Easy Bourbon Cocktails For Summer

When it comes to whisky cocktails, I like to go classic. Here are my top three easy bourbon cocktails for summer

If you hail from the more northerly latitudes you’ll know that, when the frost’s gnawing at your fingers, there’s no better antidote than a straight-up single malt Scotch. However… during the summer cocktail season, American whisky comes into its own — especially bourbon.

So why do bourbons make such a solid base for other ingredients to dance around? I reckon it’s the sweet, smokey aromas that come from ageing in charred oak barrels. Maybe the Kentucky summer sunshine has something to do with it too. Who knows.

If you enjoy short and strong cocktails (the ones I’m featuring below should be mixed to between 20% and 30% volume), a high quality alcohol base is essential.

The last time I made the three included here I used Woodford Reserve, partly because I like its vanilla and tobacco flavours, but also because they sent me some for fre, haha. I’m also a sucker for aesthetics though and, let’s face it, the bottle looks cool on the kitchen shelf, with its deep amber colour and old-fashioned medicinal-looking design.

Let’s get down to it then: here are my top three easy bourbon cocktails for summer. They only need a few ingredients each. So, as long as they’re served cold, in a good, solid glass, there’s no way you can mess them up.

(1) Whisky Sour


Whisky sours have been around since the days of the Wild West. Powerful, refreshing and zingy, this is a no-nonsense cocktail that’s hard to get wrong — as long as decent whisky is used. Apart from maybe the bourbon, you’ll likely already have all the ingredients you need in your cupboard, so no need to spend ages trawling the supermarket isles.

A generous slug of bourbon
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about half the amount as you have of whisky)
Sugar syrup: ie around a teaspoon of sugar per serving, dissolved a little warm water, to take the edge of the lemon (experiment till you get the right balance of sweetness)
Egg white (about half an egg’s worth). This is optional but recommended. It adds a lovely creamy head that complements the sourness
A few large ice cubes

Shake it all up in a cocktail shaker for half a minute. Pour into a short glass tumbler, sip… and wait for your tastebuds to explode.

(2) Old Fashioned 


These have come back into fashion in recent years, partly due to the influence of Don Draper from the series Mad Men. They’re not for everyone though — their face-puckering bitterness can be too much for some. So play around with the quantity of bitters until it hits the right note for you. Another short, strong and simple one, the Old Fashioned enables the bourbon to shine (so, again, make sure you use a good one).

A large slug of bourbon
A few dashes of Angostura bitters (don’t hold back)
Sugar syrup: half a teaspoon of sugar, mixed with a little warm water
A twist of lemon, orange rind. Or a cherry

Dissolve the sugar with the warm water in the glass. Add the bitters, then the ice, then top up with bourbon. Easy. Finish with the citrus rind or, my favourite, a cheap ‘n’ tacky glacé cherry.

(3) Manhattan


My third choice is closely related to the classic Martini, in that it contains Vermouth and eschews ice in favour of good-old strong, in-your-face liquor. Oh, but this one’s stirred, not shaken, so not one for Mr Bond. Again, because there are so few ingredients for it to hide behind, an artisan vermouth will lift your effort above the competition. The last time I made these, I used Albourne Estate’s English vermouth.

Two parts bourbon
One part vermouth
A dash of Angostura bitters

Stir the ingredients together in a shaker, or separate glass, with some ice, until cold. Strain into a martini-style glass, garnishing with a cherry or a twist.

Woodford Reserve small-batch bourbon is available at Waitrose, currently on offer at £25 (normally £30.50). See www.woodfordreserve.com

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