Beer and wine are fine and dandy, but if you’re planning a cookout, don’t overlook cocktails. Not only are mixed drinks a fun addition to many backyard get-togethers, but a well-considered food and cocktail pairing can give your meal more pizzazz, whether you’re just throwing a few burgers on the grill or are serving a more elaborate feast.
“If you take two seconds to think about what you drink instead of just grabbing what’s handy, you’re going to increase your enjoyment exponentially,” Karen Page, author of What to Drink with What You Eat, told Epicurious.
To help you out, we’ve put together a list of seven delicious cookout cocktails, along with suggestions of what kind of meals to serve them with.
1. Dark and Stormy
The Dark and Stormy, a combination of dark rum (preferably Gosling’s) and ginger beer, originated in Bermuda. The rum in the drink makes it a natural fit for a barbecue with a Caribbean-flavored menu that features mains like grilled jerk chicken. This take on the Dark and Stormy comes from Esquire.
- 2 ounces dark rum
- 3 ounces ginger beer
- ½ ounce lime juice (optional)
Directions: Combine the rum, ginger beer, and lime juice in a Collins glass full of ice cubes. Stir.
A classic margarita pairs well with entrees like fish tacos and seafood kebabs, Jeff Faile of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group in Washington, D.C., told Washingtonian.
“If you’re using a good tequila, which is 100-percent blue agave, you should get enough vegetal notes for dishes like seafood tacos,” he explained. The margarita recipe is from Food & Wine.
- 1½ ounces silver tequila
- ¾ ounce triple sec
- 1½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
- ½ tablespoon simple syrup (optional)
- Lime slices and salted rim, for garnish
Directions: Shake, strain, and serve over ice in an old-fashioned glass.
3. Rusty Nail
While Scotch might seem like a spirit better enjoyed on cold winter nights, it may also have a place at your next cookout. The strong, rich flavors of a Rusty Nail, a Scotch-based cocktail, pair well with smoked baby back ribs, mixologist Miles Starkey told Better Homes and Gardens, which provided the recipe for this cocktail.
- 1 part scotch
- 1 part Drambuie
- Lemon twist (optional)
Directions: Pour ingredients and a few ice cubes into a shaker, shake gently, and pour into a glass. Serve with a lemon twist, if desired.
Mix up a big batch of sangria and none of your guests will go thirsty at your next summer party. Plus, the lightness of sangria makes it easier to pair with more foods, chef Peter Sandroni told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. If you’re serving your sangria at a barbecue, try pairing it with ceviche or skewered grilled meat, he suggested.
“You’re just sitting there with a skewer of beef tenderloin marinated in chimichurri sauce fresh off the grill in one hand, and a glass of red sangria in the other,” Sandroni said. “That’s awesome.”
Recipe from the Minimalist Baker.
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle red Spanish wine
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- ½ pineapple, chopped (roughly 1 cup)
- 1 orange, sliced into thin rounds and then halved
- ½ pear, cubed
Directions: Slice fruit and drop into a large pitcher. Add orange juice, then wine, and stir.
Refrigerate until serving, at least 4 to 6 hours. Drink within 1 to 2 days.
5. Georgia on My Mind
Beer is the obvious beverage to serve with hot-off-the-grill burgers or hot dogs. But rather than just cracking open a can, mix up a pitcher of this Southern-style beer cocktail, which combines bourbon and peach liqueur with fruity beer. Recipe from Food & Wine.
- ⅓ cup lightly packed mint leaves, plus small sprigs for garnish
- 12 ounces bourbon
- 4 ounces crème de pêche (peach liqueur)
- 4 ounces fresh lemon juice
- 2 ounces pure maple syrup
- 24 ounces chilled apricot or peach ale, such as Samuel Smith’s Organic Apricot Ale
Directions: In a pitcher, combine all of the ingredients except the ale, ice, and mint sprigs and stir until the maple syrup is dissolved. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
Add the apricot ale to the pitcher and stir well. Pour into 8 ice-filled highball glasses and garnish with mint sprigs.
6. Grilled Bloody Mary
A Bloody Mary is traditionally a brunch cocktail, but this spicy tomato-based beverage tastes good at any time of day. This recipe from Epicurious calls for grilled tomatoes, lemons, and celery. If you’ve already fired up the grill for a barbecue, mixing up a pitcher of this drink is a no-brainer.
- 2 pounds red tomatoes, halved
- 2 lemons, halved
- 7 small-to-medium celery stalks, preferably with leaves
- 1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1½ teaspoons freshly grated horseradish
- 1½ teaspoons sugar
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more, for seasoning
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more, for seasoning
- 8 ounces (1 cup) vodka
- Tabasco sauce or Sriracha, for serving
Directions: Light a grill and set it up for direct heat or preheat a grill pan. Brush the grill grates with oil and arrange the tomatoes and lemons cut side down and grill over high heat until well browned on the bottoms, 4 to 5 minutes. Grill 3 of the celery stalks, turning occasionally, until the leaves are dark brown or black and the stalks are blistered in spots, 5 to 6 minutes. Grill the remaining 4 celery stalks just until the leaves are singed, about 1 minute.
Transfer the tomatoes and fully grilled celery stalks to a food processor and let cool slightly. Squeeze 3 tablespoons of juice from the lemons and add it to the food processor; reserve the lemons. Add the Worcestershire, horseradish, sugar, 1½ teaspoons of salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper to the processor and process until as smooth as possible.
Strain the Bloody Mary mix through a fine sieve into a liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids; you should have at least 2 cups of mix. Season the mix with more lemon juice, salt and pepper, if desired.
To make individual drinks: In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine ½ cup Bloody Mary mix with 2 ounces of vodka; close and shake well. Pour the Bloody Mary into a tall ice-filled, garnish with a singed celery stalk and serve with Tabasco or Sriracha, for seasoning. Fill the cocktail shaker with clean ice before making each drink.
A Negroni is a classic Italian cocktail that combines equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. The drink pairs well with a turkey burger, Greg Mays of Simple Cocktails told NoshOn.It. Recipe from Two Tarts.
- 1 ounce gin
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 orange twist
Directions: Stir gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in a low-ball glass. Stir in ice. Garnish with orange twist.
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