We Love Drinks: Memorial Day BBQ

Photo courtesy of
‘Beer and burger’
courtesy of ‘Magnus D’

I hope that you’ll grill this weekend. To me, that’s what Memorial Day is all about. I don’t dream of stepping on any family tradition or intruding in any masculine domain by suggesting what you should grill and how you should grill it. That’s counter productive, in my mind. Besides, I’m no grill master, myself. I’ll leave that to better and braver souls. I want to talk to you about what you should drink this weekend. It’s easy just to run out to the grocery and pick up a 12 pack of Bud Light and some cheap white wine for your Memorial Day bar-b-que. In fact, that’s probably what most of America will do on Monday, but most of America won’t enjoy their tasty beverage nearly as much as you will, oh informed reader that follows my advice.


Warmer weather means it’s time lighter, crisper beers. Porters and heavy ales still have their place, but it really isn’t over a flaming grill on a sunny back porch. Instead, drink something that will take the edge off the heat. And since it’s Memorial Day, drink something American. Fortunately, your options are extensive. One of the finest warm weather beers is the American IPA. It’s typically bitter and refreshing, with a citrusy taste and dry finish. The IPA style was actually designed to be drunk in India, which is, to say the least, a warm place. It’s a variation on the traditional English Pale Ale, but was extra hopped to help it survive the journey from the brewers in Britain to soldiers in the Raj. English soldiers found it to be particularly refreshing, and drank IPAs even after they returned home from India. The American variation on the IPA isn’t a drastic departure from the English version, but it does bear a unique characteristic imparted by hops grown on the west coast, that being the citrusy bitterness.

Photo courtesy of
‘Bells – Two Hearted Ale’
courtesy of ‘Sonnett’

Probably my favorite American IPA is Bell’s Two Hearted Ale from Michigan. It’s wonderfully hoppy without being over-powering and, for my money, has one of the nicest textures of any IPA on the market. It’s fairly common in our area  and can be found at Whole Foods and most specialty wine shops.


For wine I had to call in the reinforcement of the other half of the We Love Drinks hegemony, Miss Jenn Larsen. Jenn’s recommendations follow a similar rule to my beer recommendations: go for something light and refreshing. In particular, she recommends the 2005 Alsatian Pinot Gris, a wine that’s fruity and texturally creamy without being “coyingly sweet.” We recommend that this be served chilled, of course. A good part of refreshment comes from a low temperature, after all.

Photo courtesy of
‘pool wine’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

Second, Jenn recommends you pop some bubbly for your holiday celebrations. The Adami Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Garbel is her choice, and it’s not terribly expensive, to boot. This sparkling wine quite floral and easy to drink. Perfect for refreshing yourself after your massive feed. You should be able to find both wines at the Calvert Woodley Wine Store on Connecticut Ave, NW.


It’s hard to imagine a better memorial day cocktail than the Rickey. It’s cold, refreshing, easy to make and DC’s native drink (I’m sure most of you knew that). It’s always been kind of a thing on DC’s mixology scene, with heritage oriented bartenders devising their own special takes on the old classic. The enduring legend is that in the 1880′s one Col. Joseph Rickey walked into a certain establishment named Shoemaker’s and gruffly, yet endearingly, rattled off the list of ingredients that would become the Rickey. Another story goes that Col. Rickey actually owned Shoemakers and was inspired by a Caribbean Patron that squeezed a lime into his bourbon. After some measure of experimentation with the lime-bourbon mix, Col. Rickey added a few ingredients and popularized the recipe around the city. Whatever the the truth is, it’s a damn fine cocktail, and one that you can easily make at home. The recipe is:

Photo courtesy of
‘Day 147: Fresh Limes’
courtesy of ‘InspirationDC’

1.5 oz sweet bourbon (can’t go wrong with Elmer Lee for this one)
.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice (reserve lime husk)
Simple syrup

Simply pour the bourbon and lime into a highball filled with ice, add whatever amount of simple syrup seems best to you (it could be none), throw in the lime peel and top off with soda. Give it a stir and you’re on you way.

There is, of course, the more famous Gin Rickey which simply supplants the bourbon with gin, but it’s not legit. You do want to be legit, don’t you?

Well, there it is. That’s what I’d be serving at my ideal Memorial Day bar-b-que. Whether or not you decide to go any of our recommendations, I’d simply say this: if you put some thought into what alcohol you buy, your Memorial Day will be that much the better for it. As always, feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section. Happy Memorial Day!

Kirk is a Maine-born, military brat who moved no fewer than 12 times during his childhood. He came to the DC area in 2004 for his undergrad and decided that it was the place for him. Since graduating, he’s nabbed a job with the Fed and spends most of his free time hunting for cheap thrills in the city. Find out why he loves DC.

4 thoughts on “We Love Drinks: Memorial Day BBQ

  1. My Mexican fiesta themed BBQ (think fajitas) will feature a pinata dispensing margaritas. might be our most genius idea yet.

  2. I now feel a tad ashamed that I didn’t recommend any American wines!!

    SO you could also have American sparkling wine (I like Gruet from New Mexico, really surprisingly good and inexpensive) and the delightfully light and aromatic Horton Viognier from Virginia.

    Whew. I feel much better now. ;)

  3. A Rickey is made with club soda and not simple syrup. The crispness from the club soda makes it refreshing, which you’re not going to get from simple syrup. It is a great cocktail for a bbq, though.