Six of the Best To-Go Cocktails to Make at Home
As the weather warms up and the days get longer, we want to be in the sun, ideally with a drink in hand. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re dumbing down our cocktails. A sophisticated drink is essential to any patio happy hour or rooftop aperitif.
Luckily, good drinks don’t need to be restricted to the indoors. Now more than ever, getting some fresh air safely and with drink in hand—whether it’s a rooftop, the backyard, a hiking trail and dreaming ahead, the beach—is easy when you have premade cocktails to bring along.
Bartenders have a few tips to help you enjoy cocktails in the great outdoors. For example, Travail Collective’s bar director, Nathaniel Smith of Travail Collective in Minneapolis, who relies on a stainless-steel flask to help mellow his Manhattan variation, suggests spirit-forward drinks like an Old Fashioned or Negroni, which can be enjoyable even at room temperature.
“Beware any citrus or acidic ingredients in your flask,” says Smith, which can be corrosive. For the sake of food safety, avoid dairy products, too. “No White Russians in stainless steel.”
Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have access to a vacation home or other set-up with plenty of ice and glassware, drinking options expand considerably. Try out these suggestions to sip al fresco all summer long.
Jump Straight to a Recipe
Night Tripper Cocktail
Grilled Orange Cobbler
Moon Over Pontchartrain
Mason Jar Caipirinha
Courtesy Chris Hannah, co-owner, Jewel of the South, New Orleans
At Jewel of the South, Chris Hannah, a bartender and co-owner, pays homage to the Big Easy. This to-go drink is a tribute to New Orleans music legend Dr. John. Hannah also makes a variation called the Rebennack, which was Dr. John’s last name. That cocktail subs rye for Bourbon and orange Curaçao for amaro.
- 1½ ounces Bourbon
- ¾ ounce amaro, preferably Averna or Ramazotti
- ¼ ounce Strega liqueur
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- Orange or lemon peel, for garnish
Funnel all ingredients, except garnish, into flask, and cap tightly. Shake briefly to mix. Sip from flask or pour into rocks glass over large ice cube.
Optional: Tuck orange or lemon peel into neck of flask just before drinking to add aromatic essence, if desired. Remove and discard to drink.
Adapted from Camp Cocktails, by Emily Vikre (Harvard Common Press, 2020)
If your outdoor plans include a grill, give this cobbler variation a try. While grilling the orange is not traditional, says writer Emily Vikre, it “brings out a fire-kissed marmalade flavor and adds an extra layer of depth.” Any type of still wine—red, white, pink, even fortified—works in this drink, she says, as long as it’s a dry or off-dry style. Adjust the amount of sugar to your taste.
- 2 round orange slices
- 1½ teaspoons sugar
- 6 ounces wine
- Fruit, for garnish (optional)
Place orange slices on grill. Cook, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes, or until grill marks appear. Flip and grill for 3 minutes, or until second side also shows grill marks. Remove from grill, and let cool about 10 minutes.
Put orange slices in cup. Add sugar, and gently press together to help dissolve sugar in juice. Add wine and generous scoop of crushed ice or small ice cubes from cooler. Use spoon to churn ingredients and ice up and down in glass for about 20 seconds.
Garnish with pieces of fruit before serving, if you like.
Courtesy Nathaniel Smith, bar director, Travail Collective, Minneapolis
Nathaniel Smith created this drink for a themed menu that drew inspiration from both outdoorsy Nordic cuisine and upper Midwest comfort foods. The “aged” part of the drink, however, was a happy accident.
“In Minnesota, it is incredibly common to head up to the cabin with a flask or two of your preferred spirit,” says Smith. “Like most people, I forgot my flask until the next trip out to the woods.” It was filled with a whiskey cocktail—and Smith was delighted to find it had mellowed and improved with age.
- 2 ounces rye, preferably Rittenhouse
- 1 ounce Cocchi Barolo Chinato or sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1 dash Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters
Funnel all ingredients and ½ ounce water into stainless steel flask. The drink can be enjoyed immediately or aged 2 weeks or longer. Sip from flask, or pour into rocks glass over large piece of ice.
Optional special touch: At the bar, the drink is served in the flask then poured over ice. A clove tincture is then spritzed over the top of the drink through a lighter or match flame.
By Sierra Kirk, bar manager, Hale Pele, Portland, OR; adapted from Flask: 41 Portable Cocktails to Drink Anywhere, by Sarah Baird (Chronicle Books, 2019)
Named for the sprawling lake that slices the city of New Orleans off from the rest of the continental U.S., this is a particularly decadent flask cocktail. Caramel richness from dark rum meets the juicy cherry notes of Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, a wine-based aperitif. It’s nice poured over ice, but it also drinks well at room temperature, especially if you need a little warmth after the sun sets.
- 1¾ ounce aged rum
- 1¾ ounce Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
- 1¾ ounce Cynar
- ½ teaspoon Angostura bitters
In mixing glass, combine all ingredients. Stir until mixed, and funnel into flask.
Courtesy Will Abner, for SpringHouse, Alexander City, AL
Abner created this drink for restaurant/ catering space SpringHouse. It originated when people would pour a shot of Campari into a bottle of Miller High Life (a mixture nicknamed “Camparty”) after catering a wedding party. He took the drink one step further with leftover grapefruit juice.
Eventually, it became a brunch staple at the Alabama venue, as well as a go-to for impromptu lakeside cocktails. The drink is mixed in the bottle. “Never fear if it bubbles up,” he says. “After all, this is a cocktail designed for swimwear.”
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle Miller High Life or other American lager (Abner also suggests grapefruit radler)
- ½ ounce Campari
- 1½ ounces grapefruit juice
Open beer and drink about 2 ounces. Add Campari, then top with grapefruit juice.
Courtesy Ivy Mix, co-owner/ head bartender, Leyenda, Brooklyn, NY
The Caipirinha is Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça, which is distilled from sugarcane. This version comes together in a Mason jar, which is ideal for portable sippers. The jars can be used to carry a premixed drink, or take a suggestion from Mix: Make and shake a drink in the jar, which then can double as the glass.
- ½ lime
- 1 heaping teaspoon sugar
- 2 ounces cachaça
Put lime and sugar in Mason jar. Use muddler to crush lime and extract juice. Add cachaça, and scoop in ice. Seal jar tightly, and shake well to combine and chill. Drink directly from jar.
- 1Night Tripper
- 2Grilled Orange Cobbler
- 3Flask-Aged Manhattan
- 4Moon Over Pontchartrain
- 5Campari Sun
- 6Mason Jar Caipirinha