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Our favorite bourbon cocktails for summer (it’s not just a cold-weather drink)

Yes, bourbon is a summer spirit

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We get it. Bourbon is warming, sometimes quite potent, and well-suited for fall and midwinter sipping. But if you don’t also think of bourbon whiskey as a summer spirit, you’re doing it wrong. Sure, you can enjoy a nuanced, complex bourbon on an unseasonably cool evening while you sit around a campfire. But it’s also a great spirit for mixing into fresh, seasonably appropriate summer bourbon cocktails.

Why bourbon works for summer cocktails

Whiskey cocktail
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While gin, vodka, tequila, and rum seem to get most of the love during the warmer months, if you’re letting your bourbon bottles collect dust, you’re really missing out. The corn-based spirit pairs perfectly with herbs, sparkling water, and other fresh, warm-weather ingredients.

Also, while some of the clear spirits are mostly there just to add booze to the drink, bourbon not only adds a nice alcohol element, but flavors like toffee, vanilla, charred wood, dried fruits, cinnamon, pepper, and gentle spices.

Our favorite summer bourbon cocktails

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Now that you understand why you should stock up on bourbon whiskey this summer for mixing, it’s time to find cocktails to use it in. Below you’ll find four of our favorite summer bourbon cocktails with ingredients and preparation instructions. Keep scrolling to see them all.

Bourbon Highball

Highball cocktail
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When it comes to refreshing bourbon-based drinks, there’s no beating the Bourbon Highball. This drink is simply made with bourbon topped off with seltzer or soda water. It’s simple, thirst-quenching, and perfect for summer.

What you’ll need to make a Whiskey Highball

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • Soda water topper

The Whiskey Highball recipe steps

  1. Add ice to a highball or pint glass.
  2. Add 2 ounces of bourbon to the glass.
  3. Top it with soda or seltzer water.
  4. Stir to combine.
  5. Garnish it with a slice of lime.

Bourbon Sour

Whiskey sour

The Bourbon Sour is a classic cocktail featuring bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar (some recipes add an egg white as well). It’s sweet, sour, and refreshing on a hot summer night. Make one, and you’ll want to spend the whole summer drinking them.

What you’ll need to make a Bourbon Sour

  • 2 ounces bourbon whiskey
  • 1 ounce of fresh lemon juice
  • .5 ounces simple syrup

The Bourbon Sour recipe steps

  1. Add bourbon, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup to an ice-filled shaker.
  2. Shake the ingredients vigorously to combine.
  3. Strain it into an ice-filled rocks glass.
  4. Garnish it with a lemon wheel.

Gold Rush

Gold Rush
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While we love a good classic bourbon-based cocktail, sometimes we want to enjoy a creative contemporary drink. Created sometime in the early aughts by bartender T.J. Siegal at New York’s popular Milk & Honey, it’s a fresh, flavorful drink that features bourbon, honey syrup, and freshly squeezed lime juice. It’s kind of like the classic Bee’s Knees but with the gin swapped out for bourbon.

What you’ll need to make a Gold Rush

  • 2 ounces of bourbon whiskey
  • .75 ounces of honey syrup
  • .75 ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice

The Gold Rush recipe steps

  1. In an ice-filled shaker, add bourbon, lemon juice, and honey syrup.
  2. Shake the ingredients vigorously to combine.
  3. Strain the drink into a chilled rocks glass or old-fashioned glass.
  4. Garnish with a lemon peel or a lemon wheel.

Mint Julep

Mint Julep
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You probably know the iconic Mint Julep as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. But you don’t have to only imbibe this drink during the “fastest two minutes in sports.” You can drink this sweet, flavorful, herbal, boozy drink all summer long. Perfect for a hazy summer night, the drink is made with bourbon, sugar, crushed or shaved ice, and fresh mint. What’s not to love? You drink a Mojito on a hot, sunny day, so why not a Mint Julep?

What you’ll need to make a Mint Julep

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of water
  • 4-5 mint leaves

The Mint Julep recipe steps

  1. Add mint leaves, powdered sugar, and water to a highball glass.
  2. Lightly muddle the mint leaves, sugar, and water.
  3. Add shaved ice to the glass.
  4. Add the bourbon and stir to combine.
  5. Garnish it with a mint leaf.

Bottom line

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The key to making a summery bourbon-based cocktail is to keep it fresh. If your base is a well-made, long-aged bourbon, it will already be flavorful. You don’t need to add much to complete it. This is why some of the best warm-weather bourbon cocktails are fairly simple in their overall makeup. Don’t add too many ingredients. Let the bourbon shine through.

Editors' Recommendations

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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