Drinks News

Our expert summer drinks guide for 2023

Sommelier SAMANTHA PAYNE presents her expert guide to cool, thirst-quenching tipples for a long, hot Australian summer.
best summer drinks guide. photo of a pale backdrop and a line-up of bottles, glasses and cans showcasing beverage picksKristina Soljo

There’s a famous song from the late ’90s that begins with the line, “Man, it’s a hot one” (Santana’s Smooth if you want to stream it), and it’s that lyric that evokes the essence of summertime drinking – bevvies that are all about keeping cool and quenching one’s thirst.

To me, that’s chilling a crunchy, vibrant gamay or trousseau, paired with a backyard barbecue and a side of grilled beef. Or Boxing Day banter that requires lighter and more refreshing choices following a day of rich excess; think bubbles and ciders to go with leftover ham sandwiches and cold potato salad.

Sparkling sake and TINA cans.

Best picnic drinks

NV Dewazakura Saku Sparkling Junmai Sake, Japan

With sake being naturally lower in alcohol because of its brewing process along with its mini-bottle size, this is an excellent choice for afternoon picnics watching the sunset. The delicate floral characters, light bubble, and dry finish of the sparkling sake pair beautifully with sashimi, prawns and even the last-minute thrown-together cheese board that inevitably finds its way to the picnic rug.

$25 for 250ml

TINA 3.0 Icebergs, $24 for 4 x 330ml

A drink that its creators call “a love letter to the ocean” and made in honour of Sydney’s famed Icebergs Bar and Grill’s 20th anniversary, you’d be hard-pressed to find a drink more deserving of the moniker “summer in a can”. Energising ginkgo, sacred lotus, saltbush and pink guava create the foundations for this tea-based beverage with the ripe guava notes creating a beautiful counterbalance to the more saline and savoury elements.

$24 for 4 x 330ml

Homegrown Pink Hibiscus Spritz

Nothing screams summer like a Spritz and Homegrown’s is a lively, booze-free version teeming with raspberries and some bitter orange characters, alongside the quintessential tart florals found in hibiscus. It’s crafted with a combination of rhubarb, pomegranate, pink hibiscus and native strawberry gum – just slices of crisp watermelon out of the Esky at the beach.

$25 for 750ml

NV Dr Loosen Dr Lo Riesling, Germany

In a world of very average low- and no-alcohol wines, this riesling from one of the world’s best riesling winemakers is the benchmark example of how sans-alcohol wines should be made. Perfectly balanced between citrus and jasmine floral flavours with bright lemon-balm acidity. A must-have addition to that tray of oysters you picked up at the fish markets.

$25 for 750ml

2022 Dal Zotto VP Pucino Prosecco, Vic

A Classic Australian Prosecco from Dal Zotto’s best block and expressing the one single year, this sparkling has a fine and floral fizz, plus fragrant apple, pear and floral characters on the nose. On the palate it has lively apple as well as lemon sherbet and a smooth creamy texture.

$28 for 750mL

From left to right: Homegrown Pink Hibiscus Spritz, 2023 Orbis Trousseau, Westward Pinot Noir Cask Single Malt American Whiskey, 2017 Coldstream Hills Blanc de Blancs and 2023 Voyager Estate Chenin Blanc.

Casual drinks

Westward Pinot Noir Cask Single Malt American Whiskey, Oregon, USA

Backyard entertaining is often when you get to show off your cocktail skills, but you want to strike a balance between something delicious that you can whip up quickly and something that impresses. Try it in a New York Sour with lemon juice, bitters and red wine.

$155 for 700ml

2023 Orbis Trousseau, McLaren Vale

I’ve never been shy about expressing my love of a chilled red – the chill on lighter grape red varieties such as trousseau from Orbis bring vibrant red fruit characters to the forefront of the palate. The garnet plum, blood orange and hints of earthy spices in this wine would be enhanced by a dish of barbecued lamb with a za’atar spice crust and roasted beetroot yoghurt.

$40 for 750 mL

2023 Voyager Estate Chenin Blanc, Margaret River, WA

Chenin blanc is always an MVP for entertaining, with its apple and poached quince characteristics along with its inherent minerality and delicate acidity. From last-minute guest drop-ins to long alfresco lunches, this organic number from 45-year-old chenin vines is a standout.

$28 for 750 mL

2017 Coldstream Hills Blanc de Blancs, Yarra Valley, Vic

This highly awarded sparkling is exceptionally good value and an excellent entertaining wine, with its complex layers of creamy baked bread notes, with a touch of lemon meringue pie and oyster shell minerality. Just add homemade burgers and rustic sweet potato fries to let the wine’s buttery elements shine.

$55 for 750 mL

Mountain Culture Status Quo Pale Ale, NSW

Mountain Culture’s juicy New England Pale Ale is a hoppy, full-flavoured brew with tropical notes, making it a summer sip primed for casual backyard barbecues and picnics. It’s also a contender for the 2023 GABS Hottest 100 of Craft Beer, so head over here to cast your vote and support the local Blue Mountains-based brewery.

$24 for four-pack

From left to right: 2021 Eric Bordelet Poiré Granit Cider, 2021 M&J Becker Manchester Vineyard Chardonnay, MV Nyetimber Rosé Sparkling, 2022 Alpha Box & Dice X 004 Moscato, 2022 Moo Brew Barrel Aged Stout and 2019 Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir.

Boxing Day drinks

2021 Eric Bordelet Poiré Granit Cider, Normandy, France

This has been my favourite cider producer for more than a decade. I buy it in three-litre kegs to have a supply at home over summer. Using pears from 300-year-old trees, the cider strikes a balance between sweet juicy pear notes and a crisp finish. When the thought of cooking is too much, a glass of this with a toasted cheese sandwich makes for a perfectly acceptable dinner.

$60 for 750 mL

MV Nyetimber Rosé Sparkling, West Sussex, United Kingdom

A new inclusion to the sparkling wine offering in Australia, Nyetimber has been at the forefront of premium sparkling wine in England for more than 30 years. The mandarin, cherries, pickled pear and papaya characters in this wine make it the ideal accompaniment to a brunch of waffles with berries and fruit salad.

$120 for 750 mL

2021 M&J Becker Manchester Vineyard Chardonnay, Mendocino Ridge, USA

Cold leftovers in the form of potato salad, ham or turkey sandwiches with stuffing on Boxing Day always equals chardonnay to me. This outstanding Californian chardonnay from Hunter Valley winemaker James Becker marries ripe nectarine, buttered toast and orchard fruits with hints of a saline minerality, making it just what you need for a leftover buffet.

$80 for 750 mL

2022 Alpha Box & Dice X 004 Moscato, Adelaide Hills, SA

Moscato gets a bad rap from years of people drinking sickly sweet styles but I’m not ashamed to admit I adore them when made with craft – this is one such example. It strikes a delicate balance between rosewater and ginger blossom notes, with a matchstick flint character that drinks wonderfully with barbecued banana prawns and curry leaf butter.

$28 for 750 mL

From left to right: 2022 Moo Brew Barrel Aged Stout, 2019 Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir, Hibiki Japanese Harmony 100th Anniversary Edition and NV André Clouet Silver Brut Nature.

The fun drinks

Hibiki Japanese Harmony 100th Anniversary Edition, Japan

The word Hibiki means “resonance” which embodies the soul of the Japanese craftsmanship that goes into blending this exceptional whisky. Using more than 10 malts and three grains with 20 years of age to create a harmonious (thus the name) whisky that exhibits characters of the famed Mizunara Japanese oak alongside notes of cloves, orange and honeycomb. A truly special whisky from three generations of master blenders at Suntory.

$460 for 700ml

2019 Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand

For hard-to-impress pinot noir lovers look no further than this incomparable “Mature Vine” release from Rippon. The added age gives this wine a fleshier palate that is bursting at the seams with red and blue fruits. The kind of gift you hope will be shared with you once open.

$90 for 720ml

2022 Moo Brew Barrel Aged Stout, Tas

Moo Brew has done it again, capturing Christmas in a bottle with the second release of its barrel-aged stout. Aged for 12 months in French and American oak casks to give complexity, texture and velvety chocolate notes perfect for the beer aficionado in your life (or for glazing a ham).

$49 for 4 x 330ml

NV André Clouet Silver Brut Nature, Champagne, France

There’s a saying in the sommelier community, “magnums show commitment” and for the special occasions throughout summer nothing says you’re committed to a good time more than a Champagne magnum. The “Silver” from grower-Champagne house André Clouet is a 100 per cent pinot noir bubbles making it perfect for toasts or a long lunch.

$175 for 1.5-litre magnum

Manly Spirits Lilly Pilly Pink Gin, NSW

This fruity (yet with no sugar) pink gin crafted uses the vibrant and succulent summer berries of the Australian native Lilly Pilly, plus rambling edible pink flowers found tucked in the coastal dunes of the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia. With a raspberry-infused pink hue, it’s a striking summer sip that’s well balanced yet playful. Cue bright and bubbly summer cocktails or a pink twist on a traditional G&T.

$88 for 700ml

Related stories