Philly Bartenders Predict the Hottest Cocktails of Summer 2024

Philly bartenders spill the hard iced tea on this year's summer-defining cocktails.

The Summer G&T and the Tiki Latte from W Philadelphia. / Photograph courtesy of W Philadelphia

The drink of the summer is perhaps more of an idea than it is an actual drink, rather like the song of the summer. (Although the song of the summer is “Espresso,” right?) There are certain drinks that are always a hit in the summertime, like an Aperol spritz or a margarita, and then there are drinks that come into our collective cultural consciousness for one reason or another. A Negroni sbagliato is one (stunnin’). Frosé certainly had a moment there, and a couple of years ago, the New York Times tried to claim it was the Dirty Shirley. I think you should drink whatever you want, but I also think you might want some inspiration, which is why I asked some of Philly’s best bartenders and beverage professionals what they are predicting will be the drink of the summer this year. Here’s what they told me.

Isai Xolalpa, director of bars & lounges, W Philadelphia

“I’m deeming this the summer of the gin & tonic. The crisp and citrusy combination is perfect poolside, as it is equally refreshing and well-balanced. Endlessly customizable, our summer G&T, available at WET Bar, features a house-made rosemary-blueberry syrup that complements the floral complexity of the gin while celebrating the season.”

Brandon Thrash, general manager, Middle Child Clubhouse

“The drink of the summer is always a piña colada, but for this year, maybe a Miami Vice, which is a frozen strawberry daiquiri and a piña colada layered together.”

Liz Einhorn, beverage consultant, Experience Threee

“I think you’re going to see a lot of iced tea-based drinks, both ready-to-drink and at bars. This isn’t new, but there’s momentum behind it. Stateside is investing in more styles and iterations. Even Boston Beer, which makes Twisted Tea, which is obviously the GOAT, they came out with Sun Cruiser, which is a hard iced tea with vodka. And as people are leaning more into N/A (non-alcoholic), having things like iced tea and lemonade will be a backbone for bar programs.”

Michael McCaulley, beverage director, Schulson Collective

“I think the drink of the summer will be the resurgence of the daiquiri. There are so many variations available. It is summer, the drinks look pretty, and they are refreshing and light (and a little sweet). We are adding a Lychee Daiquiri (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) to the menu at Double Knot. We plan on having the ‘Daphni’s Daiquiri’ at Dear Daphni in late summer. You see new examples popping up at the top bars. The time has come for us to move beyond the frozen Daiquiri of old and move into the realm of the modern Daiquiri and all its variations.”

Tom Brander, beverage manager at Wilder

“The drink of the summer looks to be a Bee’s Knees. This classic gin cocktail has been making a comeback, and we are seeing more riffs on it on menus. It is crushable and has everything guests look for in a summer sipper. Plus, with the ever-expanding selection of glassware, people are putting a unique touch on it by using the cutest glasses.”

Shawn Miller, director of beverage, Forsythia

“After a few summers of low-ABV spritzes and syrupy cocktails, we will see the return to brighter, more refreshing drinks that incorporate ingredients from the garden, particularly cucumbers. These include Milk and Honey’s Kentucky Maid, which consists of muddled cucumber, mint, and an interchangeable base spirit; the Chairman’s Refresher, with rum, cucumber, and Frangelico; and the El Pepino, a spicy, cucumber-infused margarita. Adding cucumber is an easy way to enliven, brighten, and deliver fresh vegetal notes to these modern cocktails as well as more traditional ones like the cucumber gimlet or Pimm’s Cup.”

Richie Tray, head bartender, Lacroix Restaurant

“In my eyes, the perfect cocktail for the summer will always be the humble Paloma. Crafted with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and finished with a half-salted rim. This makes for a refreshingly light summertime cocktail that has a touch of salinity and a tart (bitter) finish. All of these ingredients play off each other to yield a perfectly balanced cocktail that will leave you craving another round.”

Sam Pritchard, general manager and beverage director, Kampar

“My 2024 drink of the summer prediction is less about what’s in it and more about who’s making it. I expect the talent and creativity of Philadelphia’s bartenders to be on full display this summer, with more thoughtful and sustainable sourcing, a newly established fermentation movement (we are all in your debt, Danny Childs), and a nuanced reimagining of the experiences bars can offer our communities. Our talented barkeeps will be showcasing their new takes on over-the-top tiki and disco classics harkening back to the ’80s and ’90s this summer, finding balance between innovation and fun nostalgia. We are poised for a special summer of thoughtful drinking, and I, for one, can’t wait to grab a drink! Welcome to the summer of ‘The Philly Bartender.'”

Lauren Levin, bartender, 48 Record Bar

“For 2024, my prediction is that we will see a rise in the use of amaro and vermouth in tiki and tropical drinks. Drinks like Cynar Mai-Tai or Lo-Fi Gentian Jungle Bird provide a lower ABV but have a more interesting, fun profile. Adding a little Fernet to our coconut-matcha mojito is what I will be sipping on this summer.”

Zachary Bourne, general manager, Jansen

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the shrub taking a step into the limelight this summer. This is a style of cocktail that has been gaining popularity; over the last two years, I’ve been seeing them creep steadily onto the most well-known cocktail lists in the city and now into a wider range of restaurants. Their versatility in blending with different spirits and lending itself to the balancing of sweet and tangy with summer fruits has been a home run for us the last few years. Our St. George in a Bluecoat blends macerated strawberries and basil with white balsamic vinegar and Bluecoat Gin for a beautifully refreshing and complex summer cocktail.”