Philly Bartenders Predict the Drink of Summer 2023
Palomas, low-ABV, and cosmos.
If you get your drink recommendations from the New York Times, then maybe you ordered a Dirty Shirley last summer, just to see what all the vodka-fueled fuss was about. The summer before that, it’s possible you sipped espresso martinis in the sunshine.
Of course, the drink of the summer is largely invented by publications and social media. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to discuss. According to my personal TikTok feed, the drink of the summer has not yet emerged, but could possibly include the Hugo, an Italian cocktail made with sparkling wine, mint and elderflower. Or maybe a Red Bull slushy?
For slightly more useful answers, I reached out to bartenders across the city for their predictions on the hottest cold drink of the summer. Here’s what they said:
“Probably a mezcal paloma. They’re delicious and refreshing. What’s not to love? But, if you ask us, nothing screams summer more than a caipirinha by the water with some Bossa Nova playing. Sweet, sour, a little bit funky, and fun to make.” — Kyle Darrow and John Grubb, co-owners of Next of Kin
“I know this sounds sarcastic, but I’m 1000% serious when I say that I think cosmos are going to come back in a big way. It’s my go-to for an after-work, shift drink while we’re cleaning up at R&D. When it’s made well, it’s incredibly bright, refreshing, and perfectly balanced between sweet and tart. Not only is it also a phenomenal blueprint for almost any base spirit — what other cocktail works just as well with mezcal as it does with Campari? — but it also leaves a lot of room for bartenders to get creative.” — Resa Mueller, head bartender, R&D
“The 2023 drink of the summer is undoubtedly going to be the frozen Aperol spritz. The Aperol spritz has seen a huge resurgence in the last year with a rising consumer trend of lighter, low-ABV drinks and, of course, the popular recent season of The White Lotus.” — Imhotep Sakhara, lead bartender, Assembly Rooftop Lounge
“Much like the infamous “Summer of George” from Seinfeld, I think it will be the “Summer of Mocktails.” It isn’t a new trend, but the movement has been growing exponentially over the last couple of years and has gone from niche to staple.” – Evan Maffiore, bar manager, Bolo
“Piquettes are definitely going to be big this summer. They’re natural, sustainable, and lower ABV, all of which are trending now. Piquettes are made by adding water to grape pomace — the stems, seeds and skins left over from a different wine’s production — and letting it ferment naturally. The light, slightly sweet, and tart flavor screams summer, and the 7% (or lower) ABV makes it easy to crush a bottle (or two) with your friends at a backyard party.” — Emily Gordon, general manager, Jet Wine Bar
“Consumers are reaching for products that contain more natural ingredients. For summer 2023, I anticipate this trend to continue, and the drink of the summer will have this as a common theme, with tequila as the most popular spirit. Tequila-based drinks with fresh fruit will be popular, almost like a new spin on ‘ranch water.’ One of my personal favorites is a Tequila Reposado matcha berry topped with Topo Chico. — Adrienne Gomez-Saddler, bartender, JG SkyHigh
“My prediction is that the paloma will be crowned this year’s drink of the summer. Tequila has been on a years-long ascent and is poised to overtake vodka as America’s preferred beverage category in 2023. And, with the rise in wonderful grapefruit sodas that have entered the market like Fever Tree and Q (along with the old faithful options like Jarritios and Squirt), it just seems to me that this crushable highball is ready for its time in the spotlight. In addition to personally seeing our paloma sales gradually increase as spring temperatures have begun to settle in, I’ve also been surprised to see the drink’s crossover into the craft beer realm such as with Victory Brewing’s “Motel Paloma,”a 6% ABV grapefruit summer ale, and Dogfish Citrus Squall, an 8% paloma-inspired golden ale brewed with grapefruit juice, blue agave, lime peels, and sea salt. Viva la paloma. – Danny Childs, beverage director, The Farm and Fisherman Tavern
“I’d like to nominate the Bamboo as the drink of the summer, even if it probably won’t be. It’s basically a martini with dry sherry instead of gin. When well made, it’s just as clean and crisp as a martini, but with a savory edge and lightness that comes from the lower ABV. It isn’t a popular drink, but it’s exactly what a lot of people are looking for.” — Harry Jamison, general manager, a.kitchen+bar
“We’re seeing an uptick for orders of our Bicicletta (“bicycle” in Italian) since the weather has changed. It’s a Campari spritz with dry white wine instead of Prosecco. I recommend using something floral, such as a Garganega Soave or Malvasia, for the wine component.” — Angelo Secolo, consulting beverage director, Cicala
“A Southside, featuring London Dry Gin (I like to use Nordés, a Spanish gin), lemon juice and mint simple syrup, is the perfect refreshing and herbaceous cocktail for summer. Served ‘up’ with a slapped mint garnish, this light, fun and unfussy beverage just smells like summer (and my grandma’s garden). It’s prime for smooth patio drinking.” — Kevin Denson, beverage director, Fork
“Isn’t the piña colada always the drink of the summer? With frozen drink machines becoming more ubiquitous because of COVID and outdoor-dining culture, so many more places have the ability to do a great piña colada. I, for one, can’t wait to throw on my Hawaiian shirt and drink strawberry piña coladas all summer long.” — Brandon Thrash, general manager and beverage director, Middle Child Clubhouse
“I’m looking towards the French 75 as the drink of the summer. It’s a celebratory classic that’s super refreshing for a hot day.” — Alexis Haas, bar manager, Oyster House
“MUSCADET! Made from the grape Melon de Bourgogne, it’s delicious, mineral-driven white wine from the beginning of the Loire Valley, outside the city of Nantes. There is a lot of soil variation here, so every Muscadet tastes a little different. It’s the perfect pairing for oysters and a great park sipper. I’m a firm believer that everyone should drink more Muscadet. We always have one by the glass at a.kitchen.” — Frank Kinyon, beverage and service director, a.kitchen+bar