Like dive bars, themed restaurants and speakeasy concepts, “of summer” is a genre unto itself, and it’s even more broad than any of the above. The song of summer typically captures the zeitgeist most widely, playing in places you weren’t even scanning for a tune. But the conceit seeps into all manner of categories. In New York City, ‘of summer’s’ most sonorous contest is the seemingly media-generated race to determine what will emerge as the drink of summer.
The practical reasons to identify that annual honorific are a mixed-metaphor mashup of uninteresting inside baseball and sausage making. The abstract explanations are bittersweet or unnerving, depending on your mood. Moments are ephemeral, even as they add up to years that stretch into an inconceivable eternity. Perhaps evoking notions of erstwhile summer breaks, those 90-some-odd days in particular feel the most temporal, washing away like a heart scrawled in the seashore before they’ve even begun.
Winter, spring and fall each have their own connotations, but the countdowns to and during summer are presented with higher stakes. We’re invited, encouraged and borderline threatened to “get ready” for the beach, and then cram in as much seasonally appropriate fun while we “still can.” So it seems to go by quick, and the urgency to ascribe some modicum of permanence, even if it’s something that disappears as quick as a drink, makes the whole hot weather whirlwind a little more palpable. Which is probably why the proposals start popping up even before the summer begins, officially or otherwise.
Although the majority of actual bar-goers will likely stick to their regulars and maybe venture to try one of the tipples in contention on a lark, it can still be amusing to track what’s on the table. These are the collected ‘drink of summer’ proposals for 2022.
The Dirty Shirley
If you’ve heard about one purported drink of summer, you’ve heard about the Dirty Shirley. Perhaps you first learned about the childhood-classic-plus-vodka on social media. Perhaps you read about it in The New York Times. Perhaps you simply could not escape the unending headlines that followed. Or, most likely, maybe word of the cutesy concoction rose to ubiquity so fast that it seems to have always held a place in your menu memory. Is the Dirty Shirley the Kardashian(s) of drinks at the moment in this regard? Yes. Does it contain Sprite, grenadine, vodka and a maraschino cherry? Typically.
An inbox special, the framing of this photogenic rum-based cocktail that’s particularly popular in New Orleans as this year’s blip absent any apparent recent peg is interesting, at least. A PR email asserts that it’s “The Drink of the Summer” in the subject line, and goes on to pitch “a trend-driven story highlighting its comeback this summer,” noting four NYC locations where it’s available. Although the Hurricane’s vibrant color and sexy shape is in line with the potential Instagram Thing status to which some food and drink creators seem to aspire, it seems unlikely that the festive libation can win the title this year, absent the unseen guidance of a liquor brand machine or huge social media movement.
Canned Cocktails in general
What is the difference between experience and anecdote? How long is the road between existence and awareness; the time between when something is created, and when it is embraced? It seemed that canned cocktails reached a saturation point mid-2020, though nobody was declaring it the this-or-that of this-or-that back then. Two years later, Instacart has predicted that canned cocktails will be crowned 2022s top tipple. The online grocery service based its findings on a look at trends in its “digital aisles,” which notably reflect consumption outside of bars and beyond NYC.
Specific canned drinks
I have a few emails to this effect as well, that some particular pull tab potable will emerge victorious before sweater weather. But even Peggy Olson herself could not replicate the success of, say, White Claw, the canned concoction that launched a thousand memes. And, in spite of its former glory, it still took me like 35 seconds to remember the once premier hard seltzer’s name. Nothing carbonated can stay.
Perhaps as famed for its apparel-covering catchphrase as it is for its supposed shortages, rosé is a lifestyle and a mission. But it is also a skin contact wine that never quite got the respect of somewhat similar, more recently popular, orange varieties. This is because it is pink. People are already drinking it–all together now–all day, so likely all it would take to seize the season in a new light is a little social media revival. The hashtag’s right there.
Though it avoided the common phrasing, the New York Post calls mezcal “summer’s hottest drink,” in a story that rounds up recipes and a couple of brands to buy. Under the headline, “Have We Gone Too Far on Drink of the Summer Predictions,” Eater New York notes that the spirit’s been around longer than any of us, and locally popular for slightly fewer years. And if this all sounds familiar, turn up the harp; like the martini menu trend I first identified last fall, few things are truly new.
Shortly after the Dirty Shirley tap danced its way into collective consciousness, Paste Magazine raised an alternative: fruit wine. Sustainability, ambitious new products and lower ABV-options are listed among its non-grape merits. Maybe Moira Rose can make this happen.
Frozen drinks are forever. None can compare. They’ve long been too big for mere drink of summer designation, but when their numbers and varieties multiplied citywide for sundry reasons in 2021, frozen drinks ignited the forbidden twin flames of classic and trending. Their popularity even made equipment hard to come by. Sure, some said that last year’s sensation was boozy caffeine served in a glass typically attributed to martinis, but these icy libations were the true star, newly appearing at august imbibing institutions that previously never would have touched the stuff, and in old, familiar form. That massive expansion seems to have settled back into staple standing, but perhaps one of 2022’s new additions will rise to rule them all.