Between Easter lunches and Mother’s Day brunches and the myriad graduation parties to follow, there are plenty of occasions that call for celebration in the spring and early summer. And while you may want to enjoy a drink or two at these festivities, you probably want to keep it light, given the likelihood that these affairs will be earlier in the day. What to drink? Here are some low-alcohol suggestions, perfect for this time of year.
Vinho Verde: A secret gem from Portugal, Vinho Verde literally means “green wine” but actually translates as “young wine.” The term refers to reds, whites and roses from the Northwest section of the country that have been bottled young, giving the wine a zesty fizz that’s welcome on warm days. You’ll mostly find white vinho verdes this side of the pond, which tend to have a lively acidity and freshness that make them food friendly. The other pluses to this style: They’re fairly cheap—you can find a good bottle for around $7 to $9—and they have a low alcohol content that often ranges from 8 to 11 percent.
Prosecco: Italy’s answer to Champagne, Prosecco has exploded in popularity in recent years. And it’s not hard to see why. Prosecco is much more budget-friendlier than its French cousin—its typically fermented in stainless steel tanks instead of the bottle—and it has a light, crisp, fruity flavor. Lower in alcohol, about 11 to 12 percent, Prosecco makes a great base for a brunch cocktail. Add a splash of your favorite fruit juice or serve it up in the traditional Bellini, an old-school Venetian cocktail that combines peach puree and the sparkling wine.
Vermouth & Soda: Vermouth, the original base for many cocktails, is sadly overlooked by many people today. The fortified wine had a massive fanbase at the end of the 18th century—the original martini was actually a vermouth cocktail with a splash of gin. A good vermouth brand can be both complex and delightful to sip on its own—Noilly Prat and Dolin are brands often recommended by bartenders—and it can range from sweet to dry. My preference is a splash of Dolin Blanc (white vermouth) and soda, which has a sweet floral flavor that matches perfectly with the season. And at about 36 proof, vermouth is a much lighter cocktail base than a spirit like vodka (around 80 proof).
Shandy: Beer drinkers looking to lighten their beverage of choice may want to try a shandy, a beer typically mixed with lemonade or ginger ale. You can find pre-made shandys like Shock Top and Leinenkugel crowding store shelves, or you can make them on your own by topping a wheat beer, lager or pilsner with an equal part mixer of your choice.