Memorial Day has come and gone and that means summer is in full swing! If you are one of the countless outdoorsy loving tipplers, summer means CAMPING. You are one with nature, you’ve foraged and fished and wrestled for sustenance before slapping that carcass on the grill over the fire you built with your hands! And… if you are one of the people who somehow found yourself agreeing to a campground adventure (in spite of your love of indoor plumbing and an actual mattress) camping=cocktails. Lots of camping cocktails. Guess which one of these two I am?
I kid, kinda. I do actually love the outdoors, although not as much as mosquitos love me. I was a camp counselor for years (as was our founder, Suzanne. And Evan practically lived outdoors, camping all summer growing up) and I love cooking over a fire. I also love making super impressive but easy to execute bougie AF camp cocktails to sip in front of it, just make sure there’s an air mattress in my tent and I’ll tell you my wilderness bar cart secrets.
That last part there? I never joke about bedding. There’s no reason to get a bad night sleep just because you’re camping.
Now gather ’round, campers, and prepare to earn your Camping Cocktails Badge!
Any camper worth their bug spray will tell you that this is the first rule of the wilderness and, you know what, the same applies to camp cocktails!
Think about your camping bar tool kit- you want things that will be light and not take up too much space, but you still want to be soigné. Thankfully, bar tools can double as kitchen tools! Make sure you’ve got a knife and cutting board, a way to juice citrus, a shaking vessel (in a pinch, a quart container will do!), and a jigger or measuring spoons OR opt for this double walled insulated shaker with a built in measuring system! Quart containers are fabulous in coolers because they are light, stackable when full AND stackable when empty. Score!
Ingredients that are versatile and pre-batched are your best friends. Plan your cocktail options ahead and stock your cooler accordingly! You also need to think about the ice factor. Cocktails need 1/4 oz of dilution per serving and usually that happens while we shake or stir them! On the first day or so, your ice should still be ok for cocktails, but unless you are going on ice runs, you should anticipate a work-around.
Lucky for you, we here at The Crafty Cask have quite a few cocktails that are great when batched and pre-diluted! Just make ahead, pop in your cooler, and enjoy! This concept works on anything that does *not* involve citrus juice.
Speaking of citrus, make sure ya pack some! Great with all that fish you’re about to catch and even better in a camping cocktail!
Map It Out.
Few things have come in quite as handy as my ability to play Tetris: I can pack a trunk, stock a cooler, organize a bar, and it’s all thanks to my TI-82 and a math class I sure didn’t pay attention in. Think about ingredients like Tetris blocks (or Legos) you can change the color of the cube but the you need the right ratio. Working with a limited ingredient list while camping means you need to pack things with more than one application in mind. Make sense? Your blocks are built of spirits, sweeteners, and citrus or spice.
Break it down like meal prep:
Breakfast Al Fresco
Are you a Mimosa or a Bloody Mary fan? OJ is great on it’s own or in cocktails. Seasoned and spiced batched Bloody Mary mix (sans vodka, add to order) is also useful in savory dishes like Eggs in Purgatory or as the base for a spicy stew! Pancakes on the agenda? That maple syrup can double as sweetener in an Old Fashioned (1/4 oz syrup=1 sugar cube), lemonade or hot chocolate! Irish Coffee is always a solid bet, you can pre-whip cream and have it in the cooler ready to go!
Gone Fishin’ For Lunch
A crisp, cool craft pilsner is fab in the afternoon! Spruce it up by adding hot sauce, lime, and a dash of salt for an easy camping Michelada! Remember those lemons? Fresh lemonade will mix with any spirit you happened to pack for a tent-side (Tom) Collins! Don’t have simple syrup? Swap in that Maple Syrup!
Cast Iron Supper
Those batched Negroni (or Mezcal Negroni) are great before dinner! Afterwards you can all make campfire hot cocoa and spike it to your own delight! Whiskey and chocolate go together like camping and cocoa, or kick it up a notch and make a Mexican Spiced Hot Cocoa with chili, cinnamon, sea salt and tequila! You can pre mix a spice blend to have on hand to add to your cocoa. A maple or spiced honey Old Fashioned is also a lovely treat under the stars.
I Enjoy My Cocktails In-Tents!
Oh, you know we’ve been waiting to make a dad-joke since sentence one. Can you really go camping without dad-jokes? Wilderness humor aside, being hungover in a tent is no laughing matter. Make sure you hydrate along with all of your campground libations (see also: be prepared)! Pro-tip: should you wake up feeling a little crispy and you are by a swimmable body of water, take a dip!
It’s also important to adhere to the camping adage: leave nothing but footprints. Everything you brought into the wilderness, leaves the wilderness with you (one of the reasons I love the stack-ability of quart containers!). After a few awesome days in a campsite, your cooler will be nice and light for the trek back to the car.
With a little pre-planning, your camp cocktails can be every bit as delicious as your home bar cocktails and anyone who tells you otherwise can take a hike!
No, I did not actually catch this fish. But you can join in on my Tippling Travels to this beautiful Hudson Valley locale and try to catch one yourself!
Jena is an event host & contributing writer for The Crafty Cask, as well as an award-winning bartender, cocktail educator, Cicerone Certified Beer Server, and Executive American Whiskey Steward. Based in NYC, Jena has been working in the craft alcohol world for the last 15 years with recipes appearing in Manhattan restaurant/bars & multiple publications. She is the 2019 Nikka Perfect Serve Global Runner Up and a 2020 Cognac Connection winner.