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As the weather turns balmy, lots of people believe it’s time to put away the whiskey and make way for cocktails using clear spirits like gin, vodka or tequila. Well, lots of people are just plain wrong. Or maybe simply misguided. Whiskey of all persuasions––from bourbon and rye to scotch, Irish, Canadian and Japanese––isn’t only for cold weather. Whether it’s Juleps or Highballs, there’s no denying that brown spirits are the base of some pretty refreshing drinks.
Kentucky native Doug Kragel, Diageo’s American whiskey ambassador, loves to drink what he calls simple pours in the summer, such as whiskey and ginger beer. “The great thing is there are so many fantastic mixologists coming out with whiskey cocktails that are a little lighter,” he says. “Whiskey goes incredibly well with citrus, a perfect summer ingredient.”
These nine whiskey recipes for the summer months are refreshing, without sacrificing the bold flavors inherent to the spirit.
1. Northern Harvest Buck
Canadian whisky is a category that has gained popularity with bartenders, and the Northern Harvest Buck highlights why. This take on the Whiskey Ginger (a.k.a the Irish Buck) adds a squeeze of lime and some bitters, which complement the slightly spicy yet smooth Crown Royal Northern Harvest rye nicely. Garnish with a lemon wheel and mint sprig for a fragrant summer sipper.
2. Keeneland Breeze
Bourbon and orange aren't the most obvious of pairings––unless it’s a slice dropped into an Old Fashioned––but the Keeneland Breeze puts these two flavors together beautifully. A splash of orange liqueur is blended with an ounce or so of bourbon and topped with spicy, dry ginger ale to counter the sweetness. Thirst, prepare to be quenched.
3. Crownberry Apple
This one is as straightforward as it gets: a one-two punch of Crown Royal Apple whisky and cranberry juice, stirred and topped with an apple wheel. The flavors call to mind Ocean Spray Cran-Apple, but with a spiced Canadian-whisky kick.
4. Shandy Maker
Beer cocktails are all the rage and for good reason. They're delicious! And fun! Plus, in the tradition of the Lemon Shandy and Michelada, beery drinks can be the ideal warm weather cooler. This one adds a hoppy IPA to 100-proof bourbon, some citrus and, the kicker, muddled fresh marjoram. The result is a medley of summery flavors that weave together like birdsong.
5. White Summer Sazerac
You don't expect a moonshine cocktail to be sophisticated and complex. That's what makes this drink such a pleasant surprise. Corn whiskey is paired with rye, plus brandy, Italicus aperitivo, a duo of vegetal bitters, a pinch of celery salt and a dash of absinthe. There are lots of components, but the result is worth it: a composed flavor salad with a pretty flower garnish.
6. Isaiah Rynders
This savory take on the Dark 'n Stormy is another cocktail with a lot afoot: Jameson Black Barrel, Cardamaro, a peated Irish whiskey, lime juice, ginger syrup, aromatic bitters, tamarind chutney and vanilla soda. Not exactly the sort of ingredients you have just lying around. But if you can source them, you'll be treated to a luxuriously spiced variation on the hot-weather favorite.
7. Irish Maid
A riff on bar legend Sam Ross' Kentucky Maid cocktail (bourbon, lime, cucumber and mint), this refreshing cooler starts with muddled cucumber and is then hit with Irish whiskey, St-Germain and lemon juice. With its burst of floral aromatics and the thirst-quenching power of cucumber, it's one of those drinks people like to label "Summer in a glass!" In this case, they're correct.
8. Cave Creek
This tall ruby sipper features Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye, a contemporary version of the classic bottling of young rye sweetened with rock candy, plus scotch, Campari, citrus, grenadine and a soda top. Spicy, sweet, sour and fizzy, it hits several important notes for optimal summer refreshment. Your palate will be plenty distracted from that sultry heat wave.
9. Mint Julep
This bourbon cocktail is a classic—and rightfully so. It’s light, refreshing and usually served in a metal cup that keeps it nice and frosty. Though strongly linked with the Kentucky Derby, this drink can and should be enjoyed all summer long. Thoroughbreds not required.