Ten Best: Hot weather drinks

by Brian Clarey

Gin and tonic

You don’t have to tell me how hot it is outside. But during my years in the South, I’ve developed a few strategies for summer survival. First and foremost is: Keep the liquids coming. Also, in the warmer months, a lot of people switch from brown liquors to clear. That’s why so many gin and tonics get thrown back between March and October. And the drink is not without its salubrious benefits. In the old days, the Brits used to swear by the quinine in the tonic water to ward off malaria, and the juniper in the gin has got to be good for something. Urinary tract infections? Add a squeeze of lime and it’s practically a health drink.


Alcohol is fine, a legitimate weapon against the heat, but you’re not gonna do so well knocking back water glasses of gin in the hot sun all day, no matter how much ice you use. If you’re neighborhood is precious enough, you’ll likely be seeing the budding young entrepreneurs out on the sidewalks after school lets out for the summer. Go ahead and get yourself a glass of that lemony-sweet concoction – if it’s made with real lemons (doubtful) your body will appreciate the vital nutrients they supply. And be a sport: Give the kid an extra buck.

Sweet tea/iced coffee

Sweet tea, when properly prepared, can be called Southern go-juice. It’s got caffeine and loads of sugar, and on the refreshing scale you simply must give it an 8 or better. Iced coffee is nice, too, though it’s kind of a Yankee thing, I guess. But my favorite all-time cold-coffee concoction is the granita at PJ’s Coffee & Tea, and the only place to get it around here is the Palladium in High Point. Until I figure out how to make it on my own and start selling them out of the back of my car.


Speaking of frozen drinks, even the burliest, hairiest and most-tattooed of tough guys can sip on a fruity, icy blender drink during the hottest months without calling their manhood into question. I myself once drank about 15 strawberry daiquiris poolside at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and then went on to win a half a grand at the blackjack tables. And no less an authority than Ernest Hemingway was a fan of the daiquiri when he was in Cuba, though he took them in the traditional manner, with rum, the juice from a couple Key limes and half a grapefruit, some maraschino liqueur and cane syrup. On the rocks.


You mean like from the toilet? Yes, dumbass, I know how much you like your Brawndo – It’s got electrolytes! – but water, as the pre-Socratic philosopher Thales would tell you, is the source of all things. Your brain is 70 percent water. Your lungs more than 90. So, you know, have a glass every once in a while – at least enough to lighten up your pee.


Sometimes there is nothing better than a cold beer on a hot day. After a bout of landscaping, a workout in the hot sun or on a balmy afternoon when the weekend is close at hand – nothing beats a cold beer, fresh from the ice, freezing drops falling like a short, refreshing shower off the bottle. In summertime try a wheat beer with a slice of orange. Or you could just shotgun a lukewarm can of Miller Lite. Your call.

Pimm’s cup

I’m not sure if this is a real Southern thing, or a British thing, or what. But I do know that the only place I’ve ever drank them is at the Napoleon House in the French Quarter, an ancient structure built to house the deposed leader after the pirate Jean Lafitte sprang him from exile on the island of Elba. Alas, Bonaparte died before the plan bore fruit. Anyway, in a tall Collins glass loaded with ice, add a healthy slug of British liqueur Pimm’s No. 1, top off with sour mix and 7-Up or soda, and garnish with mint and a cucumber slice.

The entire white wine family

Chardonnay, pinot grigio, pinot blanc, Riesling, white Bordeaux, even Champagne and sparkling whites make for great summer sipping. Add a touch of crème de cassis for a kir and act like it’s no big deal.


A hundred million Mexicans can’t be wrong. And while tequila is a more versatile spirit than one would instinctually think, it does best when mixed three to two with Cointreau (triple sec is so pedestrian, don’t you think?), a quality sour mix, a salted glass and a nice tray of chips and salsa. Also a favorite of nurses and sorority girls.

Mint julep/mojito

No matter what Brazilian club girls and red-faced Kentucky colonels will tell you, these are pretty much the same drink: mint and sugar muddled in the glass, lots of ice, soda water and booze – it’s the choice between rum and bourbon that makes all the difference. And, dare I say, you can even make this cocktail with vodka or – gasp! – a light tequila. But the mixture is perfect for cruising the infield at the Kentucky Derby, rocking a thong at Carnevale in Rio or anything in between.