Like so many flower petals unfurling, we humans mark the end of winter by leaving our coziness behind and embracing the sun. Our clothes become light and colorful. We twirl from place to place accompanied only by good humor and birdsong. And we demand cocktails that look and taste how we feel.
And so the dark, comforting spices of winter make way for the bright flavors of spring. Instead of huddling over steaming mugs, we proudly hold up glasses of delicious liquor infused with the gleaming greens, reds, and yellows of fresh herbs and fruit. “Look,” it as if we shout, “at the earth’s bounty this year!”
So here are our choices for the best spring cocktails out there. They are the most popular cocktails for springtime. And they are easy spring cocktails. And that makes them profitable spring cocktails. Like our easy and profitable winter cocktails, these spring cocktail recipes use the liquors most popular during that season, are delicious, and use simple recipes that consist of ingredients you already have in your bar liquor inventory list. Same goes for our easy fall cocktails and summer cocktails.
Spring Vodka Cocktails
The Harvey Wallbanger, lesser known of the spring vodka cocktails, is reputed to have been born in the 50s. And like many born in the 50s, it really found itself in the 70s. A big part of the success of the Harvey Wallbanger was the marketing assist it got from McKesson Imports Company.
As the importer of Galliano liqueur, McKesson had an interest in moving Wallbangers. So in the 70s and 80s, the advertising campaign around the drink ramped up. The name itself is rumored to have come from Tom Harvey, a surfer, who got so drunk off of them he started running into walls.
The orange juice component would align with summer drinks, but the licorice and anise of Galliano tempers Harvey's citrus. The result is a fun, subtle, and very unique spring cocktail that feels quite at home on a crisp April day.
Make a batch of Harveys as one of your spring happy hour ideas and watch everyone’s curiosity (and your sales) soar.
Harvey Wallbanger Ingredients
- 1.5 ounces vodka
- 4–6 ounces orange juice
- .5 ounces Galliano L’Autentico
- Orange slice
Harvey Wall Banger Recipe
- Pour the vodka and orange juice together into a highball glass filled 3/4ths with ice
- Top with Galliano buy pouring over the back of a spoon
- Garnish with an orange slice
The Sea Breeze was originally made in the 1920s with gin and grenadine. Quite a turn-of-face, then, for the Sea Breeze today to have neither of those. After prohibition, vodka became more common in the Sea Breeze, and in the 1950s Big Cranberry got involved. That is to say, the cranberry growers cooperative that eventually evolved into Ocean Spray got involved. And now it’s one of our favorite spring vodka cocktails.
For reasons beyond our understanding, a new drink wasn’t created. An old drink was altered. At the height of cranberry marketing in the 50s, the Sea Breeze was made with cranberry juice instead of grenadine. The drink didn’t become popular until a few decades later in the 1970s and 80s.
We suppose that the heart of the Sea Breeze is color, a beautiful sparkling garnet color. Achieve it with grenadine or cranberry juice, it doesn’t matter. The point is to sit back and hold a shining gem in your hand. But that’s not to short the Sea Breeze’s taste. This spring cocktail recipe’s vodka bite combines with tart cranberry and grapefruit juice to create a deceptively simple, de-stressing spring cocktail.
Sea Breeze Ingredients
- 1.5 ounces vodka
- 4 ounces cranberry juice
- 1 ounce grapefruit juice
- Lime wheel
Sea Breeze Recipe
- Pour the vodka and cranberry juice into a highball glass filled 3/4ths with ice and stir
- Top with the grapefruit juice
- Garnish with a lime wheel
Spring Bourbon Cocktails
Credit to Erskine Gwynne, an American writer based in Paris, for the creation of this perfect cocktail in the 1920s. When the completion of the redesign of Paris’s urban environment in the late 19th century, there appeared across the city huge, wide-open boulevards. For one of the first times in history, a city was designed to be experienced instead of simply lived in and used. The folks who took to leisurely strolling these new boulevards and open spaces were known as flâneurs or boulevardiers. They embraced a sort of fashionable urban exploration.
Erskine founded a monthly magazine in Paris called Boulevardier, which was described as “The New Yorker for expatriate Americans in Paris.” Ever a society-man and flâneur himself, Erskine created a drink that embodied the feeling and energy of walking the open streets of a dynamic urban environment for no other reason than to do it.
The original boulevardier recipe is made with bourbon. But most of those who have become a bartender today recommend rye because the spice creates a rounder flavor with the sweet vermouth. And rye boulevardiers are fantastic, no doubt. But around here we stick with Erskine’s original standardized recipe.
Mix one up, and let the magic combination of sweet and bitter take you back to the bustling place of its birth. A place in a city that felt new, where wrought-iron balconies and the creative energy of the future flanked sunlit strolls. It is, hands down, the spring cocktail recipe that most feels like spring to us.
- 1.5 ounces of bourbon whiskey
- 1 ounce of Campari
- 1 ounce of sweet vermouth
- Orange peel
- Add the bourbon, Campari, and vermouth into a mixing glass and stir
- Strain into a rocks or old fashioned glass over ice
- Garnish with an orange peel
If you’re feeling a little under the weather, a mint julep may be just what the doctor ordered. In fact, in the late 18th century it was literally what the doctor ordered. Steeping liquor in mint was, hundreds of years ago in the U.S., a treatment for digestive and throat issues. Doctors and laypeople alike prescribed mint juleps by name for those types of ailments.
The word julep ultimately comes from the Persian word for rosewater. And if you’ve ever had the slightly-sweet, very-fragrant rosewater, that makes sense. Back then, juleps didn’t have to be made with mint, they could be made with any sweet herb steeped in liquor. And often that liquor was brandy or wine. For a brief period in the 20th century, gin became the vogue liquor for juleps, but that gave way to today’s bourbon-based recipes.
To make a mint julep, the bourbon needs nothing but sugar, water, and leaves. Using no other liquid besides a few spoonfuls of water makes the mint julep one of the most subtle, elegant drinks out there. It’s also full of the energy of fresh mint, which dances with the bourbon in your mouth like a spring breeze. Like all of our spring cocktails, it’s simple, inexpensive, and delicious.
Mint Julep Ingredients
- Mint leaves from 5 mint sprigs
- 2 sugar cubes (or .5 ounces of simple syrup)
- 2.5 ounces of bourbon
- Whole mint spring
Mint Julep Recipe
- Gently muddle (check out our bartender lingo if you need a refresher) mint leaves and sugar cubes in a rocks or old fashioned glass
- Add bourbon
- Fill glass with ice and stir
- Garnish with the whole mint spring
Spring Gin Cocktails
London’s legendary Savoy Hotel opened in 1889. An English talent agent built it using the proceeds from his Gilbert and Sullivan opera productions, The Pirates of Penzance arguably being the most well-known. During that last decade of the 19th century, folks in Paris were guzzling down absinthe at an impressive rate. But at the Savoy, toned-down grapefruit cocktails made of nothing but gin and grapefruit juice were the choice. We know the greyhound is descended from these early gin-and-juices because its debut in the written record in 1930’s The Savoy Cocktail Book—a collection of popular cocktail recipes from the Savoy—describes it as “a variation of the grapefruit cocktail.”
Seen in contrast to continental drinking habits, then, the greyhound is a delicious representation of stay-the-course British restraint. Know that, as you sit back and sip a cold greyhound on a warm spring afternoon, you’re inviting a little bit of Edwardian high society to sit with you.
The greyhound is the definition of a simple drink. It has two ingredients. That’s so very spring of it, because spring is about showcasing and celebrating fresh ingredients. Grapefruit juice is front-and-center in this easy spring cocktail, and the smooth, herbal taste of gin tempers the tart and bitter bite of grapefruit.
- 1.5 ounces vodka
- 4 ounces grapefruit juice
- Lemon wedge
- Pour the vodka and grapefruit juice into a collins or highball glass filled 3/4ths with ice and stir
- Garnish with a lemon wedge
The defining feature of a fizz, which is a family of cocktails, is the combination of acidic juice and fizzy water. Created in New Orleans around the 1870s, the drink became popular in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century. It got so popular, in fact, that bars needed to hire entire teams of bartenders to take shifts making the darn things.
And then around 1950, the domestic U.S. popularity couldn’t contain itself. The drink went international. The rest is history. Folks usually put gin, whiskey, and in fizzes, but gin is the most popular. It’s certainly one of our favorite spring gin cocktails.
An interesting part of the fizz’s history is that many older recipes call for the use of an egg. Some egg-based variations of the fizz include the silver fizz (addition of egg white), golden fizz (addition of egg yolk), and the royal fizz (addition of both the white and the yolk).
A more reasonable variation on the gin fizz for your guests is the usage of flavored gin and the addition of fruit. For example, using cucumber-infused gin and adding a few slices of cucumber in the drink itself as a garnish make a cucumber gin fizz. Gin is also rumored to be one of the aphrodisiac drinks, too.
Gin Fizz Ingredients
- 1.5 ounces gin
- .5 ounces lemon juice
- 4 ounces club soda
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- Lemon slice
Gin Fizz Recipe
- Shake the gin, lemon juice, and sugar in a cocktail shaker filled with ice
- Strain into a collins or highball glass 3/4ths full of ice
- Top with club soda
- Garnish with a lemon slice
Easy Spring Cocktail Recipes: Achieved
The 6 spring cocktail recipes above are many things.
First, they’re all based on the three most-popular liquors during spring: vodka, bourbon, and gin.
Second, they’re all easy to make. Scroll back up and you’ll see that none of these easy spring cocktail recipes has more than four steps.
Third, they’re profitable. By virtue of being popular and easy for bartenders to make, they also consist of ingredients your bar likely already has. And if you or your bartenders know how to upsell cocktails, you’re in even better shape. Both of those will lower liquor cost right there. You don’t need to invest anything to make these, and there’s demand for them. Focusing on cocktail recipes like that sends the average bar profit margin flying. Also, be sure your bartenders are well-versed in the drinks every bartender should know. Having a grasp of simple, classic drinks is all part of how to become a bartender. And it makes tweaking them and coming up with profitable versions of them easier. Just make sure to use good recipe costing so you make the most off of these drinks.
And fourth, well, we think these are the best spring cocktails out there. Surprisingly, none of the above use bitters (wonder exactly what bitters are?), and that’s for good reason. The herbs and spices of bitters tend more toward fall, winter, and cold-weather drinks. You can even learn how to make bitters with a bitters recipe. There are so many amazing mixological concoctions out there, it’s not easy putting together a list of only 6 cocktails. But we did it. And we did it because these are the spring cocktails we believe in. These are the spring cocktails we personally enjoy. And they are, hands down, the easiest spring cocktails out there. You can also check out some of the best bartending books for more inspiration. Lastly, why not serve your cocktails with tasty options from an appetizer list (see: Mexican food appetizers)? Nothing pairs better with a cocktail than a light bite.