When May rolls around it is hard to ignore the quintessential event drink: the Mint Julep. Tankers' loads are poured at the Kentucky Derby each year because they celebrate the springing of mint and the state's native spirit: Bourbon. (To consider substituting another whiskey in this drink has been likened to putting scorpions in a baby's bed.) Southern plaints to the contrary, even Yankees can make it: muddle six mint leaves with bitters and simple syrup in a glass or metal cup, fill with Bourbon over crushed ice and garnish with more mint. But while the Julep is a great refresher, warm weather enjoyment of Bourbon doesn't end there.
You may remember the Whiskey Sour as the drink the forever over-heated (in more ways than one) protagonist of The Seven Year Itch claims as a breakfast beverage. Perhaps if you're making it from frozen concentrate with crushed ice, but if you prefer to fully appreciate this tangy quencher all day long, mix it with fresh ingredients: an ounce of lemon juice, an ounce of simple syrup, two ounces Bourbon and an egg white shaken vigorously over ice to a froth and strained into a cocktail glass with cherry and lemon garnish. If you really want to trick it out, make your own simple syrup, heating equal parts water and sugar and muddling in fresh basil leaves as it melts together.
Among the windfalls of the recent Negroni renaissance has been the attendant rediscovery of its whiskey-based cousin, the Boulevardier. When made with Bourbon in place of rye, it has all the same bitter, bracing qualities as the gin-based Negroni, but lots more grit and some welcome sweetness. Make it on the rocks and it will stay cool longer. Mix equal parts Bourbon, Campari and vermouth over ice in an Old-Fashioned glass, stir and garnish with orange peel.
A new-fangled way to make an Old-Fashioned during barbecue season is to add some smoke to the mix. Start by fashioning an Old-Fashioned: muddle a teaspoon of simple syrup, two dashes bitters and an orange wedge in an Old-Fashioned glass, add two ounces Bourbon, stir and add large ice cubes. The smoke can get into the glass in several ways. One is to rest the ice in a smoking barbecue for a minute. Another is to char a wood plank with a blowtorch and cap the resulting smolder with another Old-Fashioned glass. Then simply pour the contents of the first glass into the second. The last method is to blow cigar smoke into a bell jar and then place the container over your drink for a minute or two. We think you'll agree that one's the most fun.