Of whiskey’s many natural gifts – and we could go on and on – being a refreshing summer drink is not necessarily one.
Imagine yourself at the pool bar of a resort, looking at the cocktail menu. There’s plenty of rum, sure (these places are practically rum temples), and plenty of tequila, gin, and vodka, but whiskey? The resonant woody punch of a good bourbon or rye, which spirits lovers enjoy most, is much more comfortable sipped slowly near a fire than it is taken through a straw at the beach. “The dark, heavy flavors of oak, vanilla, and baking spice are all cigars and deep leather chairs,” we wrote of the whiskey, “and play nicely with lemon juice and sunshine is like putting a hat on a bear.”
Perhaps that’s what makes refreshing whiskey drinks so satisfying when they work and so popular. They are reliably top sellers on any list, whatever the season, and can be a fantastic showcase of the craftsmanship of a particular bar or bartender: sometimes whiskey needs a great ginger-like flavor to resist it, as seen in Kentucky. Buck or Penicillin, but other times, like with the Whiskey Smash, all you need is a splash of lemon zest and a splash of mint.
No matter how you put it together, whether it’s a simple and cleverly composed Japanese Highball or a flavor-exploding paper airplane, here are seven whiskey drinks designed to see you through the summer. .
“Is there a drink more enjoyable than a well-made whiskey sour?” we asked last summer, and we’re still not sure if there are any. Whiskey, with its broad shoulders and oaky fullness, can be almost completely disarmed by slathering it with fresh lemon juice and balancing it with simple syrup, as bartenders have done pretty much forever. We say “almost” because often (but not always) you need a little extra nudge with an egg white. Check out two Whiskey Sour recipes where you don’t need egg whites here, or just whip up the classic version below.
- 2oz. Bourbon
- 0.75oz. fresh lemon juice
- 0.75oz. simple syrup
- 1 egg white
Add all ingredients to a shaker. Shake the “dry” ingredients without ice for five seconds to whip the egg. Add ice, seal the molds and shake vigorously for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass or martini glass – it will come out white at first, and the color will emerge within a minute under a paper-smooth head of foam. Squeeze a lemon twist on top of the mousse for flavoring and toss and garnish the mousse with a few drops or dashes of Angostura Bitters.
Don’t be fooled by the Mint Julep. His campaign material may have convinced you that it’s just a harmless little minty refresher, but in reality, it’s almost a double pour of bourbon, tempered only with mint and a touch of sugar. Nevertheless, some 120,000 Mint Juleps are consumed over two sunny days at Churchill Downs during the Kentucky Derby, proving that certain cocktails can become refreshing daytime summer drinks simply by sheer force of will and a little crushed ice. Find out here which is the best bourbon to use for your Mint Julep, or if the race is about to begin, make a quick one according to the recipe below.
- 2.5 oz. Bourbon
- 0.5 oz to 0.75 oz simple syrup (to taste)
- 10-12 mint leaves
In a metal mug, gently mash the mint into the simple syrup. Add bourbon and fill 2/3 with crushed ice. Stir to cool, until a gel forms on the outside. Then fill the rest of the cup with ice. Take two mint crowns, crush them lightly with your fingers and stick them against the inside near the straw. Enjoy.
New York Sour
An anonymous Chicago bartender in the early 1880s had the unlikely idea of taking a Whiskey Sour and adding a splash of red wine to the top, “inventing in a bizarre flash of insight”, we claim, “one great whiskey drinks in the hot weather of our time.” Alone, a Whiskey Sour without egg white is a usable cocktail, even if it is incomplete. Add a little red wine, however, and it becomes juicy and lovely, the fruit of the wine filling in the gaps in the cocktail perfectly. Try one with the recipe below, or find out why a cocktail invented in Chicago is called the “New York Sour” here.
- 2oz. rye whiskey
- 0.75oz. lemon juice
- 0.75oz. simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
- 0.5 to 1 oz. light red wine
Add the rye, lemon juice and simple syrup to the shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 10-12 seconds. Strain over fresh ice in a rocks glass, leaving a 0.5 inch clearance at the top of the glass. Garnish with between 0.5 oz. and 1 oz. light red wine.
The Gold Rush – whiskey, lemon juice and honey syrup – is a good and important drink, but we admit we don’t like it: “The Gold Rush as it’s normally constructed” , we write, “will forever be stuck in third gear until you do something to push it to the next level. Luckily, that something can be as simple as spicing it up with ginger, flavoring it with flowers or smoke, or even simpler and our favorite version, to add a zest of grapefruit to the shaker before shaking it over ice This so-called “royal shake” transforms the cocktail, adding complexity and depth. Find out for yourself below, or find out which bourbons work best for the drink here.
- 2oz. Bourbon
- 0.75oz. lemon juice
- 0.75oz. honey syrup
- 1 grapefruit zest, maybe 1″ x 2″, taking care to get as little white pith as possible
Add all the ingredients, including the grapefruit zest, to a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously on ice for 8-10 seconds and strain into a highball glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon slice or zest.
We hear you thinking. “The Amaretto Sour? I thought they were whiskey drinks? Well, the Amaretto Sour is a whiskey drink, or at least it should be. It’s been 10 years since a bartender named Jeffrey Morgenthaler wrote on his blog that he had “the best Amaretto Sour in the world,” and it was the shake heard around the world. Morgenthaler’s version – Amaretto and lemon, lifted with a pour of high-strength bourbon and smoothed with an egg white – completely transforms the drink. “It’s hard to overstate the number of favors the addition of high-strength bourbon brings to the Amaretto Sour,” we write, “it’s not so much a revision as a rebirth.” See for yourself with the recipe below, or learn why amaretto is better than you think here.
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake without ice for five to seven seconds to whisk in the egg white. Add ice and shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds. Strain either over fresh ice in a tall rocks glass or in a coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist and, if desired, a cherry.
Japanese Whiskey Highball
When is a whiskey soda not just a whiskey soda? When a whole generation of Japanese bartenders devotes itself to its production. Highball Whiskey has become the de facto national mixed drink of Japan, and the Japanese have, predictably, mastered the art. “Theoretically simple”, writes Masahiro Urushido of Highballs in his book The Japanese art of cocktails, “their very simplicity dictates that they be done correctly, or they will be a disappointment.” Find out why every decision matters (and why 13.5 is the magic number) here, or simply follow the instructions below.
Make sure all ingredients and utensils are as cold as possible. Add ice to a tall, narrow glass taken from the freezer and add chilled whiskey. Gently pour sparkling water down the side of the glass. Stir as little as possible, to combine the ingredients but to agitate the bubbles as little as possible. Squeeze lemon zest on top and discard.
We write that the paper plane is “like a whiskey and orange juice that has grown beautiful and for which all is well”. This crowd pleaser, invented by bartender Sam Ross in 2008, draws its charm from two different bittersweet Italian liqueurs, though the resulting cocktail isn’t particularly bitter or sweet. It’s simple to make and easy to love and “could be”, in our opinion, “the best cocktail invented in the last 100 years”. Find out how Ross’ original recipe would have made a very different cocktail here, or just make one for yourself according to the recipe below.
- 0.75oz. Bourbon
- 0.75oz. lemon juice
- 0.75oz. Amaro Nonino
- 0.75oz. Aperol
Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake for six to 10 seconds. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish while playing on MIA’s 2008 “Paper Planes” banger.