Good libations: Refreshing drinks for summer picnics

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‘Y ou can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather.’ It may be a cliche but, as anyone who’s tried to plan an al fresco event in the UK knows all too well, there’s wisdom in the idiom. And, while 2023 may be proving a kinder summer than most, one needs only cast their mind back to the many, many drizzly picnics of years gone by to know it’s unlikely to last forever. The hope that this nefarious psychosis in the London weather system will, at some point, be replaced by something more gentle, friendly and eco-conscious is what’s keeping us going in the struggle against bi-polar conditions that genuinely mean sun-drenched, wine-fuelled picnics can turn into a scene from Waterworld within minutes.

If you should find your own al fresco celebrations being liberally doused, these are the summer drinks to save from being sucked into the nearest storm drain. All are worth getting at least mildly soggy for…

No.3 gin

best alcoholic drinks for summer

The number three here refers to the address on St. James Street that, since 1698, has been home to the vintners Berry Bros & Rudd, a gloriously Dickensian curiosity shop of creaking floorboards, vino panjandrums and hysterical prices. Produced in a 100-year-old, brick-encased, copper still, this gin – containing coriander, angelica root, cardamom, grapefruit, sweet orange peel and juniper – was created by David Clutton, the only man to hold a PhD in gin. It’s been voted the World’s Best Gin on four occasions and, as someone with a mere Blue Peter badge in G&T drinking, it is, even to my tyro taste buds, a particularly fine and elegant tipple; as dry as the Private Eye ‘Rotten Borough’s column, but not nearly as hard to digest.


Gruber Röschitx Gruner Veltiner

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Gruber Röschitz is a winery in the Weinviertel wine-growing region of Niederösterreich, Austria, a nation whose exports are given only the most fleeting of mentions on most UK wine lists. In these vineyards, clovers are planted in every row, supplying nitrogen, aerating the soil and, frankly, giving the ‘Heidi’ vibe an even greater injection of bucolic purity. This is a subtle number for sure; the colour is a sunny, creamy hue of pale yellow and I got a lingering taste of mellifluous peach, quince and hay bales on my tongue. Languorous, warm and seemingly effortless.


The Source gin

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And so to the Cardrona Valley in the Southern Alps of New Zealand for this exceptionally well-crafted gin, fused from a mix of locally-foraged rosehip, together with traditional juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, lemon and orange zest. The bottle is chic enough to maintain constant ‘front of cabinet’ status and the orange undertow isn’t too astringent. It comes with enough sunny intent to make you want to throw the windows open and drink this on the balcony, regardless of the drizzle.


Brännland Pernilla Perle 2017

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Ostensibly, Sweden and cider would seem to go together as naturally as Aphex Twin and the Smooth FM playlist. Yet this dry and demonstrative tipple from Pernilla Perle is a winner; albeit a rather austere one. This isn’t a sweet cider that bounces around your mouth before making you want to play frisbee in the pub car park. Rather, it is an elegant, regal affair; designed to be sipped slowly, preferably while discussing your favourite Bergman film and debating the finer points of Greta’s latest climate change proclamations.


Ramborn Cider Garden quince

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And, continuing the ‘I didn’t know they made cider’ selection, here’s a natty and fulsome number from erm, Luxembourg. Ramborn is the first modern-day cider company in the Grand Duchy, though even the Romans were fermenting juice from apples and pears in the region, once upon a time. They work with over 100 Luxembourgish farmers to make their surprisingly vast variety of ciders, though their garden quince variety is my favourite. With just a tickle of sweetness, it’s a radiant belter of a cider with an almost innumerable amount of obscure hipster cred points to boot.


Two Shores Irish rum

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There are only three rum producers in all of Eire, which is about three more than I expected to find. The tempests that blast through the Emerald Isle, whenever I seem to visit, do not seem to make for a natural environment good for a sugar cane harvest. Which is probably why Two Shores get their sugar cane from Panama, where it’s aged for nigh on a decade in American bourbon casks, before coming to the west coast of Eire to be aged for at least six more months in 19-year-old Irish casks. It turns out that Panama-meets-the-peat-moors is a rather good idea; this is a rum that has taken its time to get here and the flavours, particularly in their Premium Golden Rum are velvety, blowsy, bosky and imbued with the scent of both sunshine and storms. Handsome.



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Our global, boozy whirlwind continues with this new arrival from Ghana, West Africa, a sui generis, and rather vibrant triple-distilled, organic palm spirit. It’s tapped from tropical date and coconut palm trees of Ghana and comes in two flavours: the Nubi has hints of flamed pineapple, passion fruit and honey; while The Moor has ginger, local spices and Hwentia pepper. Best of all, you really don’t need to do anything than pour it straight into the glass with just one large ice cube. Not nearly as sweet as you might expect, it’s well overdue for palm wine to start making an impact here in a nation where we dreams of our indigenous tree trunks containing alcohol rather than just phloem and termites.


Bareksten Botanical aquavit

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To the frozen tundra of Norway, a place where summer simply means shedding one of your seven layers of woolly jumpers. Aquavit originated from Norway in 1531 and has been remarkably effective at getting Norwegians drunk in the shortest possible time ever since. Though we shouldn’t be so dismissive; aquavit can actually be a very high-quality spirit. This Botanical aquavit is crafted around a potato-based spirit, flavoured with classic aquavit botanicals such as caraway and fennel. It’s then rested in Oloroso sherry casks and, if you want some true Scandi cred points, should be served very, very chilled in very small glasses and raised among friends to arbitrary toasts, such as the release of a new A-ha greatest hits compilation.


High Water Hard Seltzer

We don’t need to introduce you to hard seltzer. Since White Claw made the jump across the pond a few years back there has been a seemingly endless stream of new iterations and homegrown variants reaching shelves across the UK. High Water, for example, hails from the Cotswolds and is made using local spring water and triple-distilled British vodka which, in our opinion, makes it the ideal tipple for those embarking on a Great British staycation. Choose from mango and peach, lemon and elderflower or cucumber and mint varieties.

£2.99 per can,

Batch & Bottle Passionfruit Martini

In our now post-pandemic era, the phenomenon of pre-mixed cocktails will be news to no one. After all, ordering in a batch of pre-prepared martinis to go with your finish-at-home meal kit was about as wild as Friday night could get during lockdown. And while restaurants and bars are back with a vengeance, it seems to the cocktail delivery is here to stay with players like relative newcomer Batch & Bottle raising the bar with its commitment to premium spirits and bar-worthy ingredients. Its latest release is a classic Passionfruit Martini made using Icelandic Reyka Vodka – all you need do is chill and pour.


Castillo de Ibiza Rosé

There is perhaps no greater pleasure than sipping on a crisp glass of rosé while the sun sinks below the horizon on a balmy evening. It is exactly this golden hour atmosphere that Pernod Ricard’s new rosé brand Castillo de Ibiza hopes to capture with its debut bottling. Blending Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes, serve fridge-cold to unlock a palette of watermelon, pomegranate, strawberries and cherries that pairs dreamily with Mediterannean-style dishes.


Lanson Wimbledon Limited Edition Champagne

To celebrate its ongoing partnership with Wimbledon, Lanson has released limited edition bottles of its Black Label Brut and Le Rosé champagnes. Each of the core expressions of the champagne house – the former full of fresh citrus and toasty brioche notes and the latter promising a nose of raspberry and pomegranate with a crisp minerality on the palate – is presented in a special gift box emblazoned with Wimbledon’s iconic green and purple colour scheme.


Tom Savano Cuban Revolutionary Mojito

Another contender in the pre-made cocktail scene, Tom Savano’s handcrafted cocktails each take their inspiration from far-flung destinations – making them the ideal serve to elevate summer picnics. The menu on offer is vast, spanning margaritas and martinis to gimlets and negronis, but, for founder James Kerslake it all began with a mojito – so we suggest that’s where you start too. Blended using Cuban rum hand-infused with organic mint, alongside lime juice and Demerara sugar, it’s the ultimate summer refresher.

From £15,

Della Vite Prosecco Rosé

Despite its classic counterpart having long been the official drink of hen parties and bottomless brunches for many years, Prosecco Rosé only began hitting shelves in 2021, after receiving official approval to use the DOC name from the Italian government. Perfect timing, then, for Della Vite, the vegan Prosecco brand from the Delevingne sisters which launched in August 2020 and has just released its first rosé sparkling wine. Created using grapes grown in Valdobbiadene, at the foot of the Dolomite mountains, by a winemaking family that has been in the business for three generations, the result is a light, fresh and aromatic wine with a creamy finish and delicate bubbles. Saluti!


Berry Bros. & Rudd 2021 Provence Rosé

Storied London wine merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd recently announced its ambition to become carbon net-zero by 2030 and, with the release of its 2021 Provence Rosé, it’s showing it means business. Made for BBR by the Château la Mascaronne vineyard, its capsule-free bottle does away with the environmentally-damaging foil casing traditionally used to protect the cork, while customers will also be able to return wine corks to BBR’s stores to be recycled or reused (natural cork is not widely accepted at UK recycling centres). Sustainability aside, this is also a fantastically dry, medium-bodied rosé perfect for summer picnics and BBQs.


Graham Beck Brut NV

We love the notion of a sparkling wine called Graham. This is a class-levelling notion that should be rolled out across the drinks spectrum until we have single malt whiskies called Jock and weissbiers called Gunter. This is a South African brut from Robertson, on the Garden Route in the Western Cape, and is the wine that was served at Nelson Mandela’s Presidential inauguration back in 1994. Very slightly creamy but with an impressively light lime-infused zest, this is one of those devious sparkling wines that kids you into thinking it will never, ever give you a hangover. This is not strictly true, as we can sadly attest.


Taittinger Brut Reserve

Ah, let us nuzzle into the bosom of this old favourite; the cashmere shawl of wines that should really only be drunk in the business class cabin of an A380 flight to Mauritius. But has one of the less gaudy classic champagne houses been resting on its well-sculpted laurels? It’s easy to get blasé when your brand is this immutable to criticism so we tried our very best to find fault with this bottle of Reims’ finest. But it was in total and complete vain.

The main reason for this consistency is that the Taittinger family (this is one of the last independent champagne houses and the eponymous family still runs the show) owns more vineyard space than almost anyone else in the Champagne region. This, plus the slightly higher percentage of chardonnay grape, results in a taste as clean as a Japanese ryokan hotel, concomitant with depth, balance and a coquettish shimmer of honey on the nose. This is still the champagne equivalent of Marvin Gaye crooning a ballad in a Jacuzzi with a mirror ball above it. And that really is no bad thing at all.


The Palm by Whispering Angel

We’ve long been put off (perhaps unfairly) by Whispering Angle due to its name, which always reminds me of the type of perfume you see in the reduced to clear section of a provincial branch of Superdrug. But now, from the maker most widely known for its Provence rosé, Chateau d’Esclans, comes The Palm. Slightly cheaper in price than the d’Esclans, it doesn’t quite have the smoothness of its more famous sibling. However, made from Grenache, Cinsault and Carignan grapes, there’s an aromatic zing to it that has a tad more minerality than its ‘big sister’ wine.


Maison Number 9 Rosé

What would you do after a full day of rehearsing with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers? My personal choice would be to tell Anthony Kiedis that his autobiography was a pompous waste of rainforest. Grammy award-winning Texan Post Malone, however, decided to create his own rosé wine. Regular readers will know that collaborations between musicians and wine brands tend to be a murky and overpriced but Malone’s pairing with award-winning Provence winemaker Alexis Cornu makes a welcome change.

The bottle is notably un-bling in design and the contents – a blend of Cinsault, Syrah and Merlot – is an unusually pale pink with genuinely unique pineapple and pear notes that give it a hugely charismatic tart piquancy. It’s all going so well until you read the promotional blurb and find that the wine is named after Post Malone’s favourite tarot card. Bah! But let’s concentrate on the taste. Finally, the exceedingly low bar of musician-wine couplings has been dramatically raised.


Kiss Of Wine Chill Rosé

Canned wines are like old girlfriends in small towns. You swear you’ll never be mates but you can’t help running into each other at roughly fortnightly intervals. So it is with canned wines. They’re fast becoming as ubiquitous as Covid temperature checks but this number, hailing from the vineyards of Calodoc in Provence, is a better-than-average example of the form, with a playful pink grapefruit and citrus tan that is exactly as accessible as canned wine should be. The only problem is the gaudy pink packaging. Why must canned winemakers persist in thinking that the only people who will drink wine from a tin are the same people who still pop into Claire’s Accessories and have a Keep Calm And Drink Rosé tea towel in their kitchen?


Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc

This release from the Edmond de Rothschild Heritage (that’s the group name for Baron Benjamin de Rothschild’s wine-making projects around the world) is one of the finest single estate Marlborough sauvignon blancs we’ve tried in recent years. Like all the finest Kiwi Sav Blancs, this is a breath of breezy, clean mountain air with the usual teasing back notes of lemon, grapefruit and dry hay. The name ‘Rimapere’ means five arrows in Maori. The most pleasant thing about a wine of this quality is that none of those arrows punctures a hole in the wallet. An outstanding quality wine for the ‘change from the twenty pound note’ range.


Read more: The best wine subscription services in London

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