form of spirituous expression.” So get creative and use these recipes as a base to explore a whole new frontier of cocktail making, and get ready to partake in a long session of slow sipping and savoring.




Images and recipes courtesy of Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright 2018 by Drew Lazor and the Editors of Punch. 



Photo Credit: Autri Taheri/Unsplash


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