Build a Better Outdoor Cocktail

The right cocktail can pair perfectly with a beautiful outdoor experience, from a weekend spent camping to an evening around the firepit with friends. But given the elements of transport, temperature and time, creating such a drink requires a different approach from one served at the bar or at home.

We asked bar professionals who love camping, skiing and hiking—and who are well-versed in the idea of crafting cocktails in the wild—to share original drink recipes meant to be enjoyed outdoors. Each one features whiskey from Noble Oak, a spirits company whose mission is to make great whiskey that gives back. Every bottle of Noble Oak plants a tree through the brand’s partnership with One Tree Planted, and they have already committed to planting over 400,000 trees to date.

Here, three nature-loving bartenders outline some key do’s and don’ts of making cocktails while enjoying the great outdoors.

Into the Wild

Into the Wild

Erin Asford’s lightly smoky Old-Fashioned riff channels the spirit of the campfire.

Present Company

Present Company

David Yee’s bittersweet build is meant for post-adventure celebration.

Noble Fir

Noble Fir

Lydia McLuen’s Vieux Carré variation channels the experience of hiking through a forest.

Keep it simple. “You don’t need to make a 10-touch drink while you’re camping,” says Lydia McLuen, of Takibi in Portland, Oregon. “You can prepare it at home and pour when you get there. Or make a simple cocktail, like an Old-Fashioned.”

Prep a cocktail “adventure kit.” Erin Ashford, of Austin’s Olamaie, suggests packing acrylic or biodegradable cups, a lemon and a Y-shaped peeler, which will “immediately elevate the experience, as you could pour and zest the cocktail fully.” If practical, Ashford also suggests stocking a cooler with large cubes of ice. Similarly, McLuen always brings a jigger in her kit: “It might seem excessive, but it’s not,” she insists. “Being able to measure what you’re doing properly will make [for] a better drink, and more responsible drinking.”

Be creative, and improvise where needed. “I say the best bartender can make drinks with anything,” McLuen notes. “You can stir with a chopstick. If you don’t have tins, you can get creative and use a pickle jar to shake drinks. It sounds crazy, but it works.”

Coordinate your drinks with your setting. For example, David Yee, of Watershed Kitchen & Bar in Columbus, Ohio, favors spirit-forward drinks with bold flavor because “stirred drinks can be batched and will hold their flavor over time,” he explains. Skip drinks made with citrus, he advises, “unless you’re prepared to find ways to keep them cold or bring ice.” Rather, he says, “Lean into ingredients that are meant to be sipped slow and pack a lot of flavor,” like whiskey or amari.

Prep at the site. Yee, McLuen and Ashford advise doing all your batching, plus any prep you can (i.e., cutting garnish) at home before you head out. Ideally, all you have to do at your location is pour and enjoy.

Haul cumbersome containers. “You have to bring back everything you brought in,” Yee says. Instead of a giant cooler, he suggests divvying a pre-mixed drink into small, sturdy containers, like flasks, thermoses or (nonplastic) water bottles. Further, “the smaller the gatherings, the smaller the container.”

Forget water! All three bartenders remind that hydration is key, especially if any kind of physical exertion is involved in the outing.

Miss savoring the moment. As with any experience, a great drink is only one part of it—one meant to enhance, not detract. “Don’t stress on the preparation being perfect,” Yee counsels. “Enjoy the outdoors, the escape, the company.”

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