The best new (bottled) drinks of summer

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The best summer drink doesn’t have to be full of alcohol or sugar; it just needs to be popped open. Photo: Willie’s Superbrew

Last summer was all about the Aperol Spritz; the summer before it was frosé. It may be too early to determine what we will be drinking all summer long this year, but I can guarantee one thing: it will come in a can or a bottle. 

With so many opportunities for barbecues, picnics, and kicking back, a summer drink has to be easy. And nothing is easier than cracking open a cocktail or a craft soda that makes a perfect mixer or standalone drink. “There is this trend [among] millennial consumers to care more about experiences, so when you are entertaining, you want to make it easier,” says Marcia Hu, the Marketing Manager at Brooklyn Food and Beverage, purveyor of ginger brews like Brooklyn Crafted and Bruce Cost. Popping open a can so you can continue hanging out with your friends sounds a lot better than holing up in the kitchen, zesting lemons. It helps if the can is also Instagrammable and the drink is tasty: not too sugary or full of preservatives.

This is a very fine balance to uphold. And lots of companies are rising to the occasion. Spiked seltzers, canned cocktails, and natural sodas are all becoming more prevalent, incorporating healthier and more original ingredients. So which ones should you pack in your cooler? We scoured local shelves to find everything from CBD cold brew to herbal iced teas to hard seltzers, perfect for entertaining, transporting, and hydrating. They’re all contenders for the best summer drink, no fancy kitchen prep needed.

Relax with CBD: Superlost CBD Cold Brew

 

 

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Best drink of the summer could be something to start your day rather than end it. Superlost Coffee is the first ready-to-drink CBD cold brew available in New York. Brewed in Bushwick, the company operates like a quintessential Brooklyn startup: founders Craig Deahl and David Roa live chat from their website, deliver subscriber’s coffee themselves (in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn!), and really believe in their product. They source single-origin coffee sustainably and ethically; partner with different local artists to create original artwork on each batch of coffee, and part of the proceeds from their sales go to the various farming regions they work with. But how is the coffee? It’s delicious, a rich blend that honestly doesn’t even need milk. Each bottle includes 20mg of full spectrum CBD, which seems to be just enough to take away the jitter of a usual brew. After drinking a bottle, I realized I was alert but relaxed, not stressing when I got an awkward email or was five minutes late to a meeting. The price is $7/ bottle in stores or $5/ bottle for delivery which is more than I would pay for my usual caffeine intake, but this seems economical for a guarantee of chill summer vibes. Available at Green Grape, Bklyn Larder, Foragers and many other stores.

Satiate with or without spirits: Brooklyn Crafted

 

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Have you ever wondered why you can’t easily find herbal iced tea? It feels lucky just to find an unsweetened tea, never mind one with wellness properties. Brooklyn Crafted is making all of our non-alcoholic dreams come true. Makers of the best ginger ale and spicy ginger beer, they have also branched out into herbal iced teas made with Chinese herbs in unusual, yet deliciously palatable blends like Brown Sugar Ginger, Hawthorn Berry, Hibiscus, Chrysanthemum Pear, and Prunella, as well as Calamansi-Ade, which tastes like a smooth lemonade made from kumquats and mandarins from Southeast Asia. Freshly brewed in Bushwick, these small-batch beverages are carefully crafted with fresh ingredients, so you know what you are getting when you drink them. I can personally attest to the perfection of one ginger beer mixed with a shot of vodka, for a flavorful Moscow Mule that doesn’t even need a lime. The Brooklyn Crafted line is available at Food Bazaar, Westside Market, Sahadi’s and more. The Calamansi-Ade will be rolling out in the NYC area this summer. Ginger beer: $7 for a four-pack, Herbal Teas: $1.49 – $1.99 per bottle.

Spicy seltzer: Dona Spice Soda

 

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You’re probably familiar with the female-founded brand, Dona, even if you didn’t realize it. At basically every top Brooklyn coffee shop, when you are ordering a Chai Latte that tastes good and not like a syrupy mess, you are drinking a Dona concentrate. When you order a turmeric soda and you see the barista mixing something together, it’s most likely a Dona concentrate. And now you can have Dona soda to go; no mixing necessary. The Dona Spice Sodas are made with freshly ground spices, citrus, herbs, and spices in small batches. The fizzy beverage is light and refreshing with combinations like Pink Peppercorn Lemon, Turmeric Honeybush with Orange & Black Pepper and Juniper Lime with Chamomile & Elderflower. These are interesting enough to keep your taste buds happy and could be a complex alternative for a bbq beer. Also, they are a great addition to any cocktail: gin & tonic with turmeric honeybush, anyone? Available online, and at local retailers like Greene Grape, Bklyn Larder, Union Market and more. $12 for a three-pack.

Get boozy on the beach: Willie’s Superbrew

 

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When the temperature is close to triple digits, we’re reaching for something light, refreshing and hydrating. Beer can feel heavy, wine can feel less refreshing, but Willie’s Superbrew, a hard seltzer, strikes the perfect balance. The alcohol in these sparkling waters comes from fermented fruit juice made from actual fruit, not synthetic flavors or sweeteners. The Cape Cod company was founded by a neuroscience researcher and a goat farmer (really!) and has spread from health food stores to major markets throughout the Northeast. There are three flavors: Ginger & Lemon, Pomegranate & Acai, and Mango & Passionfruit. All of the options are gluten-free if that matters to you. I’ve only tried the Pomegranate & Acai and it’s the equivalent of a slice of watermelon in a can: totally refreshing on a hot day. Available at Whole Foods (Gowanus), Fairway and Trader Joes. $10.99 for a six-pack.

A Perfect Picnic: Greenhook Ginsmiths Gin & Tonic

 

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There is possibly no better summer combination than a very cold G & T on a boiling hot day. The citrusy refreshment with the tang of tonic and gin goes down as smooth as raindrops on a window. You may crave this during the summer, especially when you are sitting alfresco with friends, enjoying the New York Philharmonic in the Park as I was last weekend. And for that, Brooklyn’s own Greenhook Ginsmiths have created these handy little cans, which pack a serious punch. They are just the thing for bringing to a pool party, a friend’s barbecue, or just to have on hand for a relaxing Sunday afternoon. The mix is better than if I made it at home, and probably stronger because after one, I had to switch to water. I would recommend drinking them as cold as you can; just like beer, they become less refreshing the longer they sit out in the heat. And for a canned G & T with a more unusual flavor profile, East Williamsburg’s Interboro Spirits & Ales makes a hibiscus and lime combo that’s delicious, too. Available at Heights Chateau, Waterfront Wines, Astor Wines & Spirits and other specialty wine and liquor stores. $26 for a four-pack. Interboro G&T available at Duke’s Liquor Box (Greenpoint) and Interboro (East Williamsburg), $6 per can.

A complicated cocktail made easy: St. Agrestis Negroni

 

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Summer is a time for maximum relaxation, and sometimes shaking up a complicated drink with more than two ingredients seems like a buzzkill. St. Agrestis has done the hard work for you, with a bottled cocktail that actually tastes good. The Brooklyn company was founded in 2014 with an amaro, a bitter that you can drink as a digestif after dinner or an aperitif to wake up your palate. Last summer they launched a pre-mixed Negroni, which is a blend of their Inferno Bitter, Greenhook American dry gin, and sweet vermouth. Like any good Negroni, it is the ultimate in refreshment with a strong taste that is slightly medicinal (in a good way). I’m used to premixed drinks being heavy syrupy affairs that are apt to give you a sugar hangover if you can stomach a glass or two. This artisanal drink is different. It may be a little thicker than what you’d get at a bar, but it’s still a very superior drink. I prefer mine on the rocks with a twist of orange and a bit of seltzer. They come in bottles of four, which are great for sharing. Available at Brooklyn Wine Exchange (Cobble Hill) and specialty wine shops across NYC like Dry Dock (Red Hook), Gowanus Wine Merchants, and Slope Cellars (Park Slope.) $24.99 for a four pack.

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