Low-alcohol cocktails to help you emerge unscathed from a day of barbecue boozing

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The Stylist web team
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At 12pm you’re quaffing a civilised glass of fizz. Five hours later you’re asleep in a flower bed. Here’s how to emerge unscathed from a day of barbecue boozing... 

Words: Caroline Corcoran

The last time I started drinking prosecco in the sun at a lunchtime barbecue, I ended up finding the host’s 60-something mum asleep on the lawn at 6pm. She’d slipped off her deckchair, and with the rest of us too busy topping up our cups to a chorus of Justin Bieber (I refer you to the prosecco) decided to stay there for a nap.

Me? Well, as a result of ‘civilised’ daytime drinking I’ve led an afternoon conga, dusted half of my friend’s flower bed off a dry-clean only dress and boarded a train to somewhere in west London that was very far from my home.

So why does slurping drinks in the sunlit hours seem to hit us so much harder than at other times? Well, there are a few factors at play. Firstly, even at a barbecue, eating is often far down our priority list once the sun comes out. “You’re waiting for the chicken to cook on a BBQ that someone lit too late, and knocking back the drinks in the meantime,” says GP Dr Nick Knight. “And because you sweat in the sun and go to the toilet more as alcohol switches off the antidiuretic hormone, you end up with a higher concentration of alcohol in your blood.”

And it’s not just drunkenness that sneaks up on us in summer. We’re also likely to suffer a worse hangover too, thanks to being more dehydrated by the sun. Yet while we all know the downsides far too well it seems, we’re unlikely to stop doing it any time soon. So unpredictable is the sun during the great British summer, that to not toast its appearance with a Pimm’s would seem, frankly, churlish. It’s virtually a national trait. Just look at Waitrose’s dramatic spike in rosé sales on a hot May weekend this year, up 39% compared to the colder weekend of 2015.

The good news though, is that with a better strategy, you can emerge unscathed from a sunny day’s drinking. “Fizzy drinks cause a faster rate of alcohol absorption because you increase the pressure in the stomach, so it’s a good idea to avoid prosecco,” says Dr Knight. “If you want fizz, adding soda water to cocktails is better because you’re diluting the alcohol.”

Tim Homewood, Tanqueray No Ten brand ambassador, agrees. “Add ingredients such as iced teas to cocktails – the tannin taste is a good substitute for a lower amount of booze.”

So we asked top cocktail gurus for their best low-alcohol, high-flavour recipes to serve next time the sun’s out. Browse the gallery below to discover their best suggestions then eat, drink and be merry indeed!

Photography: Dennis Pedersen

  • Sweet Strawberry Collins

    By Mike McGinty from The Blackbird bar and restaurant, Edinburgh.

    Make this if you love… a negroni 


    • 20 strawberry halves
    • 150ml gin
    • 50ml vermouth
    • 100ml lemon juice
    • 50ml gomme syrup
    • Soda
    • Orange zest

    Muddle the strawberries then mix in with the gin, vermouth, lemon and gomme syrup. Shake with ice and strain into a jug over cubed ice. Top with soda and garnish with strawberries and orange.

  • Occam’s Razor

    By James Manero from The Natural Philosopher bar, London.

    Make this if you love… a daiquiri


    • 400ml sage-infused sugar syrup
    • Fresh pineapple
    • Fresh sage leaves
    • 800ml Abuelo rum
    • 400ml lime juice
    • Ground black peppercorns

    Boil water in a pan with sugar and a handful of sage leaves, stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves and leave for 24 hours. Muddle the pineapple and a sage leaf before adding the other ingredients and shaking. Serve with pineapple slices.

  • Primavera Spritz

    By Ryan Chetiyawardana AKA Mr Lyan.

    Make this if you love… telling bartenders to ‘surprise me’


    • 1 artichoke
    • 1 bottle white wine
    • 1 cup of tequila
    • 1 cup orange honey water (300ml orange juice, 300g honey)
    • Sparkling water
    • Fresh watercress

    Heat the outer layers of the artichoke in a pan with the wine and a pinch of salt for 30 minutes. Set aside for two hours. Remove the artichoke and chill, then add all the other ingredients to a jug. Top with ice and garnish with watercress.

  • Afternoon T

    By Jamie Jones from The Social Company.

    Make this if you love… a French 75


    • 200ml Tanqueray No Ten
    • 400ml chai masala tea (cold)
    • 100ml grapefruit juice
    • 50ml Grand Marnier
    • 5ml lemon juice
    • Fever Tree Ginger Beer
    • 1 grapefruit
    • 1 orange
    • Handful strawberries
    • Pinch cinnamon

    Mix the ingredients except the ginger beer. Pour into glasses, top with the ginger beer. Garnish with grapefruit, orange, strawberry and cinnamon.

  • Chambord Raspberry Iced Tea

    By Frank Mcgivern, Chambord brand ambassador.

    Make this if you love… a kir royale


    60ml premium gin
    60ml Chambord
    200ml red fruit/rooibos tea
    25ml lemon juice
    100ml grapefruit juice
    Soda water
    Handful fresh raspberries
    Lemon slices
    Handful fresh basil leaves


    Add all the ingredients to your jug, except the soda water and raspberries. Give it a stir. Taste and add more lemon juice if you prefer it sour. Half fill the jug with ice and top with the soda water, fresh raspberries and lemon slices. Serve over ice and garnish with fresh basil leaves.