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Happy (Hour) Camper

So far this summer, my family has two camping trips under our belts, and we hope to log a few more before school starts again. For my husband, that means plenty of time to test his new fishing reel, and for our daughters that means lots of butterflies caught in mason jars and more than a few sunburns (hey, I try to keep them covered in SPF 50, but they’re in and out of the water all day!). For me, that means all of the above AND a summer of perfecting my camping cocktails.

Camping is all about simplicity, or so we tell ourselves. We bring mini versions of condiments, and we pack clothes that work at the lake and around the campfire. I like to enjoy fancy cocktails on occasion, but I’m hardly going to pack a shaker and garnishes for a few nights in the woods. This is camping, not glamping!

However, one does not have to sacrifice taste for simplicity. So this summer I am testing several drinks to find the perfect camping adult treat, and you, dear reader, can tell me if I’m crazy or if you have some ideas I should try.

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My first stroke of genius was to buy boxed wine rather than risk bringing bottles. This is brilliant for two reasons: Bottles require corkscrews (unless you get screw-tops, but don’t mess with my logic here), and bottles don’t keep well. You would not believe how quickly a nice bottle of syrah can turn into vinegar after a day in a hot bear box. And if you don’t drink it all the first night, you’re bound to find bugs floating in it, a fine layer of dust on the rim, and well, a not-so-great wine for your second night around the campfire.

I took a regular bottle of wine on my most recent camping trip, and guess what? I had to find a neighbor with a corkscrew to open them because we forgot ours, and the wine was terrible after the first night. Someday I’ll learn to follow my own advice.

I like Bota Box wines, particularly the Cabernet Sauvignon. The box shape seems to be more compact and portable than some of the other brands, which means there’s always room for it among the graham crackers and marshmallows. However, at three liters, it’s the equivalent of four bottles, and more than enough for one weekend of camping. The best part is that it still tastes good for the next week after you get home. The box is airtight and keeps the wine safe from light and oxygen – the two things that will turn it sour in no time.

The kids have their juice box, and I have mine. Happy campers!
The kids have their juice box, and I have mine. Happy campers!

I also discovered the convenience of mini boxes of wine, or “Tetra Paks.” These are the equivalent of about three glasses of wine – a typical bottle – but are packed in cardboard so you can take them places that glass is not allowed. I love these for evening hikes when we want to share a bottle of wine without packing in a heavy bottle. Vendange makes some drinkable Tetra Paks, and Bota Box has its own version as well. Black Box makes both large boxes and Tetra Paks, and while Black Box is really tasty, the big boxes are rather pricey, so I stick with the smaller versions when I’m on a budget (which is all the time).

Since one does not always want lukewarm wine on a hot summer day, I have also been experimenting with pre-mixed cocktails, and my favorite by far is the Skinnygirl Margarita. It’s not sickly sweet like so many other pre-mixed margaritas, and it’s lower in calories. However, one bottle disappears pretty quickly (or is that just me?), so pack several if you plan to share at all. The Skinnygirl White Cranberry Cosmo is also really tasty.

For my most recent camping trip, I brought along a slushy margarita concoction that I bought at a Tastefully Simple party (picture PartyLite for food). This was a bucket of blueberry-pineapple margarita mix to which you add water and alcohol and freeze. The alcohol doesn’t freeze solid, so it stays in a nice slushy state ready for you to scoop out and enjoy – with or without an umbrella.

I would not ordinarily recommend this type of drink for camping because it’s unlikely to stay slushy in your ice chest for very long. But my sister-in-law and I devoured it on the first day and it was a fun, decadent treat, totally out of the ordinary for camping. I’ve found some make-ahead slushy recipes online, so have fun experimenting and taking your fancy drink with you – just be sure to drink it quickly before it turns to a syrupy, liquor-y mess.

And here’s my final tip, just for the mommies out there. Make your kids’ drinks pull double-duty as mixers. There’s no point in packing tonic water if your kids drink Sprite. The gin doesn’t know the difference. Malibu goes with just about any fruit juice, as does vanilla vodka. Just be sure to have a designated Mommy Cup so no one accidentally mixes up Junior’s OJ with yours.

What should I try on my next camping trip? Does anyone have a good camping cocktail recipe? What are your secrets for imbibing while in the Great Outdoors?

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About Bethany Drysdale

Bethany Drysdale
Bethany Drysdale is mom to two little princesses, and is on a mission to stock her wine rack with great-tasting wines that won't break the bank. Swim lessons and new sneakers trump the wine budget in her house, but she won't sacrifice great taste and neither should you! Read more from Bethany at Mama's Wine Rack. Bethany is a former journalist and current public relations professional who decided in 2010 to pair her love for writing with her love for wine, and Mama's Wine Rack was born. She lives in Dayton, Nev., with her daughters Emma and Abbi, husband Sean, and dog Rusty. There is a cat or two calling her doorstep home, and possibly a goldfish in her future. Follow Bethany's quest to fill her wine rack at http://MamasWineRack.com.

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