City Paper's favorite beat-the-heat summer cocktails from bars around the city

Jinny at The Crown.
Jinny at The Crown. (J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

Same Time Jinny, $7 at The Crown

Like the summer weather—the immobilizing heat and humidity, the skies dumping down unheard of inches of rain in a fury, then clearing up in an hour with sunshine and a breeze—so ephemeral, too, are the drink specials at the Crown. On a recent evening I ordered the Jinny, a concoction of Bombay Sapphire gin, house sour mix, and red wine, which floated at the top, resulting in a pleasantly layered drink. Summer comes to us in layers, I thought, already feeling the buzz from the first sweet taste of wine. Summer is always saccharine and straightforward in the beginning, ripe with anticipation for sweat and adventure. But soon, near the end of July, the ice melts, diluting our drink. No, I am tired of sweating. Where has the time gone? All those afternoons, too hot to leave our apartments, spent indoors. No, I don't want to touch anyone, and I can't sleep. But then, just when we thought we couldn't take another minute of it, the crisp gin and sour mingle better, cutting the sharpness, cooling the tongue. (Rebekah Kirkman)

Cocktail du jour at W.C. Harlan's.
Cocktail du jour at W.C. Harlan's. (J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

Cocktail du jour, $8, at W. C. Harlan's

When it comes to summer cocktails, you can't go wrong at Remington's W.C. Harlan's. First, it's a relief just to enter. On a hot August evening, at cocktail hour, I walked there (about a mile) and by the time I arrived, drenched in sweat merely from moving at a leisurely pace through our sweltering city, and stepped into the cool, dark, speak-easy style space on 23rd Street, I wanted to settle on a bar stool and stay—until October. (Tip: While Harlan's is packed with a late-night hipster crowd, it is easy to get a seat in the early evening.) Because the cocktails are reliably good—unusual combinations, curious flavors, surprising garnishes—I always order the special and go along for the ride. On this particular evening, the cocktail du jour included, among other things, Amigo Tequila, amaro, lime, anise-sage honey, and gentian liqueur. Infusing the drink with that hint of fall is a sprig of optimistic sage. The biggest problem with Harlan's is its seductive charms; it is so easy to close out the world, think you'll never leave, and order just one more cocktail. Thus despite the heat, it is always best to walk there if you can—and stumble home. (Karen Houppert)

Watermelon Crush at Myth and Moonshine.
Watermelon Crush at Myth and Moonshine. (J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

Watermelon Crush, $8, at Myth and Moonshine

Watermelon is an essential for any summer picnic or cookout. Its juicy consistency and sweet taste—though not overpowering—make for a refreshing snack in the sweltering heat. So, not surprisingly, watermelon has its own crush—that being another summer favorite, a boozy drink with crushed ice in it. And the one at Myth and Moonshine is dangerously good, i.e. it's so delicious and smooth that it's easy to forget you're drinking grain alcohol and then, whoops, you're bombed. The bar mixes Ole Smokey Watermelon moonshine, fresh chunks of watermelon, and a hint of Sprite into a blender and purees it, resulting in a drink that has a burst of flavor without overdoing it. The fruit itself is such a light presence in the drink that it feels like little bits of watermelon are melting on your tongue. It's as soothing as the fruit itself, and obvious added bonus: It'll get you drunk. (Brandon Weigel)

Martini at Tio Pepe's
Martini at Tio Pepe's (Jim Burger/For City Paper)

Martini, $8.50, at Restaurante Tio Pepe

Although summer drinks conjure images of sitting in the backyard sipping fruity highballs with paper parasols, don't overlook the joys of a well made Martini, consumed in a dim, quiet bar. Myfavorite is the lounge at Restaurante Tio Pepe. Seven steps below street level in the basement of a Mt. Vernon mansion, this oasis is the perfect place to end a hot workweek and begin the weekend. The vibe is old school. For $8.50, Jorge, the red-jacketed bartender, will mix you the classic cocktail flawlessly, his 20 years of experience evident in every pour. (Jim Burger)

Pina Colada at Penn & Quill.
Pina Colada at Penn & Quill. (J.M. Giordano/City Paper)

Piña Colada, $10, at Penn & Quill.

A great drink has been reduced to a bad '70s joke. But the much-maligned frosty cocktail is making a comeback thanks to Naomi Kline, co-owner of Penn & Quill. The Station North bartender has added the drink to her Tiki Tuesday traditional cocktail list. Kline avoids the overly sweet version and makes her pina coladas from fresh ingredients that still retain the actual flavor of fruit. Though it is of course disputed, various cocktail sites report that the summer drink, which means "strained pineapple" was created in 1954 in San Juan, Puerto Rico by bartender Ramón Pérez at the Caribe Hotel's Beachcomber Bar. Pérez mixed a newly introduced Coco Lopez, a cream of coconut product also developed in Puerto Rico, white rum, and pineapple juice. The frothy cocktail remained an island specialty until the disco generation became obsessed with tropical culture and rocketed it to mainland fame. The drink really took off in 1979 following Rupert Holmes' huge hit, 'Escape,' to which the parenthetical "(the Piña Colada Song)" was added to the title for easier identification. Throughout the following decades, the drink went from carefully crafted cocktail to premixed, sickly sweet party favorite available in every form from powder packets to a syrupy liquid in a plastic bucket. Thankfully, Kline has brought the drink back to its roots using real Coco Lopez and pineapple juice. Drinking a tall glass of her Piña Colada is like sitting in a Caribe bar in San Juan, earworm song be damned. (J.M. Giordano)