In John Cheever's masterful short story "The Swimmer," Neddy Merrill swigs cocktails as he makes his way home by traversing across all the pools in the neighborhood. At the Bunkers', Merrill interrupts a soiree where "a smiling bartender he had seen at a hundred parties gave him a gin and tonic and he stood by the bar for a moment, anxious to not get stuck in any conversation that would delay his voyage." At the Biswangers' pool, he throws back a whiskey. But the more Merrill swims and drinks, the darker his journey becomes.
I won't spoil the ending, but I can't help but think about Cheever's story, first published in The New Yorker in July 1964 — or the film version, which stars Burt Lancaster and was released four years later — anytime I enjoy a beverage by the pool.
The truth is, drinking and swimming don't mix well. Enjoy too many cocktails, and your senses become impaired, which might lead you to making reckless decisions. Plus, once the alcohol enters your bloodstream, your temperature drops, which can cause hypothermia if you're swimming in cold water. Stick to the shallow end, and, when you're imbibing, avoid open water.
Thanks to generous friends, I have my own Midtown pool to crash for a few weeks every summer. It's small, not too deep, and saltwater. It's not a diving pool, and my friends and I are long past the days of playing Marco Polo or Chicken. My most reckless behavior is treading water for so long that my toes turn pruney. So, yes, I do like to have a plastic cup of something to sip on while I lean on a foam noodle, or something more bracing for when we get out of the pool.
I'm not the only one: Despite the dangers of overdoing it on the booze while on the water, today you can buy everything from floating blow-up drink holders that come shaped as swans, flamingos, and unicorns to the Play Platoon, an inflatable beer pong table. There are floating bars, floating coolers, and floating beer koozies. Whether you're actually getting into the pool or remaining dry on deck, avoid glass at all costs. Switch to the ubiquitous red Solo cups, hard plastic tumblers, or fancier options like silicone wine glasses. Grown-up sippy cups are a great option for backyards that are buggy.
There are dozens of swimming pool-themed cocktails, including a blue-hued vodka, rum, curacao, and coconut concoction that's called — you guessed it — the Swimming Pool. It's too fancy for me. Others swear by margaritas or mojitos. I prefer to keep my poolside cocktail simpler — say, gin or vodka with a flavored sparkling water from San Pellegrino, or white wine decanted straight from the box.
Another new favorite is pre-mixed sangria. The Spanish wine and fruit punch, available in red and white varieties, dates back to the 18th century. Thanks to modern packaging methods, sangria is enjoying a major resurgence. I've found Eppa SupraFruta Red Sangria, bottled in California and mixed with organic pomegranate, blueberry, and blood orange juices, on local shelves alongside the more traditional Santos Sangria, which hails from Spain and comes in a bottle or a pool-friendly box.
My top favorite in the bottled sangria category: The Eppa SupraFruta White Sangria, which boasts three times the antioxidants of white wine thanks to the superfruit blend of peach, mango, and blood orange juices. I also love the low-calorie Beso Del Sol White Sangria, which comes from Spain, pours from a box, and has just 74 calories per glass. And a bottle of Lolea No. 2 White Sangria, another Spanish offering packaged in a cheery, polka-dotted bottle, makes the perfect hostess gift for my pool-owning friend.