We love whiskey in all of its many different forms: bourbon, rye, Scotch, you name it. In cold weather, whiskeys provide warmth that is particularly satisfying in winter cocktails—stirred with other spirits or shaken with an autumnal cider. But come warmer days, whiskey can take on a different persona, fusing with the flavors of summer fruits like strawberry and rhubarb.
The Kentucky Buck is a cooling drink of ginger beer, bourbon, lemon juice, and strawberry, while the Whiskey Rock-a-Roller uses fresh raspberries, strawberry liqueur, and rhubarb bitters to simulate rhubarb pie in a glass. Bitter Campari is a refreshing Italian aperitif that we love to drink all summer. It’s commonly mixed with gin and sweet vermouth to make a negroni, but swapping the gin for bourbon makes an equally delicious drink called a Boulevardier.
From refreshing sours to minty smashes, here are our favorite whiskey cocktails for summertime boozing.
Unlike other stone fruit, apricots stay quite resilient when ripe and stand up to a quick sear on the grill with aplomb. Once the flesh warms through and its juices bake a bit, the apricot takes on deeper flavors that pair nicely with a spicy bourbon or rye and an equally spicy ginger beer. Swap out apricots for peaches or nectarines as the summer gets on toward the dog days. Get the recipe for Seared Apricot Ginger Cooler »
Leo Robitschek of Eleven Madison Park crafted this cocktail in honor of our 21st birthday, inspired by SAVEUR’s global influence. “While your average 21-year-old is spending their birthday getting a little too familiar with Jagermeister and Miller High-Life—not that there’s anything wrong with that—SAVEUR has already been around the world,” he says. “She’s sampled the best, and is hungry for more. Here, a perfect blend of some lesser-seen players: spicy rye, robust and savory-spiced velvet falernum, ancient and unapologetically vegetal green Chartreuse, and Linie aquavit, a spirit that, amazingly enough, has actually sailed around the world, aging in oak sherry casks to the rhythm of the rolling waves. Coconut, lime, and pineapple tie the package together; a somewhat more civilized yet totally delicious way to celebrate one’s twenty-first year.” Get the recipe for If You Like Piña Colada »
Cameron Johnston of Gleneagles Hotel designed this drink for those who don’t usually go for a Scotch drink; chamomile syrup and Dalwhinnie 15 combine for a delicate cocktail with a still-smoky finish. Get the recipe for Floral Old Fashioned »
“Bucks” are a family of drinks that consist of ginger beer plus a spirit and citrus—a category that includes this fruity refresher as well as the classic Moscow Mule. Get the recipe for Kentucky Buck »
Made with Buffalo Trace bourbon and fresh lemon, the Melisse Whiskey Sour is delicate and floral, a perfect balance of tart and sweet, with subtle vanilla notes and a sumptuous, meringue-like pillow of foam on top. Get the recipe for Melisse Whiskey Sour »
Inspired by a cocktail at New York’s Lafayette restaurant, this twist on a classic whiskey sour gets its fruity flavor and rosy color from muddled maraschino cherries and Lillet Rouge, the fruity red French apéritif wine enhanced with citrus and spices. Get the recipe for Alexis’ Bordeaux Sour »
This version of the classic three-ingredient cocktail—which combines three parts bourbon to one part of a simple syrup bracingly infused with fresh spearmint—is sanctioned by the Kentucky Derby itself as their official mint julep recipe. Get the recipe for Thousand-Dollar Mint Julep »
Developed by Dushan Zaric of NYC watering hole Employees Only and featuring absinthe, high-proof bourbon, and house-made pomegranate grenadine, the Billionaire is as rich as its name suggests. Get the recipe for Billionaire Cocktail »