The Ultimate July 4th Drinking Guide

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The Tipsy Palmer: lemonade, tea, and bourbon. [Photo: Robyn Lee]

If you're planning an Independence Day party next week, it's time to stock up on drinking supplies. Do you have pitchers? Cups? Coolers and ice buckets? What about recipes? We can help you out when it comes to recipes...

Alcohol-Free

[Photo: Autumn Giles]

Alcohol-free refreshments are all too often forgotten, but a little bit of effort can yield a drink that's just as good as whatever cocktails you have on hand. Don't forget to fill pitchers of water (it's hot out there!) or stock a cooler full of bottled water to keep your guests hydrated.

We won't judge you if you go for the store-bought lemonade option, but your guests will be much more impressed if you make your own. Or offer a lemonade bar with a few different variations, like Kenji's Peach and Thyme Lemonade, and Honey-Basil Lemonade, and Spicy Strawberry JalapeƱo Lemonade.

If you prefer limeade, consider this gourmet version with black peppercorn syrup, or this refreshing watermelon version.

A pitcher of iced tea can be mixed with your homemade lemonade or limeade. Plan ahead and make a big batch of cold-brewed tea in the fridge. That's right: sun tea is actually better without the sun. (For those who are up for booze, a little bourbon is great in that Arnold Palmer.) You can also make caffeine-free iced tisanes with fresh herbs.

Need more alcohol free options? Celebrate strawberry season with homemade strawberry-melon agua fresca, or whip up a rhubarb shrub (it's easy, we promise!) and serve booze-free rhubarb lime gimlets. If it's really hot outside, cooling watermelon and cucumber juice will do the trick.

Highballs

Amaro and Moxie ($8)

Amaro and Moxie [Photo: Wes Rowe]

Make the serve-yourself bar easy by suggesting a few highball combinations. Sure, everyone knows about gin + tonic and vodka + soda, but how about Moxie + amaro, Scotch + chocolate soda, or savory aquavit + Cel-Ray? All these highballs are served at Trick Dog in San Francisco—we bet you can come up with your own favorite soda-booze combinations, too.

Add lime juice to the standard highball, and you've got yourself a ton of options. Make a Paloma with grapefruit soda, tequila, and lime, or a Cuba Libre with Coke, lime, and rum. Lime and spicy ginger beer come together with dark rum for the perfect Dark 'n' Stormy.

Sangria

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[Photo: Shell Tu]

Sangria is an obvious opportunity for a red, white, and blue theme: bring in strawberries and blueberries to add to your favorite sangria recipe and you're good to go. We like this sparkling twist on strawberry sangria and this juicy version of watermelon sangria, which has a tart squeeze of lime and a little rum. If you want to go a little more classic, this apple sangria is a winner: the secret ingredient is half a cup of applesauce added to a mixture of fresh orange and lime juice and a few cups of decent red wine.

Slices of starfruit evoke the flag nicely in this crisp, tart white sangria made with Sauvignon Blanc.

Pitcher Cocktails

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[Photo: Heather Meldrom]

If you're starting early, this brunch-friendly variation on the Salty Dog which calls for freshly squeezed grapefruit, tonic water, and tequila or mezcal is a nice way to launch the party. This smoky grilled variation on a Bloody Mary offers a nice spicy kick. While you're warming up the grill, char some peach halves for a pitcher of peachy whiskey sours.

This Negroni-inspired punch is refreshingly bittersweet. It's made with Aperol, gin, and loads of citrus juice, and lightened with a bottle of sparkling wine.

If you like it bitter, try this pretty pink blend of Campari, tequila, and tangerine. It's easy to mix for a crowd and not too boozy, thanks to the addition of seltzer water.

The Perfect Pimm's Cup is easy to make by the pitcherful, and fun to deck out with loads of cucumbers, apple, lemon, orange, and strawberries. We like it diluted with Sprite or 7-Up, though you can also use ginger ale.

Ripe cantaloupe makes a deliciously fruity but not-too-sweet melon margarita, cut with plenty of fresh lime juice. You can blend these up a few hours in advance, but don't be surprised if you find yourself stealing sips of the chilled mixture out of the fridge.

Beer

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[Photo: Christopher Lehault]

The most important thing about stocking up on beer for 4th of July: make sure you have enough. Figure that each guest will consume 1 or 2 drinks per hour. So, you'll want to multiply the number of guests by the number of hours your party will last, and then multiply that by 2, just to be safe. If you're having 20 guests for two hours, you'll need 80 drinks. Keep in mind, this number includes beer, wine, cocktails, and non-alcoholic beverages.

If you're planning on spending a long day out in the sun, consider sessionable beers that are a little lower in alcohol. It's also a great occasion to break out the limited-time-only summer seasonal beers made by your local brewery.

We recently asked a group of beer experts what they're serving on July 4th: here's what they had to say.

Want to get more specific tips? Start with your menu items here:

Or, if you're choosing the beer first, here are some customized food suggestions.

Wine

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[Photo: Rebeccah Marsters]

When there's a group involved, we're happy to be stocked up with our favorite affordable wines. (Call us cheap, but it doesn't seem like the right time to pop open pricey bottles we've been saving.) Here are some recommendations for the best white wines under $15, and here are our top picks in budget reds. Drinking pink? Here are some affordable and delicious French and Italian options, a few top bottles from California, and some cheap choices from the shelves of Trader Joe's.

Already decided what food you're serving? Here are a few tips for choosing wine to go with it:

Are you throwing a 4th of July cookout? What drinks will you serve?

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