The Secret to Low-Proof Cocktails for Summer Day Drinking


Day drinking is a rite of summer and one of the best ways to while away a Sunday funday. But as the day wears on (and as we get older), that light, lively buzz can take a terrible turn for an 8 p.m. hangover, fast. Sure, you could keep drinking to avoid the inevitable, but that’ll only push the pain and suffering to Monday morning. Luckily, there is a way to booze all day and still make that 7:30 p.m. dinner reservation in one piece. Forget about Martinis and Old-Fashioneds. Instead, let low-proof cocktails take the wheel.

One of our favorite ways to lighten a cocktail is swapping high-ABV spirits for liqueurs, the unsung heroes of cocktailing. Extremely versatile, powerfully flavorful and low-proof, liqueurs are the difference between a bland spritz and an amped up (but still sessionable) cooler. We asked some of our favorite bartenders from across the country to share recipes for cocktails you can sip all day without regret, using their liqueurs of choice.

“I love using liqueurs in my cocktails to create balance and complexity,” says mixologist Adele Stratton of Noble Experiment in San Diego. “When drinking a low ABV cocktail, I always look for the ‘dry’ element (Champagne, amaro, citrus) along with a liqueur that can be used as a flavor enhancer.” Stratton is a huge fan of Giffard apricot liqueur. She uses it to add intensity to the High Garden Spritz without making the drink overly boozy or crazy sweet (like other liqueurs might). “This fresh and summery drink should make you feel like you’re sitting in a sunny orchard,” she says. Who doesn’t like drinking in a sunny orchard?

The Essentials

Apricot Liqueur
“We were really looking to create a cocktail that best represented a late summer evening, something session-style with a low ABV that can be enjoyed for hours,” says Jon Feuersanger, beverage manager at Beast + Bottle in Denver. “We chose to use liqueurs as a base for this drink because they add body, texture and a multitude of flavors. Rothman & Winter Pear works because it plays nicely with the violet liqueur and isn’t overpowering. The end result is a light, floral, refreshing drink with a bright arrangement of thoughtful flavors.”

The Essentials

Pear Liqueur
Lime Juice

The classic fruity Pimm’s Cup meets banana and bitter IPA in this spritzy, lightly tropical cocktail from The National in Athens, Georgia. While banana and IPA might seem like an odd pairing, the two are a natural fit. “IPAs have subtle banana notes hidden behind their bitterness,” says The National bar manager Michael Clancy. “So the Giffard banana liqueur really ties the flavors of Pimm’s and the beer together. Plus, Giffard Banane du Brésil and Pimm's No. 1 are both 25% alcohol, so you can sip this cooler all day.” Clancy calls for a syrup made with Tropicália IPA, which is brewed across the street from the restaurant, but any IPA will do.


The Essentials

IPA Syrup
Banana Liqueur

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