Summer Cocktail Crawl: The Best Summer Drinks in Iowa City

Summer has officially arrived in Iowa City: cue the humidity, fireflies, and sweet corn! Two out of these three things are delightful. I count the days until the first Iowa sweet corn harvest and still remember my first firefly sighting as one of the more magical moments of my adult life. (I know, doesn’t take much.) The humidity, however, is something that this Oregonian could do without. It’s just so…sticky. Humidity’s only redeeming quality is that it provides the perfect excuse to go out for cocktails at the end of a long summer day. Just reading this list of my favorite Iowa City cocktails makes me want to put on my best flip-flops and head downtown!

Mojitos at Atlas

Head to the corner of Iowa and Dubuque and order a Mojito, the Cuban classic with silver rum, fresh mint and lime. Word of advice: Make a two-limit pact with yourself because they just go down so smooth you will think you are immune to its charms…until your little one wakes you at 6:00 a.m. the next morning. That’s the thing about children–they have no respect for cocktail hour. If you don’t drink alcohol, order an Arnold Palmer with fresh mint instead.

mojitos cocktail iowa city

Cetriolo Tonic at Basta

Basta, located right next door to Atlas, is a great spot to dine with your love or a group of girlfriends with whom you love to hang out. The best thing about Basta is that you can go for a super-fancy date night or drop in for pizza wearing an Iowa t-shirt. In fact, their dress code is “a shirt and maybe something on your bottom.” Ask for a table outside and order the Cetriolo Tonic. As if gin and tonic didn’t say “summer” all by itself, Basta adds Aperol and fresh cucumber to Beefeater’s Gin and tonic. Oh, and I had to look up aperol. It’s an aperitif, which is a fancy way of saying, “I’ll drink this one before my dinner, thank you!”

White Sangria at Saloon

Two words: Fiesta. Hour. Saloon’s outdoor seating is the perfect place to end a family afternoon on the Ped Mall. You can take your kids still a little soaked from the fountain, ask for a table outside, and order $5 chips and queso, tacos or wings, just to name a few. Enjoy it with a $3 White Sangria, fruit-infused Pino Grigio with a splash of soda. Just be sure to go before six o’clock or those fiesta prices turn into pumpkins.

Signature Martinis at Blackstone

It’s not technically downtown, but it’s in my backyard on the east side so I made the executive decision to include their Signature Martinis to my list of summer favorites. Go on a Tuesday night when the whole list is half price. $3 Lemon Drop and less than three blocks from my house? Yes, please. Even if you don’t live within walking distance, it’s worth the drive. Think Strawberry or Mango Martini. Or the Forbidden Tequini, a mix of Jose Cuervo (who, incidentally, is not a friend of mine!), pomegranate liqueur, margarita mix and Sprite. You can even hang ten at the bar with a “Surfer’s Sunrise,” a mix of Three Olives Mango and Malibu Rum and splashes of pineapple and cranberry juice.

Think all of these sound lovely, but can’t get out of the house or office today? Try the next best thing to a summer cocktail: Iced Coffee! My favorite recipe is from the Pioneer Woman. It takes a few steps on the front end, but is totally worth it when you can reach in your fridge for an afternoon pick-me-up.

What is your go-to summer drink? Oh, and I’m free this Tuesday night!


Sherri is a transplant from Oregon who came to be a Hawkeye in 2006 and stayed for the sweet corn...and for the Iowa boy she met along the way! She and her husband (Kyle) have a 9 year-old daughter, Aissa. Sherri earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs at The University of Iowa and works for Ruffalo Noel Levitz as an Enrollment Marketing Consultant for colleges and universities. When she's not working, you can find her with her family, enjoying Iowa City and cheering on the Hawkeyes.



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