by Mike Wargo

It’s heating up at last. The sun is out, my allergies are kicking in, and my car’s windshield no longer has a thin sheet of frost on it every morning.

And with the warm weather finally starting, it’s time to switch out the hot toddies and boozy apple ciders for something a bit more light and fresh.

Some people think that drinking whiskey and bourbon are more for staying warm in the cold months, but that’s just not true. Mixing great bourbons with fruits and herbs make for phenomenal sipping drinks for the beach or the back porch.

 

Mint Julep

 We’re starting out with a classic and the official drink of the Kentucky Derby (They serve almost 120,000 mint juleps every year). The great thing about the mint julep is how easy it is to make. It just needs a few simple ingredients that you should always have for your home bar.

 

2 oz. bourbon (Woodford Reserve recommended)
½ oz. simple syrup
3 sprigs of mint
Crushed ice

In a julep cup (or highball glass if that’s all you got), pour in your simple syrup. Then use a muddler or the bottom of a wooden spoon to crush up two sprigs of mint with the syrup. Fill the cup about ¾ full with crushed ice and then add your bourbon. Stir it up and garnish with your extra mint sprig.

 

Whiskey Smash 

Sort of a twist on the mojito, the whiskey smash is filled with bright citrus flavors that are cool and refreshing.

 

 

2 oz. bourbon (Elijah Craig recommended)
3 mint leaves
¾ oz. simple syrup
¾ oz. lemon juice
1 slice of orange

In a cocktails shaker, muddle 2 mint leaves and the orange slice in the simple syrup. Then add your bourbon, lemon juice, and fill with ice. Shake well, then strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with mint and enjoy.

Pro tip: adapt this cocktail with your favorite fruits. Swap out the orange for whatever fruit you might like. I’m a big fan of peaches, so I toss in two slices of pealed peaches.

 

Kentucky Berry Slugger

During the summer, I’ll head to the farmer’s market every couple weeks to get fresh picked fruit. And every time I go, I make sure to stop by the blueberry stands. I love blueberries both for eating and for making cocktails. And this cocktail is incredibly fruity and delicious.

 

 

8 blueberries
1½ oz. bourbon 
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
Seltzer water or club soda

Muddle the blueberries in a cocktail shaker until the juices are released and the berries are crushed. Fill the shaker with ice, then add the bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake well and strain into rocks glass. Then top it with your seltzer or club soda. I like to toss a couple more blueberries in the glass so you can have some boozy blueberries when you finish your drink.

Pro tip: make a large batch and pour it into a cleaned out wine bottle or pitcher. Put a wine stopper in the bottle and keep cold in the fridge for easy access to your cocktail for parties or for yourself.

 

Kentucky Buck

A “buck” is a group of drinks that is made up of ginger beer, a liquor, and citrus. It’s a term that covers this drink and the always-reliable Moscow Mule. I love an ice-cold buck at a patio bar, but on the rare days where I have ginger beer in my apartment, this is my go-to recipe.

 

 

1 chopped strawberry
¾ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
2 oz. bourbon (Wild Turkey recommended)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Ginger beer 

Muddle your chopped strawberry, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add the bourbon, bitters, and fill the shaker with ice. Then shake and strain into an ice-filled glass, preferably highball. Fill the rest of the glass with ginger beer. 

 

Bourbon Sweet Tea

It doesn’t get more Southern than bourbon sweet tea and it is a good life decision to always have at least two jars full of this cocktail in your fridge throughout the spring and summer. You never know when the perfect night for sitting outside and sipping on sweet tea might arise.

 

 

3 cups water
½ cup sugar
2 or 3 black tea bags
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
1 lime, sliced into wedges
1 orange, sliced into wedges
1 cup bourbon

First thing’s first. Gotta make the sweet tea. Combine the water and sugar into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Then stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then pour the sugar water into a mason jar and toss in those tea bags. Let them steep for 5 to 10 minutes. The longer you steep the tea, the stronger it’ll be. Once your tea is done steeping, remove the bags and toss in the fruits and bourbon. Put the lid on the jar and chill in the fridge. Then anytime you want your sweet tea, just pour it in a glass and enjoy.

  

Whiskey Rock-a-Roller 

Created based on a rhubarb pie, this cocktail by famed mixologist Tobin Ellis is a great mix of sweet and sour flavors, accentuated by whatever bourbon you choose.

 

2 tbsp. sugar
5 raspberries
3 oz. bourbon (Bulleit recommended)
1 oz. lemon juice
½ oz. strawberry liqueur
4 dashes rhubarb bitters
1 sprig mint

Crush your sugar and 4 raspberries in a cocktail shaker. Add your bourbon, lemon juice, liqueur, and bitters. Fill the shaker with ice and shake. Strain over ice and garnish with the last raspberry and the mint sprig.

 

 Spring Breeze

 Brought to you by Jim Beam, this one is sweet as hell.

 

 

1.5 oz bourbon (Jim Beam recommended)
¾ oz. pineapple juice
¾ oz. raspberry syrup
½ oz. peach liqueur
½ oz. lemon juice 

This is impossibly simple to make. Dump everything in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, and strain into a coupe glass. Boom. Done.

 

We love great bourbon cocktails and we want to hear yours. Send us your summer cocktail recipes in the comments!

Mike Wargo
Mike Wargo

Mike Wargo is a style, health, and travel writer based out of Nashville, TN. Born and raised in South Bend, IN, he relocated to Nashville after graduating Ball State University in 2016. He likes expensive whiskey, cheap food, and the Whiskey, Ink, and Lace warehouse cat, Basil.


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