Before you crack open a light beer, uncork yet another bottle of rosè or even think about ordering up a mocktail as an afternoon drink, give the session cocktails a chance. Since day drinking is a marathon, not a sprint, selecting the right beverage matters, but that doesn’t mean ruling out cocktails entirely. Enter these 11 low-proof cocktails, drinks that lie somewhere between a stiff cocktail and a mocktail, at a bar near you.
Inspired by the unusual flavor combinations of Japanese food and drink, bar manager Dan Sabo created this Spritz with that very strangeness in mind. He combines Kikkoman plum wine, Crémant de Limoux sparkling wine, Clear Creek Douglas Fir brandy, Charbay green-tea-flavored vodka, salted honey, ponzu and a pipette of chile pepper tincture. Your taste buds will never be the same again.
At the newly opened Mahina & Sun’s, Alicia Yamachika has created a low-ABV cocktail that perfectly suits long Hawaiian days. The gin ’n’ juice combo uses a house blend of kale, pineapple, celery and jalapeño along with Damrak gin, lemon juice and agave for sweetness. It’s served in a Collins glass and garnished with an edible viola flower.
(image: Casea Collins-Wright)
Made with equal parts sherry (Valdespino fino infused with Meyer lemon peel) and chinato (Vergano Luli moscato chinato) and a half-ounce of Aylesbury Duck vodka, this stirred drink packs a punch without being too boozy. “We channel-peel Meyer lemons from the farmers’ market and compress them with the fino in a cryovac,” says bar director Nicolas Torres. “Let it sit for two days then strain the fino.” The cocktail is finished with a dehydrated Meyer lemon wheel for garnish and topped with Meyer lemon oil.
Chicago chef Charles Welch, who directs the cocktail program at new West Loop spot Honey’s, came up with this punch, adding gin to the mix but diluting it with milk whey to lower the ABV. Made with Pimm's No. 1 Cup, Beefeater gin, pineapple, cucumber and basil, it’s served over ice.
(image: Galdones Photography)
A play on the classic Kir Royale, the Bière Royale uses Kronenbourg 1664 in place of Champagne, which might make day drinking in the Miami heat that much more manageable. The base is Giffard Cassis Noir de Bourgogne, mixed with lemon juice and Peychaud's bitters, topped with beer and garnished with a speared blackberry.
With a nod to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s biggest brat, this cooler is a summer refresher in a glass with zero attitude. A creation of bartender Aaron Doherty, it’s a lighter version of the Aviation and uses Cinzano Bianco vermouth in place of gin and subs simple syrup for maraschino liqueur, resulting in a less boozy way to showcase the delicateness of the Giffard Crème de Violette liqueur. A little lemon juice, a topper of cava and a splash of seltzer complete the drink.
From Mother’s Auxiliary, a tiny speakeasy tucked in the back of Estrella, comes a cocktail creation by bar director Gia St. George with a nod to American novelist John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath is made with oloroso sherry, Cynar, the juice of grapefruit and lime, and a cinnamon and ghost pepper syrup infusion. The ingredients are shaken, strained and served in a Collins glass over fresh ice with a cinnamon stick garnish.
Mixing your cocktail