We Asked Bartenders What to Drink When It’s Too Hot to Function
“I want volume, I want low ABV, I want it to be frosty cold, and I don’t wanna be challenged by what’s in my glass.”
Photo via Flickr user lillianna domko. Composite by the author.
Here we are, week five of the #heatwave and Britain’s hottest ever July day predicted on Friday. Is this just life now? Do we live in a Mediterranean country? Is getting changed three times every morning due to exasperation at the lack of “summer outfits” in your wardrobe and/or sweat, before eventually settling on running shorts and flip flops because fashion means nothing when it is more than 33 degrees outside … normal? *Frantically researches whether Amazon Prime do paddling pools*
Clearly, some of us are not reacting well to the unexpectedly hot weather currently sweeping the UK. But maybe that’s because we’ve been cooling down with all the wrong drinks.
For most people, the natural response to sun is PINTS, A CONSTANT STREAM OF PINTS in a beer garden where you and your friends will cram around a sticky picnic table and probably get a sunburnt neck. Or maybe you are someone who simply does not sweat, but wears blissfully white sundresses and poses for Instagram selfies while eating rosé-flavoured ice lollies. (A special mention must also be given here to all the nans who insist that the best way to stay cool on a hot day is—actually!—a cup of tea. It’s not, but we admire your flagrant disregard for regulated body temperatures.)
None of these look like great summer drinking options, so MUNCHIES turned to the booze experts for advice on the best cooling drinks to sip when it’s so hot outside you can’t remember how jumpers work.
Jonny Sture, bar manager at Common
“When the heat’s on and I need refreshment, I aim to keep it simple. Sure, I could talk about the merits of a good gin and tonic, a zesty young white wine, or a long cocktail—but I want volume, I want low ABV, I want it to be frosty cold, and I don’t wanna be challenged by what’s in my glass. Hello Schöfferhofer Grapefruit: half sharp pink grapefruit juice, half luscious wheat beer. The 2.9 percent ABV is enough to take the edge off the sun and lower the body temperature without being knocked for six.
If I want to really relax, I’ll go for the “bartender’s handshake,” and drop a shot of blanco tequila in the mix. A nice bright tequila dials up the refreshment to 11 and takes the heat right down. Perfect summer drinking.”
Sara Shipley, founder of pop-up slushie bar Sister Slush
“A sizzling hot summer's day is no match for the frozen margarita. They're part of the reason I got into the adult slushy game. Fact. The citrusy marriage of fresh lime, good quality tequila, and orange liqueur blended with ice is just sublime. Don't worry if you don't happen to have a giant slush machine knocking about, frozen margs are super easy to whip up with a blender. Simply puree ice, tequila, lime juice, and a simple syrup in a blender until smooth. Serve in salt rimmed glass with a lime wedge (or don't, whatever floats your boat.)
If you're not a margarita purist or citrus just isn't your thing, then try experimenting with watermelon, strawberry, cantaloupe (yes really)—the list goes on. If you like a bit of fire with your ice add a little fresh ginger.”
Becky Kean, co-founder of non-alcoholic brewery Nirvana Brewery
"For me, the key to keeping cool is staying well hydrated. One of the biggest reasons for dehydration is too much booze, so combine a heatwave with a hangover and you’ve got the mother of all headaches. Alcohol-free beer is actually really good at hydrating you and replenishing your body’s natural salts and minerals. Plus there’s nothing better than an ice-cold beer on a hot day, even if you’re trying to avoid the booze.
I’d always go for the alcohol-free Nirvana Sutra IPA. It’s really light and uses Chinook and Cascade hops, which give it an awesome aroma of tropical fruit and elderflower. If ales aren't your thing, there’s always FitBeer lager, probably one of the best alcohol-free lagers on the market at the moment. It’s super refreshing and tastes just like the real thing.”
Ryan Chetiyawardana, founder of London bars Super Lyan, Cub, and Dandelyan
"There's a reason the gin and tonic is the world's most drunk cocktail—it's dry and complex, but crucially it doesn't give up everything at once, and is long and cooling enough that you can enjoy it whilst you chat away with friends.
Cooling down in this heat requires different thinking, and although I love turning to a G&T (or a cold glass of fino, or a crisp beer in the sun), for a proper heatwave like the one we’re experiencing now, it's worth looking to countries that regularly encounter these temperatures.
Japan is a great example—in the high humidity of August, a Pocari Sweat, with its electrolyte salinity is ideal. Ditto the also-atrociously-named Squirt from Mexico. I suggest taking this lead and mixing up a Paloma. You can add salt and a couple of dashes of Peychaud Bitters, but the basic mix is proper tequila, pink grapefruit, lime, sugar (or honey), and grapefruit soda. It’s perfectly cooling and served long over ice. The complexity means it's great from the first sip to the last.
But obvs, I'm also still partial to a cup of tea.”
Mihai Ostafi, head bartender at Oriole
“The best cocktail to cool down with is one of the original classics: the Collins. Long, effervescent, and refreshing, the citrus notes are particularly helpful for quenching thirst. We have a slightly tropical version of the collins on our cocktail menu, featuring Capucana Cachaca, mango wine, and fermented sugar cane soda.”
Emeka and Ifeyinwa Frederick, owners of Chuku’s
“The constant sunshine has had us reminiscing about our last trip to Nigeria. Whether in Lagos or London, after a hot day, we love a cold glass of Chapman. Popularly known as the Sangria of West Africa, Chapman is a mocktail which originated in the high society country clubs of Lagos. It's a refreshing, citrus-flavoured sparkling drink with an infusion of hibiscus and aromatic spices.
We've fallen in love with DVees' recipe, which has cucumber as the special ingredient, which makes it a perfect palate cleanser too. And if you fancy something stronger, adding a shot of rum to the drink goes down nicely!”
Ivan Tisdell-Downes, co-founder of Native
"On a hot day, cocktails are a perfect thirst quencher and I’m particularly partial to a Moscow Mule. It’s the perfect combo: fresh lime to cool you down, fiery ginger, and a touch of vodka to take the edge off a hot day. We do our own behind the bar at Native that uses vodka which we infuse with foraged melilot (also known as sweet clover), which gives a similar flavour to that of bison grass vodka. We combine with ginger beer and lime, and line the rim of the glass with some citric acid for a little slap round the mouth."
Ryan Robbins, brewer at St. John at Hackney Brewery
“My go-to beers on a hot day are cold, crisp, clean, citrusy, and not too bitter. Other than our own pale ale and helles lager, you will likely find me with a hoppy pale ale like the Daisy Cutter from Half Acre. If I’m in the mood for a lager, I reach for a German helles-style, like the one from Hausfreund in Munich. I also think a sour is great on a hot day, an Oude Geuze from 3 Fonteinen is always a great choice.”
Chris O’Neil, bartender at Temper
“Gin should step aside this summer and make way for the V&T. Vermouth and tonic is the low ABV way to stay cool during the heatwave. My favourite is Regal Rogue Lively White vermouth with Fevertree Elderflower tonic water. The herbaceous flavours pair brilliantly with the sweeter-style tonic water.”
Jack Soilleux, general manager at The Karaoke Hole
"One of our house cocktails at The Karaoke Hole is the glorious Queen of the Desert. She is inspired by the notorious Priscilla, who braved the smouldering heat of the Australian outback to ferry sweaty drag queens on their epic journey of discovery. She is perfect for quenching one’s thirst in this thermonuclear heatwave. Our take on the classic margarita: we shake ice with Cointreau, premium agave syrup, fresh citrus juice, and our home-infused chili tequila. We double strain her into a chilled margarita glass, and serve with a smoked paprika salt rim and a wedge of fresh lime.
The Queen of the Desert restores your electrolytes, gives you a mean kick, AND puts you in the appropriate diva mood to belt out some fabulous karaoke, darling.”
Mark Gurney, drinks director at Salon and Levan
"Having just spent a week in Soller, Mallorca (staunchly avoiding any Love Island nonsense), I’ve been nailing the finest summer cooler known to man: the classic combo of Campari and orange with a super yacht-sized amount of ice and a wedge of orange to garnish. Acceptable at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Looks like a sunset. Essentially, it’s a holiday in a glass. Banger.”
Finn Spiteri, bar manager at Rochelle Canteen at the ICA
“We make our own iced teas and kombucha, which are delicious ice cold, straight out of the fridge, or with a splash of gin in cocktails. They’re really fresh and extremely drinkable—remember, hydration is key.
I use a cold brew method for the iced tea as you get a better flavour—Earl Grey or jasmine work really well. The kombucha is made in a similar way, we use green tea and mint although you need to add the “scoby” (the culture), and leave for a week or two until it ferments. When the iced tea and kombucha are ready, combine in a tall glass full of ice. Leave a third of the glass free for cold ginger beer. Add a squeeze of lemon and a double shot of clean, crisp gin—Tanqueray preferably. Paper umbrella optional … ”
Sean Fennelly, bar manager at Fitz’s at The Principal London
“I like radlers or “lemon beers” as they’re also known. It’s basically what we’d call a shandy: a super-light lager mixed with lemonade and bottled, served almost at freezing point. They’ve not quite caught on over here but they’re massive in the warmer bits of central Europe. My favourite is a Croatian brand called Karlovacko.”
Steve Nuttall, co-founder Wayward
“During this heatwave, you’ll typically find us in a large bath of Lamoresca Rosato, a pink Sicilian wine of candied Frappato and aromatic Moscato. It’s not often Leeds gets as hot as San Michele di Ganzaria, so it seems appropriate.
We’ve also been cooling down with some banging fruit-driven reds of late: juicy Ardeche or Auvergne Gamay for example, or something Austrian like Zweigelt or St. Laurent from Claus Preisinger. Jutta Ambrositsch out of the fridge is also an oft-undervalued refreshment.”
Max Venning, co-owner of Bar Three and Three Sheets
“Whenever I’m too hot, I jump straight to a vodka soda with a squeeze of lemon and loads of ice. It’s hydrating and super refreshing, especially with a nice rich vodka like Absolut Elyx or Vestal. Failing that, an ice-cold pilsner always hits the spot.”