Classic American Cocktails for Memorial Day


By Dane Feldman

Photo by Dane Feldman.

To me, Memorial Day has pretty much always been a day (okay, weekend) meant to put aside our political standpoints and celebrate this nation’s successes as well as commemorate the fallen.To many more, MDW is the unofficial kick off to summer. It’s practically a requirement that we keep our celebrations as all-American as possible this weekend, as folks fire up their grills nation wide.

With that said, celebrating America this weekend doesn’t have to mean a keg of Bud Light. Here are some my personal favorite (and overwhelmingly classic) all-American summer drinks that are perfect for classing up any and all of your MDW BBQ plans:

Bourbon and Lemonade: Bourbon and lemonade is such a classic American drink it’s hardly in need of mentioning, let alone praise, but I will in any case. Be careful when choosing your ingredients for this one, however. I suggest staying middle of the road or better bourbon and mildly sweet lemonade. Stick with bourbons like Bulleit and make your own lemonade if you can. If you can’t, then adding some muddled citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and orange is a great way to add some natural flavors. Serve in mason jars.

Mint Julep: The mint julep is the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby. Need I say more? It’s vintage, it’s refined, it’s classic. If you grow your own mint, this is the time to show off! Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby. By association, I suppose that makes Woodford Reserve the official bourbon of the mint julep. Serve in rocks glasses.

Gin Rickey: I actually prefer vodka gimlets over gin rickeys, but some may say that’s an apples and oranges debate. Either way, like the mint julep, the gin rickey is as old school and classy as American drinks get. The gin, lime, and carbonated water combine for a light and refreshing aromatic taste, which makes it one of the most perfect cocktails for summer barbecues and mid-afternoon patio lounging. Serve in highball glasses.

Greyhound: In my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether it’s vodka and grapefruit or gin and grapefruit, the greyhound is one of the most light and refreshing drinks out there. I could down these all day long. Serve in rocks glasses or highball glasses.

Cape Codder: The cape codder is informally known as the vodka cranberry and is probably one of the most popular cocktails around. It’s simple, it’s sweet, and it’s a crowd pleaser. Serve in highball glasses.

I know I’d be remiss not to mention the gin and tonic, but I’ve never been much of a tonic fan. If you’re into G&Ts, go for it. Serve in highball glasses.

What are your favorite classic cocktails? Are you concocting anything special for Memorial Day Weekend?