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Summer Happy Hour: Old School Tunes and Drinks

Nothing says laid-back summer quite like relaxing on the patio with a good cocktail and the perfect music playlist. Serve up some yacht tunes and gin and tonics for the perfect old-school summer happy hour.

It’s almost time for Happy Hour! And when you combine Happy Hour, Friday, and the heat of a gorgeous summer day…well, that’s a perfect combination, in my book!

Today I share with you a relaxing take on a summer happy hour, with some special variations of one of my favorite cocktails, the gin and tonic. Along with that, I’ve got a “yacht music” playlist that will take you back to summers gone by. I’ll bet you know the words to every song!

Sounds like it’s time for some ideal social self-care!

Let’s jump into today’s post, where we create cocktails and music for a perfect summer happy hour on the patio.

Read About Social Self-Care for Women Over 50

tall palm trees tinted in shades of blue and pink, representing time for summer happy hour

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Cocktails and Music for a Summer Happy Hour on the Patio

Cocktails: Gin and Tonic Recipes

cartoon drawings of drinks in different colors and glass shapes with straws and fruit garnishes

The gin and tonic is a classic summer cocktail, and for good reason.

It’s light, refreshing, and not overly sweet. A squeeze of lime makes the drink pop!

And although I love the classic version, I’ve discovered that there are a crazy number of variations on this oldie but goodie.

So many, actually, that you could drink a different recipe every Friday night for the whole summer!

Let’s get started:

  • Make individual cocktails in beautiful glasses,
  • or serve it by the pitcher if you’re hosting a crowd.
  • Put out a selection of infusions so people can make unique variations.
  • Add in some fun drink toys and cocktail napkins and you’ve got a party started!

Summer Happy Hour Cocktails: gin and tonics

A Classic Gin and Tonic

Want a truly classic gin and tonic, individualized with multiple garnish possibilities?

Look no further than Platings and Pairings for information on how to choose the right gin and the right tonic (quality ingredients create a quality drink!).

Erin also has created two amazing variations on this cocktail, first a blood orange gin and tonic (I drool at the thought of blood orange anything!), and also a creative charred lemon gin and tonic.

A Spanish Gin Tonic

Have you ever heard of a Spanish gin tonic? Yes, that’s correct, it’s a gin tonic, not a gin and tonic, this time around. Meghan at Fox and Briar explains the difference – it’s all in the aromatics!

She shows you how to use a large variety of them for this special version of the drink.

3 Herbal Gin and Tonics

It’s time for a taste test with Julia and friends from Vivalinka!

Her three stand-out recipes include an Earl Grey gin and tonic, a hibiscus and lemon gin and tonic, and a rosemary and grapefruit gin and tonic.

You’ll love reading about how these three taste testers each picked a different winner! (And it was tough to choose – but I loved the Earl Grey the most).

A Gin and Tonic – 6 Ways

Finally, be sure to check out Eden at Sugar and Charm as she offers up a little history lesson on this classic drink (it was first used as a medicinal treatment – who knew?).

Eden’s cocktails are absolutely beautiful, too!

Here you will find a classic gin and tonic, a frozen classic, cranberry thyme gin and tonic (I’m thinking of the Holidays with this one!), a lavender gin and tonic, a purple acai gin and tonic (can we call that one a health drink?), and finally, a fruit-infused version.

All delicious.

summer happy hour quote "summertime is always the best of what might be"

Summer Happy Hour Music: An Easygoing Oldies Playlist – AKA “Yacht Music”

Now that you’ve created your cocktail of choice, it’s time to put on some tunes that will have you dreaming of summer evenings past.

Looking back, doesn’t life seem so much more carefree when we were kids than it is today? Grab on to that feeling as you listen to this music!

I chose these particular songs because, for whatever reason, I strongly associate them with summertime.

A lot of them are what’s become known as “Yacht Rock” or “West Coast Sound”, but I just think of it all as fun, easy-listening music that brings back joyful memories of days past.

You won’t have to yell over them to be heard, but you just might find yourself singing along to them more than you’d expect!

You should customize your playlist according to your own preferences, of course. I’ve provided thirty-four great songs to get the evening started, and you can go from there! (Let me know in the comments below what songs you’d add!)

If you’d like to add a bit of discussion or wagering to your evening, feel free to quiz your happy hour partners on the year these songs were released! I’ve added that info below to help you out.

An interesting side note: Out of thirty-four songs, seven of these are from 1972. I don’t know if that was just a stellar time for easy-listening rock tunes, but I do know it’s the year I received a birthday gift in the form of a purple transistor radio, and it was glued to my hip forevermore, blaring hit tunes from KCBQ-San Diego! Ahh…such memories!

Here’s My Summer Happy Hour “Yacht Rock” Playlist:

  1. Ventura Highway – America (1972)
  2. Saturday in the Park – Chicago (1972)
  3. Summer Breeze – Seals and Crofts (1972)
  4. Kokomo – Beach Boys (1988)
  5. Drift Away – Dobie Gray (1973)
  6. Jamming – Bob Marley (1977)
  7. Daydream – The Lovin’ Spoonful (1966)
  8. You Make Lovin’ Fun – Fleetwood Mac (1977)
  9. Walking on Sunshine – Katrina and the Waves (1983)
  10. Hey Nineteen – Steely Dan (1980)
  11. I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash (1972)
  12. What a Fool Believes – Doobie Brothers (1978)
  13. Doctor My Eyes – Jackson Browne (1972)
  14. Take It Easy – Eagles (1972)
  15. Chuck E.’s in Love – Rickie Lee Jones (1979)
  16. Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffet (1977)
  17. I Got a Name – Jim Croce (1973)
  18. The Boys of Summer – Don Henley (1984)
  19. Sunny Afternoon – The Kinks (1966)
  20. Cruel Summer – Bananarama (1983)
  21. Brandy – Looking Glass (1972)
  22. Vacation – The Go-Go’s (1982)
  23. Centerfield – John Fogerty (1985)
  24. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty (1989)
  25. Vahevala – Loggins and Messina (1971)
  26. Summer of ’69 – Bryan Adams (1988)
  27. In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel (1986)
  28. Beach Baby – First Class (1974)
  29. Jackie Blue – Ozark Mountain Daredevils (1974)
  30. Listen to What the Man Said – Wings (1975)
  31. It’s Too Late – Carole King (1971)
  32. Key Largo – Bertie Higgins (1982)
  33. The Finer Things – Steve Winwood (1987)
  34. Little Jeanie – Elton John (1980)
quote "the summer night is like a perfection of thought", summer happy hour

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Final Thoughts on Summer Happy Hour: Old School Tunes and Drinks

Do you look forward to Friday evenings more in the summer than the remainder of the year?

There is nothing quite like kicking back on the patio with good music, good drinks, and good friends.

What kind of rituals do you have in place to transition into the weekend?

A special cocktail and some favorite music from my younger days do it for me! I love this combination for a relaxing summer happy hour.

I’d love to hear what songs you would add to this playlist – I’m sure I’ve left out a bunch of great ones. Let me know in the comments below.


tall palm trees tinted in shades of blue and pink, representing time for summer happy hour
summer happy hour quote "summertime is always the best of what might be"
two bright and fruity cocktails with lemons and straws, ready for summer happy hour
fizzy clear cocktail drink with yellow lemon slices on a sky blue background, perfect summer happy hour
cocktail with lemon slices and a silver cocktail shaker, ready for a perfect summer happy hour
gin and tonic in a tall glass with lemon slices, and a blue lake and sky in the background, make a perfect summer happy hour

9 thoughts on “Summer Happy Hour: Old School Tunes and Drinks”

  1. This post made me SO happy:) so many songs plating around it my head. Summer of 69 is one my FAVORITE songs ever, it always throws me back to carefree days and summer fun. We actually have a summer playlist in our car now – the husband loves anything 80’s so there is a lot of that:) As for cocktails in the summer, I am a mojito girl all the way.

    1. I’m so glad you liked it! I really curated that list of songs to be fun and evoke a summertime days-gone-by feel. And I love a good mojito, too!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Josie! That was exactly my goal with the playlist – to bring back summer memories! Glad it worked for you.

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