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Summer Games, Summer Drinks

What beats killing the summer doldrums with a great video game? Chasing it with the perfect cocktail. We share our picks for both!

Summer should be a time for relaxing. And if you're reading this site, you most likely prefer to relax by playing a video game, right?

When we think of gaming in the summertime, our minds tend to slip back to the carefree days of youth, when the long lazy months between school semesters stretched ahead of us, begging to be crammed full of gaming. These days we don't have the same luxury of taking a few months off we did as kids, but the tradeoff is that we have legal access to liquid forms of relaxation.

Summer is as much a time for kicking back with refreshing cocktails as for playing video games, so we figured, why not combine the two? We've paired together some of our favorite summertime games with some of our favorite summertime drinks for the ultimate in dog-days relaxation. We've even included simple recipes to help you along! Just remember to drink (and game) responsibly. And obviously you should only test out our recommendations if you're of legal age to consume alcohol in your state, city, or country!

Photography by Catherine Nguyen.

Bubble Bobble

Bubble Bobble | "Bub and Bob's Gin Fizz"

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1 egg white
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp. superfine sugar
  • 1/2 oz. half and half
  • 1 oz. club soda
  • 2 to 3 drops orange flower water

Pour ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously – more than you would for a usual cocktail. Strain into a highball glass over ice.

For a few years I worked in a town that had no arcade - which, as an avid coin-op player, used to drive me nuts. However, every summer I'd get a week's reprieve when a traveling fair would come to town, which included a couple of small arcades. When it arrived, it'd go over to the main square where the fair was set up, and check out which coin-ops were being unloaded from the trucks.

I remember seeing one that I'd never heard of, called Bubble Bobble and it had these really cute dinosaur characters on its side that I thought looked so cool. Needless to say, as soon as the place opened in the evening, I sought the game out, and after a couple of goes fell in love with it. This cocktail is the perfect match — light, fizzy, sweet, fun — and moreish. — Jaz Rignall

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Chrono Trigger | "The End of Mai Time"

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz. spiced rum
  • 1.5 oz coconut rum
  • 1 tsp. grenadine
  • 3 oz. pineapple juice
  • 2 oz. orange juice

Combine ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake gently, then strain over a punch glass of ice. Garnish with the tropical fruits or umbrellas of your choice.

Chrono Trigger launched the last summer of my life before I had to get a real job, when I could afford to be a lazy irresponsible slug and not show up for my boring summer job and suffer no real penalties for screwing over my coworkers. I'm not saying I'm proud of myself, but I am saying Chrono Trigger is awesome and that my two-week obsession with the game was totally understandable. It's the kind of spirited high adventure that feels like it belongs to the summer months: A vast world stretching out before you, just like the carefree months ahead. And the innovative (not to mention addictive) New Game + mode meant the adventure didn't have to end even after the credits rolled.

Given what a layabout the game turned me into, I can think of no better adult beverage to accompany it than the classic mai tai. It's the official drink of lounging about on the beach, watching the sun set over the waves, listening to the kind of music they pipe into the produce section of grocery stores and loving it unironically. For a game about bending time to your will, there could be no more fitting beverage than a fruity concoction that says, "I have all the time in the world." — Jeremy Parish

Defender

Defender | "Humanoid Pick-Me-Up"

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Brandy
  • 1 tsp. of Grenadine
  • 1/2 fresh lemon
  • Champagne

Build brandy and syrup in shaker with 3-4 ice cubes and squeeze the lemon juice into it. Stir (don't shake) and strain into a highball glass. Fill the balance with champagne.

Back in the summers of the '80s, I spent much of my time in my local arcades practicing for video game tournaments. One of the games I put a phenomenal amount of time into was Defender. I'd wait outside the arcade in the early morning so I could go in the moment it opened, and would spend literally spend all day playing it on a single quarter, notching up as high a score as possible before the place closed at around 3:00 am.

It was tiring work, but this refreshing, fast-acting pick-me-up has a citrusy kick, would have been the perfect cocktail to lift the spirits during those marathon gaming sessions. — Jaz Rignall

Bimmy's Cup

Double Dragon | "Billy & Jimmy's Bimmy's Cup"

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Pimm's No. 1
  • 3 oz. Ginger ale or 2 oz. lemon juice and 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. Des Ribauds Orange Dragon Liqueur
  • 1 cucumber (slices or spears)
  • Lemon twist

Fill a highball class with ice, cucumber slices to taste, and ginger ale or lemonade. Add the liqueur and Pimm's, then garnish with lemon.

I was a kid the summer I obsessed over the NES version of Double Dragon, so alcohol would have been totally inappropriate. But I worked hard to earn the money to buy a copy for myself, spending a week or two of hot afternoons helping to repaint my grandparents' house to ready it for sale. It was absolutely worth the labor. Double Dragon was marketed as a premium release, with a glossy red box and a price tag $10 higher than anything else available for the system, and I wrung every ounce of entertainment I could from the game. Even though it lacked a proper two-player mode, its bare-knuckle brawling and mild RPG elements made for a game I could enjoy again and again... especially back in the day when I had the time and patience to deal with the complete unfairness of the final stage, with its random traps and a boss who could take me out in a single hit from across the screen.

As an adult, this dragon-themed variant on the classic Pimm's Cup would have been a perfect accompaniment to my house painting endeavors. Light and refreshing, the Pimm's Cup is the official drink of Wimbledon for a good reason - it's delicious and decidedly low in alcohol content, so you won't feel completely trashed after downing a few of them. The proper recipe doesn't call for the orange liqueur, but the added hint of a citrus note nicely complements the fresh cucumber and the spices of the Pimm's. — Jeremy Parish

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Elevator Action 2 | "Elderflower Action"

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. sparkling wine (dry or prosecco)
  • 1/2 oz. St. Germain's (or other elderflower liqueur)
  • 2 oz. tonic
  • 1 blackberry

Pour tonic into a champagne flute. Add the St. Germain's, then top with sparkling wine. Drop the blackberry into the cloud of fizz.

I always loved Elevator Action as a kid, so my unexpected discovery about 10 years ago that Taito had produced an arcade-only sequel in the '90s grabbed my attention. During the aimless summer before I relocated to the West Coast and began a career in the gaming press, Elevator Action became a sort of mild obsession for me. Combining the best of Elevator Action, Rolling Thunder, and '90s anime, it was precisely the sort of game that had no business being in a Michigan arcade in the 21st century... but I'm glad it was.

The perfect cocktail to accompany this lovely but obscure arcade classic? My wife's favorite go-to, a bubble blend of sweet champagne and tonic graced by just a dash of St. Germain's elderflower liqueur. The bubbles cause the lone blackberry to float to the top, so its progress down the champagne flute is just like your heroes' trip down the maze of elevators. And Elevator Action 2 is a short game, which is ideal; the high sugar content of this fizzy cocktail means the alcohol goes straight to your head. — Jeremy Parish

Mega Man X

Mega Man X | "Mega Mojito X"

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 oz. blue Curaçao
  • 1 1/2 oz. Bacardi Limon rum or Bacardi white rum
  • 1 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz. chilled soda water
  • Mint Leaves

Mix ingredients, garnish with mint leaves. Bonus round: Use mortar and pestle to muddle mint leaves with the simple syrup. Mix resulting paste with the alcohol. Win.

I remember the arguments we used to have when Mega Man X first came out. Was it Mega Man "X" or Mega Man 10? It was one of those arguments you could have as kids back in the day, because your only source of news Nintendo Power or a errant issue of Diehard Gamefan. These days, when faced with that conflict, kids probably just look it up online, probably without ever leaving the lunchroom.

Mega Man X remains one of my favorite games in the entire Mega Man franchise, despite my deep abiding love for Mega Man 2. When Capcom finally re-released its collected edition, there's a reason I went with Mega Man X Collection instead of Mega Man Collection. That was my Mega Man: just me, my friends, a Super Nintendo, and X wasting away the summer days. — Mike Williams

Pokémon Yellow

Pokémon | Bulbasaur Julep

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 oz. minted simple syrup [mint, water, superfine sugar]

This one requires some prep: In a saucepan, dissolve 1 cup superfine sugar in 1 cup water over medium heat. Remove from heat and add one bunch fresh mint leaves. Steep for 15 minutes, then strain syrup and refrigerate until cold.

Combine minted syrup with bourbon over crushed ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.

I didn't have a lot of money back in the summer of 2004. I was living in a garden apartment just off campus at the University of Minnesota, where I had no Internet, cable... or basically anything. In the mornings, I watched Cops and The Price is Right on local television, then braved the muggy heat to walk over to the school library and play Pokémon on one of the computers.

At that time, I was heavily into IGN's Pokémon community, which was where much of the competitive community was centered. Online battling programs with GUIs were still in their infancy in those days so we mostly stuck to mIRC, where I would log in to play on #rsarena. That summer, one of the mods kicked off a massive tournament called the IGN ICE League. Named for the chatroom in which everyone congregated, we all participated in a three-month ladder, after which the top eight finishers would participate in a knockout tournament.

Suffice it to say, I made it my business to finish first in that league. With little else to do, I hung out on mIRC at the library and battled until my eyeballs were about to fall out (you'll find that this is a common theme with my summertime gaming). By then I knew the 386 Pokémon backward and forward, and most people knew me for being an utter terror with sub-punching Gengar and supporting Venusaur. I did actually end up winning the league; and to my surprise, I won the tournament as well (I usually choke during such events). The ICE League would be my last hurrah in the Pokémon community until early 2007, as the next year I got back into the Emperor's Hammer, then moved to Japan. I've played on and off since then, sometimes quite seriously, but I've never really been as good as I was back then. As a final act though, it was pretty sweet. — Kat Bailey

Mint juleps are traditionally served in silver cups. By combining both metal and plant, this makes them super-effective against both Water and Fire types. And also against the summer heat.

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Sonic the Hedgehog | "Gin & Sonic"

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Hendrick's gin
  • 1 tsp. blue Caracão
  • 3 oz. Fever Tree or Q tonic
  • lime wedge

I was still saving up for a Super NES when my friend down the block let me borrow his Sega Genesis for a few days. He packed in two games: Strider and Sonic the Hedgehog. Strider didn't do much for me; I'd played so much of the arcade version that the changes and compromises present in the home port put me off. At the least the NES version had the good grace to be something completely different! But Sonic — well, that was a revelation. I never quite managed to finish the game in the short time I had with it, but it was my first true taste of proper next-gen power. Blindingly fast and wonderfully colorful, Sonic truly offered a major step up from my humble Super NES. It wasn't enough to sway me to the dark side of Sega (I needed my Mario and Castlevania games, dammit), but it definitely renewed my determination to go 16-bit as soon as possible.

The gin and tonic makes a great match for Sonic, and not just because of the convenient pun built into the name. The G-and-T is by far the simplest cocktail, but it's no less refreshing for its minimalism. Use high-quality tonic and Hendrick's wonderfully floral gin and you have something to sip that tastes as light and summery as the green grass and blue skies of the Green Hill Zone. Add just a dash of blue Caracão (to give it the look of Sonic himself and the slightest hint of citrus) and you have a perfect pairing. — Jeremy Parish

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Street Fighter II | "Shadaloo Negroni"

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Tanqueray Rangpur gin
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. Carpano Antiqua vermouth

Lightly shake ingredients in a mixer and pour into an old fashioned glass over ice or neat into a martini glass, then add an orange twist.

In the early '90s when I was working on Mean Machines magazine back in the UK, we were lucky enough to have a Street Fighter II coin-op in the office. One of my enduring memories of the time is the staff constantly throwing down challenges to one another. Working in an ancient pre-Victorian office building, it had no air conditioning, so our gaming room used to get absolutely roasting — but we'd still play.

But I'd have loved to have this cocktail to help cool me down — plus it packs a real punch. The lime-infused Rangpur gin doesn't just tie the drink to Southeast Asia, where the series' villains call home, it also pairs wonderfully with the astringent grapefruit quality of the Campari to create a truly tasty concoction. — Jaz Rignall

Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart | Koopa Colada

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. light rum
  • 2 oz. coconut milk
  • 2 oz. pineapple juice
  • 1/2 oz. Midori

Serve in a punch glass over ice. Garnish with a cherry and pineapple wedge.

This was my game when I was a child. At the time I owned a Sega Genesis, but at some point Toys R Us got a Super Nintendo demo unit with Mario Kart loaded on. I didn't particularly care about the console war at that point; my dad was the one who bought the Genesis. So I stepped up one Saturday, took the SNES controller in my hand, and played Mario Kart for the first time. It was a revelation.

Every weekend or free day I had, I rode my bike to Toys R Us and played Mario Kart until I got kicked off the system. Mario Kart became religion in my tiny child mind. I had Battle mode mastered before I ever even owned a Super Nintendo. Eventually, my father bought me a Sega CD, which I returned for an SNES and Mario Kart, allowing me to play the game at home. But I'll never forgot those summer months spend biking out to Toys R Us for just one more race. — Mike Williams

SSX

SSX | "Muddy Avalanche"

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 2 oz. Kahlua
  • 2 oz. Bailey's Irish Cream

Toss everything together in a blender and blend until creamy. Enjoy the results with gusto.

I don't particularly like summer. I like in the DC Metro area, so summer is just muggy and unbearable. The sun itself just makes me hot and sweaty, because I have dark skin and sunlight just means more heat. I'm not a big fan of the beach because I lived in Japan and beaches hear on the East Coast aren't even comparable.

Which is all just a long way of saying I prefer colder climates and winter sports. SSX is bar-none the best winter sports game I've ever played. I remember the first time I picked it up at rental on a whim. I prefer watching winter sports, but I stay away from them because I don't want to die horribly. SSX and its sequels give me the ability to enjoy the magic of snowboarding, without breaking all the bones in my body. Is SSX realistic? No, but it is fun and will keep you playing long through the summer nights. — Mike Williams

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WarCraft III | "Gimlet the Dwarf"

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 oz. simple syrup (to taste)

Combine ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain and serve in a martini glass, neat.

I wasn't in the best place in the summer of 2002. I was broke, I was fighting with my parents, and most of my summer was spent alternately working and walking to the Metrodome to watch Twins games for $5. But that July, Blizzard released WarCraft III, and suddenly I had something to pass the time with until the school year started. Pretty soon, I was playing online for as long as 8 hours a day. It wasn't a healthy lifestyle by any means, but it was an escape.

Along the way, I actually got pretty good, and I even started writing tips for one of the many fansites that popped up around that time. Writing under the name "The Chieftess Kat" (I was an Orc player), I garnered a surprisingly large following in a short time. It got to the point that I was able to fill a chatroom with just the people who PM'd me for matches when I was in-game. That might have actually been my first real experience with blogging.

At the end of August, it was time to go back to school, and the PC I was using to play WarCraft III left with my roommate, who was moving out. I was sad to be leaving the community, but I knew that it was probably for the best because I was a little too obsessed with WarCraft III for my own good. On some days, I would get home at 7am after pulling an all nighter at work and log into WarCraft III to play until I almost literally dropped. I don't exactly look back on that summer very fondly, but I suppose WarCraft III and its community was there for me at a time when few others were. For that I'm grateful. - Kat Bailey

X-Wing

X-wing vs. TIE Fighter | "Rebel Sangria"

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle dry red wine (750 mL)
  • 1/4 cup triple sec
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 bottle club soda or sparkling water, chilled (750 mL)
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • One apple, cut into thin wedges
  • One lemon, thinly sliced
  • One orange, thinly sliced

Combine everything but the soda/sparkling water into a glass pitcher. Cover a chill until cold. Serve in red wine glasses combined with soda or sparkling water.

I was an utter nightmare to fight in an X-wing. It wasn't as maneuverable as a TIE starfighter or an A-wing, but it did have just the right mix of sturdiness, firepower, and speed. Just a couple blasts from my quad-linked lasers was enough to profoundly mess up any interceptor I ran into; and in those days, I rarely if ever missed during head-on attacks.


My secret was almost constant practice. A 14-year-old home alone for the summer, I passed my time playing X-wing vs. TIE Fighter. I quickly realized that I needed to improve my accuracy, so I started setting up large furballs against Top Ace level computers where I would fly a TIE Fighter. With virtually no room for error, I soon got very good at snapping off a shot while evading the subsequent return fire. As you've probably noticed, I can be pretty single-minded when I'm set on improving at a game. This was one of those instances.

The only thing that could stop me was the Internet itself. This being the dial-up era when usage was capped, I ended up going over the limit one too many times and getting grounded from the PC for the last month before school started. By the time I got back, my entire clan had moved on to Ultimate Online and left me to find new people to fly with. But for that summer at least, I really was one of the best snubfighter pilots you'll ever meet. — Kat Bailey


Bob's Summer Beer Sidebar

Summer is an active, fleeting season, and not all of us have the time to sit and wait for the mixing of drinks and adding of garnishes. If you prefer your alcohol contained in no-fuss bottle form, check out the following brews. — Bob Mackey

EarthBound | Fat Tire Amber Ale (New Belgium Brewery)

Though the season of the game isn't explicitly stated, EarthBound has always felt like a summer game to me-it released during the summer of 1995, so I associate the EarthBound experience with sitting in front of my TV for those three months, playing and replaying as my window-mounted air conditioner hummed noisily nearby. Sadly, I didn't have a taste for beer as a 12-year-old, but in my current status as aged man, I'd have to go with New Belgium's Fat Tire as a pairing. Like EarthBound, it's a reliable, dependable standby, with a crisp, refreshing taste-plus, it doesn't sit in your stomach like you've just drank a glass of bread. And its logo featuring a bright, red bike parked in the shade of a tree evokes the same spirit of freedom and adventure as EarthBound.

StarTropics | Pliny the Elder Double IPA (Russian River Brewing Company)

This obscure Nintendo series is essentially a tropical version of The Legend of Zelda, developed primarily for Americans-because I guess that's what we all wanted in 1990? StarTropics dominated my summers via multiple rentals, because no matter how many times I tried, the game's crushing difficulty would always cut my progress short. Unlike resort-based tropical vacations, StarTropics features invisible pits and unavoidable death traps-which is why it's so important to get nice and hammered.

A double IPA might seem a little too heavy and boozy for light summer drinking, but Pliny the Elder's citrusy taste gives it the perfect summer flavor. Plus, that 8% alcohol content really helps smooth over the frustrations of fighting giant octopodes over and over again.

Super Mario Sunshine | Pyramid Hefeweizen (Pyramid Breweries, Inc.)

Super Mario Sunshine seemed destined to be the perfect summer game. This GameCube platformer dropped Nintendo's mascot into a distinctly tropical backdrop, so what better release date than... the tail-end of August? Just as a country of children returns to school, you release a game about Mario's summer vacation!? That's just cruel, Nintendo.

Well, it's been more than a decade now, and we're all damned adults who can play video games whenever we want, so Super Mario Sunshine can finally be a true summer game. And now we can enhance the experience through the power of intoxication! I recommend Pyramid's Hefeweizen, which is the one of the few beers that isn't made more disgusting with the addition of real fruit. Drop an orange slice in that bad boy, and you'd almost think it was good for you! (But it's still beer.)

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