It’s official: we’re making this a whiskey summer. Home or on a microadventure (always socially distanced), we’re going to keep sipping whiskeys, whiskies, bourbons, and the like this season. Sure, we’ll still enjoy our gins, rums, tequilas, and vodkas — those more traditional summer spirits will get plenty of love — but summer ’20 is going to feature more than a few whiskey drams. With everything going on in the world we need it.
When we do drink whiskey around these parts, you’ll notice that it’s often bourbon. This sweet, corn-based whiskey is the perfect sipper (or mixer) for the hot summer months. Just ask Tommy Tardie, founder and owner of The Flatiron Room in New York City.
“Bourbon is the whiskey I lean on this time of year,” he says. “You get the sweetness from the corn combined with the caramel, vanilla, and brown sugar flavors from the oak barrel.”
The qualities Tardie identifies make bourbon the perfect base for summery drinks like the whiskey sour, the whiskey highball, and the mint julep. They also make it a smooth dram straight up or with ice. Which begs the question — which bourbons should we pour while the sun is beating down? To help answer that, we’ve enlisted the help of some of our favorite bartenders.
Four Roses Yellow Label
Seth Lowe, owner of 39 North Spirits in Eagle, Colorado
Affordability still plays a factor here if we are going to be quaffing bourbon on a hot day, and this also has to blend well in mixed drinks. Four Roses Yellow Label is an excellent choice, due both to its approachability and availability. It’s easy for us to recommend WL Special Reserve, which is a bargain but it’s also increasingly difficult to find. So let’s stick with Four Roses Yellow Label, which can still be picked up in most liquor stores across the country.
Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon
Nancy Conaway, bartender at Republic Street Bar in Fort Worth, Texas
Garrison Brothers. This small-batch bourbon is not only delicious and rich, but it also has an incredible history. The brand has faced many challenges by being the first legal distillery in Texas, especially since they rely on local sourcing to deliver an amazing product. Truly special.
Old Forester 86
Robert Swain Jr., owner of OnTheRoX Bartending Services in the British Virgin Islands
A blackberry bourbon lemonade comes to mind when I think of a ‘bourbon summer special” and the right bourbon for the job is Old Forester. With blends of honey, orange, and lemon there’s no question this is an awesome bourbon for the hot summer days.
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Tommy Tardie, founder and owner of Fine & Rare in New York City
I’m a big fan of Michter’s Distillery and their 10 year is a great bottle to enjoy with friends in a backyard. Pour it over a large cube of ice, add a splash of water or simply drink it neat. You can’t go wrong with this bottle.
Jacob Cantu, tasting room manager for West Fork Whiskey Co. in Indianapolis
West Fork Whiskey Co. launched a new line of whiskey called Old Hamer. This historic bourbon plays tribute to Indiana’s heritage. A 99% corn and 1% malted barley mash bill creates a delectable smooth and sweet taste from the start to the finish. An easy drinker for any whiskey lover during the hot months.
James Simpson, beverage director at Espita in Washington, DC
Woodford Reserve Bourbon is a great summer bourbon. The classic whiskey to make the signature Summer Julep cocktail, also pairs well with berries, watermelon, and citrus– which are all plentiful in summer.
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Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
It’s hard to pick one summer whiskey because there are so many. I prefer Angel’s Envy. Angel’s Envy is a nice, light bourbon. Even before icing it down, this bottle lends itself to another pour.
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Todd Johnston, beverage director at Thompson Nashville
During the summer I’m looking to drink something easy and refreshing. I tend to stay away from spirits that are rich and heavily oaked. With that being said, bourbon isn’t typically my summer go-to — but I have found that a wheated bourbon does the trick, offering softer fruit and spice notes than what you may be used to drinking. An easy-to-find classic wheated bourbon is Maker’s Mark.
Four Roses Single Barrel
Brock Schulte, bar director of The Monarch Bar in Kansas City
Four Roses Single Barrel, they bottle right at 100 proof, so it comes in nice and hot but over nice large Clinebell cube it becomes this delicately sweet bourbon that’s easy to drink, relaxin, and delicious.
Elijah Craig Small Batch
Not only is this whiskey under $40 per bottle, but it’s also smooth, mellow, and full of corn sweetness, vanilla, and honey, with a subtle hint of peppery spice at the end. It’s perfectly suited for a whiskey highball or slow sipping on a back porch on a cool, summer evening.