At last it’s summer! A time to spend relaxing outdoors. A time for grilling and picnicking and for relaxing with friends and family by the pool or at the beach while enjoying refreshing summer whiskey cocktails. To many, whiskey is more of a winter drink. But there are many ways for whiskey to shed its winter clothes and appear its light and gossamer garb of summer. So what are the best, easy, breezy and light whiskey drinks?

Let’s start with a few definitions that will make mastering the art of the summer whiskey cocktails simple and easy:

Outdoor Whiskey Cocktails

  • A cocktail is an alcoholic drink, consisting of a spirit or spirits and mixed with other ingredients such as fruit, lemon juice, lemonade or cream. A cocktail is the primary category of which there are several subsets.
  • A highball is a whiskey cocktail. A drink consisting of whiskey and a mixer such as club soda or ginger ale and served in a tall glass over ice. A highball is one of the simplest summer whiskey cocktails. It is easy to make and very refreshing and light.
  • A sour is an alcoholic beverage made with lemon or lime juice, served over ice or not and garnished with fruit.
  • A Rickey is a drink made with lime juice, and soda water. This refreshing drink was named after Joe Rickey, a Democratic D.C. lobbyist during the 19th century. Favoring zero sugar drinks, Rickey liked to combine bourbon and club soda.
  • A smash is an open-ended cocktail, seasonably flexible and freely variable. The exact definition of a smash has never really been pinned down. One of the earliest examples of a smash appears in the form of a julep recipe in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 How to Mix  Drink or the Bon Vivant’s Companion. The smash family of cocktails include 1) a spirit 2) a sweetener 3) an herb (mint is one example), seasonal fruit 4) ice 5) water. Since the definition of a smash is so murky, you really can’t do anything wrong with this one. For example, ice can be served in the drink or strained; the seasonal fruit can be muddled in the glass, left floating in the drink or served as a garnish. Essentially you can pretty much do whatever you want to do and not be wrong. This is the perfect simple and foolproof beginner’s drink!
  • Simple syrup is a thick, sweet liquid made by dissolving sugar in water. It is viscous, having the consistency of molasses.
  • Muddling is a technique used in drink making in which fruits and/or herbs are gently ground in order to release their juices. Muddling helps the flavors to bind with the alcohol better than if they were simply used whole.
  • Orgeat (pronounced OHR-ZHAT) is a non-alcoholic almond syrup used to sweeten cocktails. It is made with almonds, sugar and rose petal or orange flower water. It has a pronounced almond flavor. Torani Almond Orgeat Syrup, Monin Syrup and Gifford Syrup are a few examples of orgeat.
  • Rose water is made by steeping rose petals that have been crushed with a mortar and pestle in distilled water and steeped in a mason jar. Orange blossom water is made that same way except using orange blossoms rather than rose petals. 

Summer whiskey cocktails of all types are served in tall glasses or mason jars .They can also be served in big bowls (punches) or pitchers. They are served with lots of ice and often with fruit slices floating in them. Sometimes they are served in chilled metal cups or in the form of jello shots.

Here are just some of the simple, light and refreshing summer whiskey drinks. Keep in mind that there are myriad variations and almost infinite possibilities!

Whiskey in a Glass

  1. The classic Bourbon Sour is made with maple syrup, ice, orange peel, bourbon whiskey and lemon juice, shaken, on the rocks or straight up.
  2. The Summer Breeze is made with ginger ale, orange liqueur, bourbon whiskey and orange slices.
  3. Strawberry Whiskey Lemonade is made with whiskey, strawberry syrup, fresh strawberries and lemon juice.
  4. The classic Whiskey Smash is made with whiskey, simple syrup, muddled mint leaves and crushed ice.
  5. Whiskey Lemonade with Honey is made with a good whiskey, rosemary, raw honey and lemon slices.
  6. Mint Strawberry Whiskey Smash Cocktail is made with whiskey, simple syrup, lemon, fresh strawberries and sugar.
  7. Summer Rye is made with rye whiskey, St. Germaine, elderflowers, Fuji apple juice, simple syrup and champagne.
  8. Summer Pitcher is made with Ballantine’s, lemonade, Lillet Blanc, green grapes and lemon juice.
  9. Summer Bonfire consists of Buchanan’s Blended Scotch Whisky, ginger beer, simple syrup, fresh strawberries and lemon juice.
  10. Bourbon and Ginger Beer is served on lots of ice.
  11. The classic Brown Derby is made from bourbon, grapefruit juice and honey.
  12. The Mint Julep is made from bourbon, simple syrup, and mint leaves served on ice in a metal cup.
  13. Cameron’s Kick is made with blended scotch whiskey, Irish Whiskey, orgeat and lemon.
  14. The L.A. Mule is made with whiskey, maraschino cherry liqueur and pineapple juice, shaken on ice and served in a tin of ice and served in a tin.
  15. Jello shots are made by dissolving gelatin packets in hot water and then later adding whiskey or scotch. Chill for at least 2 hours. Fruit garnish may be added.

Note that summer cocktails are refreshing, simple and light. There is abundant use of fresh fruit, sweeteners and lots of ice. And remember: any cocktail is only as good as its components so use quality ingredients, like fresh fruit, and make sure you use an affordable whiskey which you actually enjoy. Summer on!