The Big Red Is Our Official 4th Of July Cocktail — Here’s The Recipe

When it comes to making cocktails while igniting small explosives, you kind of want to go fast and easy. You don’t need a shaker in one hand and a rocket fuse in the other. That’s just basic safety, folks.

That’s why the Big Red is the perfect cocktail for your 4th of July festivities. This highball is a very modern classic. The recipe is attributed to Casey Elsass of Bushwick Kitchen and is meant to be the ultimate summer refresher. The actual drink is a simple whisky highball that eschews the usual fizzy water for a very fizzy light beer and a kick of ginger beer. If that sounds a little odd at first glance, stick with us. It’s a damn good summer drink.

This is a very easy-to-make recipe, so let’s halt the preamble and just get right into it. We all have some fuses to ignite after all.

Also Read: The Top Five Cocktail Recipes of the Last Six Months

Big Red

Big Red 4th of July Cocktail
Zach Johnston


  • 2 oz. Johnnie Walker Red Label
  • 2 oz. pale lager
  • 2 oz. ginger beer
  • Ice

The original recipe calls for a standard bottle of Budweiser. And that’s fine. I don’t like the overly corn-sweet vibes of that beer. So I’m going with a fairly neutral and very fizzy Peroni. It’s a tad more balanced and a lot less sweet. The reason I go for a drier pale lager is that the ginger beer is already adding a good amount of sugar to this drink. You don’t need sweet on sweet on top of whisky.

As for the whisky, Johnnie Walker Red Label is the “red” in “Big Red.” Arguably, that’s the one ingredient that’s unnegotiable. No one is going to call the cocktail police if you use Johnnie Black, mind. But you should be using a simple mixing blended whisky with a twinge of peat in there to balance this drink. That thin line of smoke is what makes this a cocktail and not just a bunch of shit thrown in a glass. It’s balanced by the sharpness and sweetness of the ginger beer and the dryness and very thin malt of the beer.

All of that being said, you can put bourbon in there if you want. Again, no one is going to call the cocktail police on you. This highball is, after all, about convenience and simplicity.

Big Red 4th of July Cocktail
Zach Johnston

What You’ll Need:

  • Highball glass
  • Straw
Big Red 4th of July Cocktail
Zach Johnston


  • Add the ice to a highball glass.
  • Pour in the Johnnie Walker. Pour the beer over the whisky and top with the ginger beer.
  • Gently stir with the straw. Serve.

Bottom Line:

Big Red 4th of July Cocktail
Zach Johnston

I drank about three of these without really thinking about it. It’s super refreshing, especially on a sweltering day. The sharp spice of the ginger beer is the perfect counter to the earthy Johnnie Walker.

Frankly, I didn’t really think the pale lager added anything. So I tried this drink with the same amount of fizzy mineral water to compare the two. And I was wrong. The beer added an almost creamy (malty-ish) texture to the drink that just wasn’t there with the bubbly water. I wouldn’t go any bolder than your favorite pale lager (think beers between a Miller High-Life and a Coors Banquet), but the beer absolutely adds the texture/mouthfeel to this highball.

In the end, I’m going to be making these well beyond the 4th of July long weekend. It’s freaking delicious and a lovely summer sipper.