6 of the Best Bourbon Cocktails for Spring

With the sun making its long-awaited return, we say it’s time to toast to the warmer days ahead. And though folks tend to reach for their bourbon in the colder months, truth be told, every season is bourbon season. Now that the produce section is no longer dominated by root vegetables, there’s a slew of fresh ingredients to shake up with America’s flagship spirit, and it’d be a shame to miss out on the cocktail potential at hand.

From fresh currant-infused riffs on modern classics to spring stalwarts like the Mint Julep, check out VinePair’s list of the best bourbon cocktails for spring.

The Bourbon Renewal

The Bourbon Renewal is one of the best bourbon cocktails for spring.

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Dried currants are available year round in the U.S., but fresh currants only come around for a hot minute in late spring and early summer. If you manage to score a bunch, consider yourself ready to make a proper Bourbon Renewal. With a build of bourbon, crème de cassis, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters, this modern classic bridges the gap between a Whiskey Sour and a Bramble for a cocktail that’s ready-made for spring sipping. The drink’s inventor, bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler, suggests using fresh currants to garnish this one, but a lemon wheel makes an acceptable substitute if you’ve missed out on this year’s crop.

The Mint Julep

The Mint Julep is one of the best bourbon cocktails for spring.

There are few bourbon cocktails as refreshing and ubiquitous as the Mint Julep: a simple blend of bourbon, simple syrup, and muddled mint mingling under a mountain of crushed ice. The drink’s exact origins are unknown, but the Mint Julep is best known as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. According to the Churchill Downs Racetrack, where the Derby is held, roughly 120,000 Mint Juleps are served every year over Derby weekend. Traditionally, the drink is served in a metal cup to keep it ice-cold — there’s even entire businesses dedicated to upscale Julep cups — but a standard double rocks glass will do in a pinch.

The Kentucky Maid

The Kentucky Maid is one of the best bourbon cocktails for spring.

Thanks to NYC-based bartender Sam Ross — the same guy who gave us the Penicillin and the Paper Plane — we have the Kentucky Maid: a spring-ready bourbon cocktail co-starring lime juice, simple syrup, muddled mint, and cucumber. Given the muddling involved, this one takes a little more elbow grease than some of the other drinks on this list, but the juice is well-worth the squeeze. If you don’t have any bourbon on hand, try out one of Ross’s other “Maid” cocktails. There’s the gin-based Old Maid, the vodka-based Polish Maid, the tequila-led Mexican Maid, and the Irish Maid with Irish whiskey and St-Germain.

The Gold Rush

The Gold Rush is one of the best bourbon cocktails for spring.

This bright, three-ingredient modern classic was born behind the bar at NYC’s now-shuttered Milk & Honey. The late Shasha Petraske’s childhood friend T.J. Siegal is said to have dropped into the bar one night to have his usual Bourbon Sour sans egg white, and Petraske offered up a new honey syrup he had just created, and voilà: the Gold Rush was born. For most, making a Gold Rush won’t even require a trip to the grocery store — all you need is bourbon, lemons, some honey, and a saucepan.

The Whiskey Smash

The Whiskey Smash is one of the best bourbon cocktails for spring.

For reference, the Whiskey Smash is kind of like a Mojito, but swaps rum and lime for bourbon and muddled lemon wedges. While first officially documented by bartender Jerry Thomas (a.k.a. the Professor) in 1887, many believe this cocktail was created decades prior. Like the Kentucky Maid, the Whiskey Smash requires some muddling, so make sure to double-strain this one to prevent lemon and mint bits from ending up in the glass.

The Lion’s Tail

The Lion's Tail is one of the best bourbon cocktails for spring.

Casual cocktail fans may have never encountered the Lion’s Tail, but it’s a certified banger nonetheless. In many ways, it sips like a tropical Old Fashioned, courtesy of its inclusion of lime juice and baking spice-heavy allspice dram (St. Elizabeth’s is our go-to brand). The drink first appeared in London bartender William James Tarling’s “Café Royal Cocktail Book,” published in 1937. Traditionally, the cocktail is served sans garnish, but feel free to add a lime or orange twist if you so please.