Our Writers Sip To the End of Summer

Pimms Cup. Photo by mobil'homme.
Pimms Cup. Photo by mobil'homme.

Labor Day weekend in the US is the last long weekend of summer, and for many of us, even though there are still officially a couple of weeks till the autumnal equinox, it winds down the season as we know it. There is even a silly fashion rule that after the first Monday of September, we’re not supposed to wear white again until Memorial Day. It’s one of our last hurrahs to bite into a juicy, fresh peach, laugh at each other with corn stuck between our teeth, snip those final, remaining leaves of fresh basil and mint from the herb pot and sip the day away with warm weather quaffers.

Rather than shove a bunch of tired “Here’s What To Drink At the BBQ” drinks in your face, I decided to ask our hardworking, talented drink writers how they like to unwind in the last days off of summer. Perhaps this will inspired how you sip this weekend too.

Nora McGunnigle: I like to have an IPA or hoppy pale ale for Labor Day weekend. It's still crisp and refreshing without being too easy drinking, as many beers in the summer tend to be (with good reason!) I think the hoppiness stands up well to grilled meat, especially if there's some spice in there somewhere. Favorite local examples (available in New Orleans): Gnarly Barley Radical RyePA, Parish Envie, NOLA Brewing Rebirth Pale Ale, and Covington Anonymous IPA.

Keith Allison: Pimms Cup, without a doubt. I mean, it has fruit in it, so you know it's healthy. It's not too strong, though I've learned from experience that doesn't mean you don't need to pace yourself. It's the perfect no-worries summer drink. Refreshing, uplifting -- I've noticed that when you walk into a bar, no one is drinking a Pimms Cup. But after the first person orders one, it doesn't take long for everyone else, total strangers, to fall in and order one themselves. My preference is with a splash of ginger beer, but I am always happy to sample any bartender's variations. And the Frozen Pimms Cup at St. Lawrence in New Orleans? I'm thinking of flying down right now just to have one. Or two.

Pimms Cup Base Recipe

You can add your choice of ingredients to this. Some like it with cucumbers, other with a couple of fresh strawberries or other seasonal berries. Some even do both and add fresh mint too. Or none of the above. Your preference. Why schlep? It’s Labor Day, after all!

If using fruit, muddle that first with the lemon juice before adding the other ingredients.

Add all ingredients except ginger ale to ice filled rocks or Collins glass. Stir. Top with ginger ale. Stir again and garnish if desired.

Aliza Kellerman: I think punches are great in the summer. I tried Planter's Punch for the first time in Ixtapa and will forever associate it with an extremely relaxed and balmy time. Alternatively, if you're looking for a real American twist, substitute rum with a nice molasses-y bourbon.

Planter's Punch, photo by Rolf
Planter's Punch, photo by Rolf

Planter’s Punch Base Recipe

Another one you can play around with using different juices, the more tropical the better, and fruits, as well as Aliza’s suggestion of switching out the spirits.

  • 89 ml/3 oz Dark Rum (we suggest Zacapa 23)
  • 30 ml/1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
  • 15 ml/.5 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 15 ml/.5 oz Grenadine
  • Barspoon (or 2, depending on desired sweetness) Simple Syrup or Superfine Sugar

Shake all ingredients well with ice until well chilled. Strain into tall glass filled with cracked ice. Garnish with fruit. The sillier the better.

Robin Goldsmith: Thornbridge Jaipur IPA is a 5.9% ABV delight that would be my choice to accompany many dishes, including white meats and smoked fish, but also for drinking slowly on its own, nicely chilled, while relaxing on a long hot summer’s day.  On the nose, fragrant notes of orange peel and honey are evident, which lead on to a long-lasting palate bursting with aromatic hoppiness, honey and elderflowers with a hint of dates.  Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeelicious!

Dorothy Hernandez: To toast to the fading days of summer, I like to sip drinks that remind me of my favorite season. For a cocktail, a Gin Smash, inspired by my favorite bar in Detroit. It's basically gin with muddled fresh basil, simple, and lime juice over ice. When it comes to wine, a crisp sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, such as Oyster Bay or Sileni (which won a silver medal in the 2014 NY International Wine Competition.)

Francine Cohen: To me the best thing about long summer weekends is the languid socializing you can do with friends or family. I like a late morning Bloody Mary as a pre-lunch pick me up (I'm currently using Ubon's Bloody Mary Mix and doctoring it when too tired to do it from scratch). Crisp white and rosé wines get paired with lunch, cheese and crackers and dinner.  I'd like to imagine I'd be capable at dessert time of whipping out my tools and opening up my bar and refrigerator door to recreate the lush Avuá Cachaça cocktail I enjoyed last week at Le Bernadin, which had a toasted coconut rim, but truthfully I'd rather just sit here and admire my tan and bask in good company.

Brian Petro: My go to cocktails are usually the classics. A few well made Daiquiris will be how I toast the end of summer. The balance of the tartness of the lime and the sweetness of the simple syrup and rum is brilliant. I trust people who live in hot climates all year to invent a cocktail that beats the heat, and Ohio gets a little sticky this time of year.

Kevin Gibson: Labor Day means the final AAA baseball game in my home city of Louisville (go Bats!). And while it is a holiday for relaxation, it is also a time to reflect. I’m a beer guy through and through, so nothing can make me happier on a lazy Labor Day weekend than a growler (or two) of a locally brewed IPA or APA (such as Apocalypse Brew Works). Something about the crispness blended with the hop bite – whatever hop it might be, from Amarillo ro Citra to Simcoe – just says “summer” to me. Heck, add a few bratwurst and you won't want to go to work on Tuesday. (Trust me.)

*Editor’s note: For more summer and session beer suggestions, please click here and here.

photo by Simon Pearson
photo by Simon Pearson

Patrick A. Reed: A tall glass of ice-cold Tanqueray gin and homemade lemonade with basil and mint.  It's refreshing, not too sweet, and pairs perfectly with any summery occasion – an outing in the country, a BBQ on the rooftop, a gathering of friends to play mini-golf, or one last summertime trip to the beach!

Basil/Mint Lemonade

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 10-12 fresh basil leaves
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh mint leaves

In a large pitcher, mix 1/2 cup sugar w/ 1/2 cup boiling water. Once sugar is thoroughly liquified, add mint leaves and muddle well. Add lemon juice, 2 1/2 cups cold water. Add basil (do not muddle.) Chill thoroughly in refrigerator.

For the cocktail: combine 1 part Tanqueray and 2 parts lemonade (strained) over ice. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint.

As for me, my favorite things about Labor Day weekend are watching US Open tennis and hanging out with friends and family. Somehow, (perhaps after once spending 10 hours watching 3 matches at one of my Brooklyn locals, ahem), Margaritas have become my favorite US Open drink. If making them at home, I like this recipe with lavender syrup, which is actually quite simple to make. On Labor Day, my family has a tradition of gathering dear friends for drinks, snacks and BBQ, and we use this as an excuse to drink a couple of the wines my dad has been cellaring over the years. I’m hoping we dig into his impressive collection of Joseph Phelps and/or Pride Mountain on Monday, or perhaps a silky pinot from Merry Edwards. This is our day to relax and treat ourselves.

Have a great, sippity, carefree weekend, everyone! Cheers!