Drinking Seasonally: Light, Bright Cocktails for Spring

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke

Weekly insight into the world of drinks with Paul Clarke from the Cocktail Chronicles and Imbibe magazine.


The White Lady [Photograph: Marleigh Riggins Miller]

Man, did winter suck.

Pretty much regardless of where you live—with the possible exception of you, Hawaii folk, and we don't really want to hear about how you got a sunburn lounging on the beach while we were scraping ice off our windshields—this past winter was memorable primarily because of the snow, or the cold, or the wet, or just the general unpleasantness that somehow seemed worse than even the crappy winter that came before.

But, now it's over (for the most par—sorry, Sioux Falls; don't stow those snow shovels just yet). And while April's arrival means putting away the heavy sweaters and antifreeze until they're needed again next December, the changing of the seasons also has an impact of the bibulous sort, as we put aside the winter warmers and deep, richly flavored drinks in favor of the lighter, brighter flavors of spring.

Along with comforting casseroles and hearty stews, spirits such as whiskey, dark rum, and brandy enjoy heavier circulation during the cold months. Even if you left the hot toddies and spiked coffee drinks behind in January and February, chances are, if you're the drink-seasonal sort, your glass has been filled these past few months with robust dark spirits and full-flavored mixtures seemingly custom-made for beating back winter's chill.

While these warming foods and drinks may have perennial appeal, for many of us, our tastes start to change as the spring onions and asparagus start appearing at the farmer's market, and much the same thing goes for drinks. I may still love my Manhattans, but on the first warm, sunny day of spring, I'll feel more moved to break out a bright-flavored Daiquiri or one of its light-rum relatives, or a citrusy gin-based cocktail such as a Corpse Reviver #2 or a White Lady (or perhaps the perfect springtime drink, the Ramos Fizz), all in anticipation of the coolers and refreshers of summer.


The smash [Photo: Robyn Lee]

That's not to say that whiskey and dark rum should be packed away with the snow boots. While these heavier-flavored aged spirits may seem better suited to the dark days of winter, they transition well into the warmer months, as the greater availability of fresh mint and a preference for icy drinks make brandy smashes and mint juleps increasingly appealing, and sunny afternoon parties become perfect occasions to mix up batches of citrus-rich rum drinks.

The cool weather isn't completely behind us yet, but I'm ready for the lingering sunsets and the wide-open windows of late spring. When they arrive, I'll be ready with my gin-and-mint Southsides and blackberry-laced Brambles—perfect drinks for warm, sunny weather.

What drinks do the changing of seasons put you in the mood for, and what are you looking forward to sipping this spring?