Memorial Day weekend is the time when the nation collectively reflects on and honors the sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed services. I like to think of it as our nation’s version of the Irish wake, where we spend 72 hours doing a lot of day drinking while watching baseball and driving jet skis around lakes or really large swimming pools. Like most American holidays, it’s a bit of a booze fest. Which is great, just remember that pace is key. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Actually, if you tackle it right, it’s more like an ultramarathon. You need to think about logistics, hydration, proper nourishment, a pump for your swan floatie…there’s a lot of forethought that needs to go into a proper Memorial Day weekend. Did you get your campsite reservation? Do you have enough charcoal for the grill? The last thing you need to worry about is what you’re going to drink this weekend. Let us take care of that for you. So, without further ado, here is our Guide to Drinking Through Memorial Day Weekend.
Easy drinking beer is the foundation of a good Memorial Day weekend. If I could, I’d travel around the country and slap double IPAs out of the hands of hipsters and neckbeards from coast to coast. If there’s any holiday where you’re basically obligated to drink a low ABV lager, it’s Memorial Day. And it’s not just because you’ll kill yourself if you drink nothing but 10% ABV hop bombs for three days straight (seriously, that’s how my cousin died. RIP Little Ricky!), it’s because this nation was founded on easy drinking, low ABV lagers. A year before the Declaration of Independence, Patrick Henry famously said, “give me corn-adjunct lagers, or give me death!”
But you don’t have to buy Big Beer to honor Patrick Henry and all of the founding lager lovers that came after him. There’s a craft beer lager revolution underway, and I guarantee the hipster brewery at the end of your street is brewing a light, crisp lager right now that can serve as the backbone of your weekend escapades. You can even get seriously crushable ales that fall below the 5% ABV line and are built for summer drinking. See the Dayblazer Ale, from New Belgium, above. It’s a golden ale that goes down so easy on a hot day and even comes in massive 24-ounce cans. Hello Memorial Day!
Don’t have a hipster brewery at the end of your street? Try one of these instead.
Sam Adams ‘76
Check out our full review this new beer from Boston Beer, which we called “delicious” and an “easy-drinking triumph that the guys from Sam Adams should be proud of.” Also, it’s kind of the perfect beer for an American holiday like Memorial Day, what with all the Revolutionary War/founding fathers vibe.
Founders Solid Gold
Founders didn’t even bother getting weird by blending ale and lager characteristics, they just straight up made a domestic adjunct lager same kind of lager Big Beer has made a fortune on over the last several decades. And you know what? Good on ‘em. This is a good lager. Crisp, but still doughy, a little bit of corn sweetness and some lemon citrus and floral hops. It’s the macro lager we all secretly want when we’re finished ripping up the swimming pool on our jet ski.
Sunday Beer Light and Tight
If something from Boston Beer Co. or Founders is too “mainstream,” check out this beautifully named beer from Sunday Beer Company, out of Brooklyn. Light and Tight is a crisp lager brewed with pilsner malt and Hallertau hops that comes in at just 3.9% ABV. That’s practically 3.2/Utah beer.
Burial Beer Innertube
And this seasonal lager just hit the market from one of my favorite Asheville breweries. Burial is best known for its IPAs and saisons, but they understand the need for an adjunct lager on a hot day. Especially when you’re tubing down the river. And it’s just 3.5%, so feel free to operate heavy machinery.
Stone White Ghost Berliner Weisse
So now you got a cooler full of lagers. Great. You need to throw in a couple of these babies to help cleanse your palate. The Berliner Weisse is a refreshing and totally summer friendly beer style, but it’s also tart and a little bit fruity. You don’t want to drink nine in a row, but changing the lagers up with one of these can refresh your sensibilities and add a bit of whimsy to your drinking schedule. I say apply one White Ghost for every eight lagers.
I’ll never understand people who say, “I don’t like beer,” but I’ll always respect their decision to make bad decisions. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t respect people who don’t like beer but my wife tells me I shouldn’t be such an asshole, so I’m going to talk about cocktails now. Obviously, it’s hot and you’re drinking while driving a jet ski, so you should take it easy and knock back some low ABV cocktails. We wrote about a bunch of them a couple of years ago, all of which would be a welcome addition to your Memorial Day repertoire. But if you could only pick one to make, I’d go with this lighter version of the Negroni.
Grande Negroni Sbagliato
750 ml. Prosecco
750 ml. Campari
750 ml. La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Rouge
1 cup fresh fruit (sliced oranges would be best)
Directions: Add the sweet vermouth and Campari to a punch bowl filled with large ice cubes. Add fresh fruit and top with the Prosecco DOC. Stir gently and serve.
You might be having some friends over to your backyard for a little horse shoes tournament, in which case you’re gonna need some cocktails to keep your arms lubricated (nobody wants to pull a tricep on Memorial Day). Make a big batch just before the guests show up and you can spend more time throwing ringers and less time behind the bar muddling mint for your jackass neighbor who keeps asking for a Mojito. Check out this bright and refreshing punch from Sagamore Spirits, which will also help battle scurvy.
The Orange Crush
1 Bottle Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey
50 oz. Orange juice
8.5 oz. Simple syrup
4.25 oz. Orange liqueur
34 oz. Club soda
Directions: Add all ingredients to a punch bowl. Stir and ladle over ice. Skip the garnish because it’s Memorial Day, not some fancy smancy cocktail bar. Should serve 16 cocktails.
And if you really want to ring in summer with a bang, find your blender and whip up a Sloshie, which is exactly what it sounds like: a boozy slushie. Creekside, a corner store in Jackson Hole, might have the best Sloshies in America, because they use fresh fruit juice. Rumor has it that the tiny store has become the biggest buyer of grapefruits in the state of Wyoming because of their Hound, a frozen take on the greyhound. It couldn’t be easier to make at home: add vodka, fresh grapefruit juice and ice to a blender. Blend. Taste. Probably add more vodka and blend again.
But listen, drink the Sloshie sparingly. They taste great going down, and one can turn into three very quickly, but it’s been my experience that too many Sloshies results in promises broken and occasionally, unwanted tattoos. Remember, Memorial Day weekend is a marathon, not a sprint.