The Secret Ingredient That Will Have You Sipping Cocktails All Summer Long

Summertime: the living is easy, and our drinks should be easy, too. Lazy languid days demand sips for reclining leisurely. Speaking practically, though, a great summertime cocktail should have something to help replenish all the fluids we're losing through all that exertion in the heat. What does that? While water is the obvious choice, those who like their beverages to taste like something look for alternatives to plain water. The cucumber, cousin to the watermelon, is an ideal candidate. High in water content, distinct yet delicate in flavor profile, it plays very well with other ingredients and can actually lower blood temperature (per PA Eats). Like the perfect child at summer camp, it makes friends easily and draws out others' personalities without losing its own integrity.

Cucumber is also something of a chameleon: it works well in a wide range of beverages, where it emerges as cool, bright, or flowery. It does a great job playing the straight man to a spicy sidekick (via Punch). When it comes to spirits, however, you will almost certainly want to keep it simple and stick to something clear: gin, vodka, or tequila; anything darker and more complex would obscure cucumber's subtle light.

If you want to see what cucumber alone does for your drink, try something basic, like a cucumber martini. If you make your martini with vodka, the cucumber's own, slightly grassy flavor emerges most clearly and will give you a hint of what's in store.

Cucumbers: not just for spa water anymore

When you're ready to move on, one of the first flavor combinations to try is cucumber with lime. Adding a muddled cucumber to the bottom of your gin and tonic will quickly take it up a notch, drawing out some of the gin's herbal notes in an unexpected way. The coolness of the cucumber mixes well with the citrus punch of the lime and makes for a surprising combination of herbaceous and acidic.

Mixing cucumber and mint is another popular summer choice, since both provide a welcome cooling sensation. The Minimalist Baker provides a lovely example of this combination, featuring mint, lime, gin, and a bit of sugar to sweeten things up a bit. If you want something on the sweeter side that isn't cloying, cucumber is really good at that, too: it's especially tasty with melons (watermelon and honeydew in particular) – Champagne and Coconuts offers a great example of the winning cucumber-melon combination.

Cucumber also highlights the sweetly fragrant elements of elderflower, an ingredient that's increased significantly in popularity and availability over the past few years (it was featured in Prince Harry and Megan Markle's wedding cake). The Alcohol Professor notes that elderflower liqueur has even been nicknamed "the bartender's ketchup" for its versatility). In turn, a growing number of mixologists are experimenting with combining the two to great effect. And if you'd prefer something nonalcoholic, cucumber makes a killer lemonade (via