Last week the Times anointed their official summer cocktail of 2006. It’s called The Cuke and consists of limes, mint, and cucumbers muddled with sugar, steeped in gin, and strained over ice with a splash of seltzer. It sounds stunning and we have every intention of mixing up a batch for our next get-together. But what if you’re less the garden party thrower and more just a garden variety boozer? What about those nights when you need a drink without much fuss, at home, perhaps alone? But you don’t want to just knock back straight liquor—that would be crossing a line after all. Why not stop in at your local bodega for some of these inspiring readymade mixers? After all, nothing’s more refreshing than a tropical drink.

Broaden Your MixersBy far the best of all is D&G Ginger Beer. This concoction made in Jamaica (where reportedly the hottest ginger is grown) has such a spicy kick that you might think it has alcohol, but it doesn’t. It is to ginger ale what Guinness is to beer. Mix it with a dark rum like Meyer’s for the classic Dark and Stormy cocktail. D&G also puts out a Kola Champagne, which tastes a lot like cream soda but not quite as cloying. Still you will need to temper it with a good squirt of lime (which you can find in any decent bodega too) before combining it with a shot of vodka for a new take on the Champagne Cocktail (no champagne involved of course). It's hard to resist the packaging of Country Club Frambuesa, a Dominican raspberry soda. Pair it with vodka and more lime for a very red Cosmo indeed. From Mexico comes a cool line of sodas called Jarritos in flavors like limon, tamarind, or grapefruit—which works well as a tart accompaniment to gin. Jarritos drinks have the extra attraction of being made with sugar, not the sickly corn syrup ubiquitous in North American cokes. Across Central America coconut juice is a common refresher—the top of the fruit is hacked off and a straw stuck right in. Goya cans a fine coconut water that has bits of pulp, which make gives you something to chew on. Coco Rico is more refreshing since its carbonation balances the sweetness better. With rum, a slight saltiness emerges from the coconut that is very alluring. Avoid the Tropical Fantasy Coconut Soda with its smell of sun tan lotion. In fact avoid all the Tropical Fantasy drinks; they come in plastic bottles. One reason most of these other sodas are so clean tasting is their old-fashioned glass bottles. Look for them in the cases in the back, past the vitamin waters and power ades, at bodegas in less gentrified neighborhoods. These are the underdogs of the soft drink world, and they deserve a taste, especially with some hooch on a hot summer night.