The Lightweight’s Guide to Day Drinking
Day drinking is all well and good—until it turns to evening headaching and nighttime sleeplessness. The difference between a fun afternoon drink and a painful overindulgence is the ABV (alcohol by volume) of your cocktail. In other words, the trick is to use lighter spirits or fortified wines as a base, rather than hard liquor, like gin or vodka. We like sherry, a Spanish fortified wine with an ABV of 18 percent; soju, a Korean spirit distilled from grain or sweet potatoes and similar in taste to vodka, but with an ABV that hovers around 25 percent; and Lillet, a French fortified wine made from Bordeaux grapes macerated with fruit and quinaquina (the same stuff used to make tonic water), which has a very reasonable ABV of 17 percent. To put this those numbers in perspective, vodka typically has an ABV of about 40 percent, as does gin.
Mixed with fresh herbs, seasonal produce, and a hint of sweetness here and there, these are incredibly delicious but significantly less dangerous cocktails you can happily sip all summer long.
Originally developed in the nineteenth century, this simple sherry cocktail recipe is still so good, it requires very little tweaking. We just swapped in agave for the traditional cane sugar (it dissolves more easily into drinks) and added a bit of sparkling water to lighten it up. If you can’t track down crushed ice, make your own by placing ice cubes in a clean dish towel and knocking it against your counter—it’s a little loud, but it works.
We love a vodka soda as much as the next person, but this Lillet version is lighter, slightly sweeter, and way better. If you’re making these for a crowd, skip the muddling step and combine the Lillet, cucumber, and strawberries in a carafe or pitcher. Let steep in the fridge for at least one hour and up to twenty-four, then top with soda water right before serving.