It's 7:30 on a recent morning, and it's already blazing hot with 95 percent humidity. Those digital signs on the interstate blast ominous messages about air quality alerts, which are fairly pointless once you've already ventured outside and begun your solo commute to work. (Sorry, environment.) Your Instagram and Facebook feeds — not that you're looking at those while you're trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic — are clogged with photos of temperature readings from your friends' cars, prompting you to wonder if it is indeed possible to bake cookies on your dashboard at high noon.
Yes, friends, it's summertime in the city, and you can either complain about it, like I usually do, or you can get a nice cold beverage and just accept it ... like I eventually do. Whether you're craving an adult beverage or searching for something to quench your inner child's thirst, Nashville has plenty to offer. In the name of research, I rounded up some thirsty friends, and we ventured out to find the best summer drinks and the best places in which to enjoy them.
It's just plain weird to drink margaritas during the winter — but when summer rolls around, your first stop should be East Nashville's Rosepepper, where the award-winning house margarita tastes even better when experienced on the restaurant's nicely shaded deck, which minimizes the amount of sweat dripping down your back. There are no machines or mixes involved in the creation of Rosepepper's signature drink. It's best enjoyed on the rocks, and if you really want to make a night of it, do what we did: Order pitchers and a taxi.
Not a tequila fan? One of my favorite dog-days indulgences is the Village Pub's pint-sized yet punch-packing Mule. The pub's house cocktail of ginger beer and fresh lime is mixed with your choice of vodka, whiskey, gin, rum, scotch or — sigh — tequila, and is served over ice in a pewter mug, which is fun as well as functional, keeping your drink cold in triple-digit temperatures, even when sitting on the deck. Bonus: This Riverside Village outpost has shelves of board games and card games for your entertainment, making it the perfect place to camp out with friends on a sunny afternoon.
But if playing Cards Against Humanity while you see how many pewter mugs you can amass isn't in your wheelhouse — though frankly, it should be — perhaps you'd like something more dignified, like a nice glass of rosé on the patio at Rumours in the Gulch or Table 3 in Green Hills, both of which have excellent wine options (in addition to a full bar, naturally) and a refined yet relaxed ambiance. Over in Germantown, City House's Porch Pounder — a delightful combo of gin, vermouth, amaretto, club soda, lemon bitters and lemon juice — was endorsed by Drinking Made Easy host and the No. 1 dude I'd like to go drink for drink with, Zane Lamprey. Also, it comes in a cute little mason jar and tastes like an alcohol-infused SweeTart, but not in a cloying way, which makes it an all-around winner.
The Juliet & Romeo may be the most popular summertime drink at Midtown's Patterson House, but we hear that a rum-based drink, like a Dark & Stormy or a Mai Tai, is an even better way to escape the heat. Yes, you read that correctly: Mai Tai. But don't just take my word for it — Josh Habiger says that when it's done correctly, it's really wonderful. In fact, I'd be willing to wager that one sip of a Patterson House Mai Tai will erase any lingering memories of the watered-down, saccharine version you barfed up during Spring Break in '98. (If you're worried about a repeat performance, you should probably order some of Patterson House's incredible mini burgers while you're there, which will surely prevent a Rum Diary-style blackout.)
But we don't need alcohol in our drinks to enjoy them, do we? Even though you can choose from 398,929 fountain drink and slush flavor combos at Sonic — seriously, that's the actual number on their website — bypass the extra-large Blue Coconut Lemonberry Pineapple slush and get a real fountain drink at The Pharmacy in East Nashville. The back of The Pharmacy houses a "soda shop" in which patrons can order a freshly built soda sans preservatives, caffeine, corn syrup or other nasty artificial things that you probably shouldn't be putting in your body. Our bartender, Chance, created a few different G-rated concoctions for us on a particularly sticky afternoon, and we were instant converts.
Chance says the Creamsicle soda (orange soda, cream and vanilla syrup) is the most popular option on the menu. While we agree that it tasted exactly like a Creamsicle — conjuring childhood memories of ice cream trucks crawling through the streets on lazy summer evenings, the music luring kids from their yards like sirens calling to sailors — our favorite was the ginger phosphate. Made with fresh jalapeño, ginger syrup and phosphoric acid — which Chance explained changes the molecular structure of the liquid, preventing the water and the syrups from separating — it was tangy and fizzy, and the perfect mix of sweet and spicy. With the stomach-calming properties of ginger and the spicy pepper edge, this would be an excellent morning-after remedy if you partake in too many X-rated drinks the night before.
The upside of a heat advisory is that you're probably not going to be squeezing into your skinny jeans on such a steamy day, so you might as well down 800 calories of pure dairy-and-sugar goodness. Adventurers that we are, we stopped in several joints in search of the best milkshake in town. I'm just going to put it out there that unless you really, really like doughnuts, you might want to bypass the hefty Krispy Kreme shake (available at Krispy Kreme stores in three flavors, original, chocolate and raspberry-filled), which allegedly has actual doughnuts ground up in it. The sensation of drinking a cold, fluid version of something that is so delectable in its familiar solid state — especially when the "HOT NOW" sign is on — is, well, jarring. I'm still recovering from hyperglycemic shock, so I'm guessing there are at least a half-dozen doughnuts in each of those shakes. I submitted a request for details to Krispy Kreme, but I'm still waiting on a response.
When it comes to anything with ice cream in it, all roads lead to Bobbie's Dairy Dip. Their shakes, nostalgically named for celebrities of yesteryear like Ricky Nelson and James Brown, are so rich and thick you'll probably want to share, even with the smaller 16-ounce size. You'll also want to grab a spoon, as a straw can't cut through the shake until it melts a bit. Lucy, who took our order, advised that the most popular options are the James Brown (vanilla ice cream, coffee, chocolate and chai tea) and the Chubby Checker (twist ice cream, hot fudge, peanut butter and whipped cream).
The Chubby Checker is really heavy on the PB, but we could see why it's so popular, since it tastes like an arctic liquid Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Incredible. Still, it didn't hold a candle to the Memphis Mafia, a deadly combo of vanilla ice cream, malt, banana, peanut butter and bacon. My friend and fellow milkshake taster was not a fan of slurping pieces of bacon through his straw, but I enjoyed it thoroughly, as the repeated chewing breaks prevented a full-on ice cream headache, and the mix of sweet and salty is intoxicatingly good. The whole bacon craze may be passé, but we hope this shake sticks around.
You know what makes a milkshake even better? Alcohol. Yeah, we're back on that. Do you remember your first Bushwacker? I sure don't, mainly because I didn't realize I was basically drinking the milkshake version of a Long Island Iced Tea — i.e., a sneaky beverage that tastes innocuous yet contains multiple varieties of hard liquor. Recipes vary for the deliciously evil Bushwacker, but usually include dark rum, milk, ice, crème de cacao and sometimes a mixture of other spirits like vodka, amaretto, Frangelico, Kahlua, cream of coconut and Baileys Irish Cream.
There are many places around town to enjoy a Bushwacker — 3 Crow Bar in East Nashville and Broadway Brewhouse in Midtown are excellent options. But ReBar, also in Midtown, won our vote for favorite summertime Bushwacker, largely because the bar is perfect for day drinking, not unlike the Bushwacker itself. ReBar's interior is filled with every kind of bar game a happily intoxicated person would want to play — darts, pool, shuffleboard, Skee-Ball — and the large outside patio features a cornhole game. On a sunny summer weekend afternoon, this is a paradise of leisure, straight out of a country music video, for what it's worth.
Despite all these options, sometimes you just want to keep it simple and crack open a cold one. Everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to beer, so we won't judge you too harshly if you like that 64-calorie crap, but you can't let a summer in Nashville go by without drinking a Yazoo Rye Saison fresh from the tap. The Saison, brewed in the tradition of a Belgian farmhouse beer, is spicy and fruity yet smooth and dry, and should appeal to fans of Yazoo's excellent Hefeweizen. Earlier this summer, Yazoo offered the Brett Saison, a tart take on the regular. But that one's already out of rotation, so make sure to stop by the Gulch taproom before the Saison runs dry — or you'll have to wait until next year.