When it seems impossible to stay refreshed in the sweltering heat of summer, look no further than these Cooler cocktails. Named for their “cooling” effects, the loose term applies to iced mixed drinks built tall that typically contain a carbonate (often soda water, ginger beer, etc.). There are, of course, exceptions. They usually have a simple formula of a three-to-one soda to spirit ratio. This often makes them low-proof.
The Cooler cocktail family is a broadly encompassing category of several mixed drink formulas, including the “Collins“, “Mule“, and “Highball“, among others. Their soda element and other mixer distinguish the categories. With classics like the Tom Collins paving the way for the Mojito, and the Mamie Taylor likely inspiring the Moscow Mule. Each tall iced libation seeks to be the ultimate refreshment; explore the complete collection of coolers here.
1. Whiskey Highball
Perhaps one of the earliest forms of a cooler-style cocktail, the Whiskey Highball is the epitome of refreshment. Its two-ingredient, built-in-the-glass composition, makes it the most no-fuss cocktail on the list. Opt for your preferred whiskey (one that’s sipping worthy) and let quality ice and soda water do the rest. The intention is not to dilute the spirit but to allow the soda water to open up the flavor of a quality whiskey.
The Go-To has been described as the perfect cocktail for those looking for something made with gin that’s refreshing and not too sweet. It builds on the typical “Mule” or “Buck” formula (spirit+citrus+ginger beer) and elevates it by the addition of complementing elderflower liqueur with fresh cucumber and mint garnishes. Its balanced mix of botanical, citrus, spiced, and herbaceous flavors make it a truly crowd-pleasing refreshment.
The Sea Breeze has the cooling effects that the name connotes. It combines vodka with tart cranberry juice and zesty grapefruit juice, making it a bracing but light summer cocktail. It is a direct descendant of the two-ingredient Cape Cod(der) which simply mixes vodka with cranberry juice. You will note this as an exception to the soda ingredient.
This pre-Prohibition cooler was conceived out of the demand for a zero-sugar drink. Composed of gin, lime juice, and soda water, it is both dry and tart but surprisingly balanced and refreshing. The lack of sugar allows the botanicals in the gin to really blossom.
One of the few cooler style cocktails to embrace bitter, it is a stimulating mix of sour, sweet, and bitter flavors. It builds off of the three-ingredient Americano and softens bracing Campari and sweet vermouth with lemon juice. In traditional Cooler fashion it’s served tall, on the rocks, and topped off with soda water for a truly thirst-quenching libation.
This no frills cooler simply combines tequila with lime juice and soda water over ice. This uncomplicated formula makes it perfect for pouring to personal taste. It is known for its thirst quenching qualities that are ideal for combating bone-dry Texas heat and has since become synonymous with the Lone Star State.
Affectionately known as simply an LLB, it’s practically a nonalcoholic drink coming in at just 0.2% ABV. This cooler takes already refreshing lemon lime soda and adds a few dashes of bitters, hence the name “Lemon, Lime, and Bitters.” Its cooling effects are so well endorsed that it’s recognized as the national drink of Australia.