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8 Refreshing Cocktails For Summer Camping

Cheers to long days and warm nights spent outside.

The long-awaited, blissful emergence of summer in the West is a time like no other, full of renewed excitement for the mountains, rivers, and greener-by-the-day valleys that surround our homes. With mud season behind us, suddenly nothing stands in the way of pre-work, post-work, and all day adventures.  Even if the trails are a little too wet for extensive biking or backpacking, car-camping is the perfect activity to usher in the promise of long, warm days and chilly mountain nights.

On a Friday afternoon, it’s often second nature to throw a case of beer into the cooler for a weekend camping getaway – but don’t be put off by mixed drinks just because they might seem too complicated! These simple recipes require just two ingredients – perfect for that last-minute trip to the nearest dirt road, river bend, or pocket of BLM land at the drop of a hat.

So, gather up the bocce set, deck of cards, and camp chairs, and elevate your car-camping experience with these easy, laid-back concoctions.

1. John Daly

Summer sunshine calls for summery libations. The John Daly hits all the right notes: sweet tea vodka swirled with tart, crisp lemonade and garnished with a lemon. Boom. Done.

2. Pina Colada

Forget the blender – with the creation of J.W. Knudson’s pineapple-coconut juice, easily picked up in most grocery stores – all you need is rum to recreate the tropical classic. Pairs nicely with sunsets over the lake.

3. Paloma

Known as the poor man’s margarita, this refreshing Mexican favorite is whipped up in a flash. Simply combine grapefruit soda (try Jarritos) and tequila and top it off with a quick squeeze of tangy lime. Perfection: achieved.

4. Cuba Libre

Sure, it’s your classic rum and Coke, but it just sounds more fun this way. After a long day at the office or too much fun in the sun, nothing beats this classic pick-me up. Sweet and refreshing, having a few of these ensures you’ll be awake for every story told around the campfire tonight.

5. Dark & Stormy

When the clouds turn (and let’s be honest, they often do), sometimes the night calls for a different kind of cocktail. This classic, easily assembled by combining dark rum, ginger beer (preferably Reed’s), and lime, has that sweet and spicy twist that summer storms are made of.

6. Greyhound

Nothing says “simple” like the classic Greyhound: crisp grapefruit juice and the smooth underbite of vodka. Top with a little seltzer, if you’ve got some in the cooler, and garnish with a round of fresh lime.

7. Spicy Margarita

Okay, so there might be three ingredients here, and it might not be up to a margarita purist’s standards. But allow me to let you in on a little secret: limeade is the way to go.  With 1 part Cointreau, 2 parts silver tequila, and 3 parts limeade, you’ve got a marg damn close to the real deal. Feeling extra fancy? Slice up one of those jalapeños destined for tonight’s tacos and throw it in the tequila bottle for some extra spice.  

8. Whiskey Ginger

Rarely does a whiskey-ginger not hit the spot. Found the perfect campsite? Keep it easy. Top off a smooth bourbon with a splash of spicy ginger ale - or better yet, ginger beer – and focus your attention on the spectacular sunset that’s about to unfold.  

Whatever your weekend adventures entail, ditch the PBR and give one of these libations a go – without taking time away from a night under the stars. Because after all, that’s what car camping is made for.

Cover photo: Nick Tort

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Catherine DiSanto

Trail runner and cheese-addict. Happiest when waking up outside. I've never had a brain freeze.