Summer Cocktails – The Neat Drinks

Sophisticated, delicate, debonair … neat drinks are always in style, all year round.

Summer Cocktails 

We’ve reached the final entry in my series of summer drink articles. We’ve already investigate Long Drinks, and we’ve tried our hand at Rocks Drinks. What we have now are four delicious concoctions that I’m calling “Neat Drinks”. Typically the term “neat” refers to individual liquors, served without ice in a glass. In this case what I mean are cocktails served straight-up in long-stemmed cocktail glasses.

Some bars call all of these drinks “Martinis” … but please don’t go along with this trend! A Martini contains gin (or vodka, if you really must), vermouth, and a garnish of choice. Anything else, my friends, is some other type of cocktail, deserving of its own name.

What follows are four examples of this breed: Delicious summer drinks that are best-enjoyed on a museum’s rooftop bar or at a pre-theater soirée. Perhaps you could arrange a date with your favorite lady friend to sample a few. If you’re lucky, she’ll wear her little black dress.

Daiquiri (A real one)

As far as I’m concerned, Cuba’s greatest contribution to the world is either this drink, or the delicious pork sandwich named for the island. The Daiquiri is easier to make, though, and is one of the most perfect summer cocktails on Earth.

In the 80's and 90's, this near-flawless concoction was co-opted by restaurant chains and perverted with fruit-flavored corn syrup, then served over crushed ice. The resulting sickly-sweet drink was little more than a glorified Slush Puppie, and an insult to what the Daiquiri is supposed to be. Will we stand for that? Gentlemen, we will not.

  • 1.5 oz. Light or Golden Rum
  • 1 oz. Simple Syrup
  • .75 oz. Fresh Lime Juice

Combine ingredients over cracked/crushed ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. As with the Whiskey Sour (see: rocks drinks), you really want to shake this one well to help build up a nice head of foam. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a lime wedge, and enjoy.

White Lady

I recently acquired a 1999 edition of Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book from a used book store. First published in 1930 and republished several times since then, it is an absolutely essential part of any serious cocktail aficionado’s library. The white lady can be found within its pages. It is a dead-simple cocktail, and that’s what makes it great. There is nothing in this drink that doesn’t need to be there, and everything that is there … must be.

A note: Normally, I am a proponent of replacing name-brand curacao with relatively inexpensive alternatives (just avoid DeKuyper … that stuff is terrible). In this instance, though, I advocate using Cointreau only, for three reasons. First: Cointreau is a triple sec, and a relatively unique one at that. Second, Cointreau had been in production for more than eighty years when this drink was invented, so the flavor was already well-established. Third, Harry Craddock forgot more about making cocktails than I will ever learn, so if he says “use Cointreau” … use Cointreau.

  • 2 oz. Dry Gin (Beefeater and Tanqueray are excellent choices)
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. Lemon Juice

Combine all ingredients over cracked/crushed ice in a cocktail shaker, and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with an orange twist.

Bloody Ritz

Since meeting my wife, who hails from Paris, she’s raised within me a great love of sparkling wine, and of beverages in which it is employed. As a result, I experiment with it quite often. This is my take on the classic Ritz Cocktail.

  • 1 oz. French Cognac (VS is all right, VSOP is better. XO is a waste of Cognac that should be savored by itself)
  • 1.5 oz. Fresh Blood Orange Juice
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 2.5 oz. Champagne or Sparkling Wine

Combine Cognac, juice, and bitters in a champagne saucer or flute. Stir gently to combine. Top with sparkling wine, stirring very slowly. Garnish with a twist from one of the blood oranges.


There is something about the combination of sake, gin, and cucumber that screams “summer” to me. This drink is cool, refreshing, and utterly drinkable. I recommend experimenting with both your gin and your sake, but I find that Hendrick’s and a pure-rice (Junmai), filtered (Seishu), dry (+3 or greater) sake pair very well with cucumber.

Cut one thin wheel from the cucumber, slice from center to edge, and set aside. Chop up the rest of the cucumber and muddle in the bottom of shaker with the bitters/celery salt. Add gin, sake and vermouth, top with cracked/crushed ice, and stir vigorously to combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with the cucumber wheel.

Christopher Buecheler is a novelist, a web developer, an award-winning amateur mixologist, a brewer, a guitarist, a drummer, and an NBA enthusiast. He lives a semi-nomadic life with his wife and two cats, currently residing in Providence, RI. You can learn more at his website,


  • Reply August 3, 2011


    I was under the impression that drinks were “neat” when poured directly into a glass, and “up” when shaken, but strained. Maybe these should be called “The Up Drinks”?

  • Justin, that’s a pretty valid point. I wasn’t sure if “Up” was universal enough to go with or not. Still, hopefully people get the general idea!

  • Reply August 4, 2011

    Matt DiGirolamo

    I’ve been drinking Chelsea Sidecars (what you’re calling a White Lady in this article) ever since I took a bartending class. It’s tangy and refreshing, and it doesn’t have a lot of extra mixers in it that would just muck up the flavoring. Great choices!

  • Reply August 4, 2011


    I must say your graphic designer / photography is stunning, I love it! Interesting article too, thanks : )

  • Reply August 4, 2011


    Rob, Andrew, founder/editor of Primer here. I do all the design and photography for Primer, and I really appreciate the compliment! Thanks for reading!

  • One of my favorite parts of writing articles for Primer is seeing the photos Andrew takes of the drinks, especially the ones I created myself. 🙂

  • Reply August 4, 2011


    @Christopher: Certainly! Thanks for the delicious suggestions 🙂

  • Reply August 5, 2011


    Wew, party party, great compilations of cocktail drinks, oh I can’t wait to try one of those…

  • Reply August 10, 2011


    Wow, the graphic design is surly neat!! I got neatly drunk just by watching these…

  • Reply August 10, 2011

    Michael Perez

    Just shows how much you love to party. These are great suggestions Christopher…I like to drink, I can’t wait to impress my friends with your neat drinks.

  • Reply August 11, 2011


    To White Lady I add some grated lemon rind

  • Reply August 19, 2011

    Coach Outlet

    These are great suggestions Christopher…I like to drink, I can’t wait to impress my friends with your neat drinks.

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