When you’re planning a barbecue, one thing you don’t want is to be playing bartender all night. You want drinks that can be fixed in bulk and served from pitchers or even a beverage server. And you want cocktails that are light and refreshing, so they cut through the grease from those heavy foods. You want your BBQ drinks to provide some serious hydration for everyone in that hot sun, with ingredients like soda water. And finally, they need to stand up to ice, because you’re going to want to serve them over quite a bit of that.
Many of these drinks can be made in pitchers in advance and poured when ready. Some could even be poured into a beverage server for guests to serve themselves. Others call for blending or the addition of ingredients like ice and soda water at the last minute. There’s an easy way to handle these.
Drinks Station. Set up a buffet table with signs to guide the guests through the process of making their own BBQ drinks. The first step will be for guests to grab a glass which is either empty, or maybe already has the room temperature ingredients in it. Then they step to the right and find ice and a sign instructing them to add that to the glass. Then the next step might be to pour in some soda water or add garnish. It may sound like you’re asking guests to do some work, but it’s actually fun and engaging, especially if you’ve clearly taken the time to make it look nice. Plus, it means they can get their own refills when they want instead of having to find you and ask first.
Glassware suggestions. For an outdoor party, there is nothing wrong with plastic or acrylic. Check your local dollar stores for glasses that look terrific but are made from shatter-proof plastics. If you want to use real glasses, mason jar glasses with handles are your friends. I have a multi-colored version of this Yorkshire set and they’re not too heavy, and very comfortable to hold for large or small hands. Copper mugs also work wonderfully outside.
Note: to make pitchers of cocktails that need to be shaken, just make batches in a shaker and strain them into the pitcher until the pitcher’s full. Store them in the fridge, and they’ll taste fresh and wonderful when you serve them.
Gin BBQ Drinks
- St. Germain Gin + Tonic. You can’t go wrong with a traditional Gin & Tonic, but you can one-up it by adding St. Germain’s Elderflower Liqueur. This drink is a quick pour and stir. Maybe there’s someone in the world that doesn’t like what St. Germain’s adds to a drink, but I haven’t met this mythical beast yet. To make it really special, make your own tonic with this easy tonic making kit.
- Gin Fizz. This drink features gin, lemon juice, lime juice and simple syrup with club soda. It’s easy to make a pitcher of everything but the club soda ahead of time, and then each drink refill is just two quick pours. This is a refreshing, light citrus cocktail that cuts through the heavy foods and grease. Try Hendrick’s Gin to enhance the lemon flavor.
- Tom Terrific. It calls for Old Tom, an old-fashioned gin that’s sweeter and less potent on the juniper front than modern brands, along with India Pale Ale. This one may even win over some gin-haters. It’s moderately sweet with enough ale flavor to please guests who normally stick to beer.
- Limoncello Collins. This drink looks complicated, but there’s a great method for making it in bulk and serving to guests without much effort. It’s basically a Tom Collins plus Limoncello, but what the Limoncello adds is considerably refreshing and delicious.
- The C&T Cocktail. This one blends gin with cranberry juice, along with Absolut Mandarin and lime juice.
Rum BBQ Drinks
- Black Plum and Mint Daiquiri. With muddled plum and mint right in the glass, this drink is amazingly refreshing. You can easily do the muddling in glasses ahead of time, set the glasses out on a buffet table in the shade, and put up signs telling guests to add ice, fill with soda water, add a few dashes of bitters and grab a mint sprig for garnish. This presentation can be fun, engaging and memorable.
- Pop-Up Paradise Rum Punch. With coconut rum, pineapple juice, sorbet, ginger ale and mango, this creamy, bubbly punch has everything you need to keep cool. It looks beautiful in a bowl or a glass, and couldn’t be any easier to serve.
- Malibu Driver. One of the simplest drinks ever, this is just a straight up pour of 1 part Malibu Rum and two parts orange juice. You can pour as you go or make it up in pitchers. Be sure to serve it chilled either way. This one’s particularly good after a meal, because the tartness of the orange juice counters the heavy flavors lingering on your tongue, and the sweetness is like a light dessert.
Whiskey BBQ Drinks
- Dickelade. This drink blends George Dickel No. 12 with lemonade. So simple, tasty and hydrating. It’s like an Arnold Palmer, but with whiskey instead of tea.
- Mint Julep. This Southern classic might as well have been made for barbecue. It’s refreshing and cooling, and the taste of the bourbon complements barbecue sauce. There’s an easy way to serve it at a barbecue: put the bourbon, mint sprigs and simple syrup in glasses (muddling is optional). When a guest is ready, scoop in some ice and garnish with mint. You can also top it off with club soda. This makes the drink longer and more hydrating, and weakens the bourbon a little so that even the bourbon haters will get on board.
- Jack Honey & Grapefruit. This drink is just two ingredients over ice, namely Jack Daniel’s Honey and ruby red grapefruit juice. You can make up pitchers in advance and chill them so the ice won’t melt as quickly when you pour. This one is lightly sweet, but with enough tartness to cut through all the grease and fat from the barbecue.
- Whiskey Sour Punch. This drink converts the traditional Whiskey Sour into a bubbling punch you can serve right from a bowl, or as a simple pour. It combines whiskey with orange and lemon ingredients, and just enough simple syrup to make the whole thing nicely sweet.
- Frisco Sour. This classic blends bourbon, lemon, lime and Benedictine. As with the Mint Julep, you can either serve it as is – which is pretty strong – or weaken it with ice and/or a little club soda added when you serve.
Vodka BBQ Drinks
- Moscow Mule. This much beloved classic of ginger beer, vodka and lime is easy to serve in the traditional way. Either pour the whole thing as you go, or mix the lime juice and vodka together in a pitcher beforehand to save a step. Or…
- Frozen Moscow Mule. You can actually take the traditional Moscow Mule ingredients and toss them in a blender with ice to make a wonderful ice-blended drink.
- Sex in the Driveway. This blue twist on the Sex on the Beach is made up of vodka, peach schnapps, blue curacao and Sprite. Make up pitchers with all the liquors already blended. When it’s time to serve, put ice in a glass and fill it halfway from the pitcher and the rest of the way with Sprite.
- Vodka mint lemonade or limeade. This recipe calls for fresh juices and “honey or sugar”. Use the honey, and everything about it is deliciously fresh and surprisingly good for a relatively straightforward flavor combination.
- Apple, Ginger and Cranberry Vodka Cocktail. Two blended fruit juices, ginger ale and vodka, served over ice. This one’s light and not too sweet, and pairs particularly well if your barbecue style is smoky.
- Felicia Cocktail. Even simpler than the Apple, Ginger and Cranberry Vodka, the Felicia blends apple-flavored vodka with cranberry juice. It’s tart and refreshing after a big meal.
Wine & Champagne BBQ Drinks
- Grilled Peach & Brandy Pineapple Sangria Popsicle Spheres. This one definitely requires some prep, but nothing could be more impressive or more simple when you serve it. You make these little popsicle spheres in advance our of grilled peach and pineapple with white wine, brandy and more. Then, at your barbecue, you just plop it in a glass of chilled white wine. Your guests will never forget it.
- Sweet Tea Sangria. Pinot Grigio and Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka meet iced tea and fruit juices. This drink is so unique, but very light and easy to love. You whip up a batch of it and let it chill in the fridge for several hours, and then add seltzer water and garnish when you pour.
- Sparkling White Strawberry Sangria. This is a very refreshing, lightly fruity option that’s perfect for a summer cookout. You put most of this one together the day before and let it chill for a full twenty-four hours. When you go to serve it, you pour in the lemon sparkling water and add the garnish, and it’s a beautiful, delicious drink.
- Cherry Sangria. Moscato based with frozen cherries, amaretto and white Diet Sierra Mist or any white soda you prefer. Be sure to prep this one a couple of days in advance, as it will taste better the longer everything has to marinate.
Southern Comfort BBQ Drinks
- Sax on the Beach. This Mix That Drink original recipe blends Southern Comfort with Patron Citronge and sparkling water, or a white soda if you want it sweeter. Either way, it’s one of the most refreshing BBQ drinks on this list. Blend the first two ingredients together in a pitcher and chill, and add the sparkling ingredient when you serve.
- Alabama Slammer. This beloved favorite features Southern Comfort with two liqueurs and orange juice is a little heavier than some of the options here, but still wonderful on a hot day.
- Southern Comfort and Lime. Simple as can be, this one blends Southern Comfort with fresh lime juice. The tartness of the lime counters greasy and heavy foods while the sweet peach of the Southern Comfort enhances the flavors of the meal.
- Lunchbox. This drink mixes Southern Comfort with amaretto, orange juice and beer. To make it in batches, just mix everything together in a pitcher and chill.
Beer BBQ Drinks
- Raspberry Beer. This drink spikes beer with raspberry-flavored rum. It’s simple, but it tastes terrific.
- Snow White. Heineken meets 7-up. Couldn’t be simpler, but it’s surprisingly good. This one is easy to pour as you go, but it also works well mixed in a pitcher and chilled.
Still didn’t find what you’re looking for? Check out my collection of 49 Margarita Recipes, many of which can be made in big batches.