It’s a beautiful, sunny, temperate day outside and there’s only one thing that can make it better, a glorious, colorful bourbon cocktail – the Rainbow Bourbon Cooler. I’m finally getting on the butterfly pea flower bandwagon this week and I wanted to experiment with a bourbon lemonade cocktail.
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If you’ve ever seen videos of cocktails turning from blue to purple while in the glass, the magic ingredient is an infusion or tea made out of butterfly pea flower. It brews and infuses into this gorgeous blue color, but when in the presence of an acid, like citrus juice, it turns purple.
It’s a chemistry class in your glass, and it’s a fun way to make serving a cocktail fun and interactive for yourself and whomever you’re serving. Note that the flavors won’t truly meld together until it has a good stir. However, when you put it down in front of someone with that beautiful gradients you can’t bet they’ll drink it in with their eyes and lean in for that straw!
The taste of the butterfly pea flower simple syrup is slightly woody and earthy, but I find it’s a wonderful match for a bourbon cocktail. I might try bourbon and butterfly pea flower tea just so see how it turns out. If you are used to some of the more original herbal teas with roots and barks in them, the taste is very similar.
One of my favorite cocktail bases to tweak is a simple bourbon and lemonade. Using the right kind of bourbon and high quality lemonade (or fresh even) makes all the difference. Lemons and bourbon are made for each other, and when the temperature soars in the summer and I need something bright and refreshing for myself or company, a bourbon lemonade is a great place to start.
With a bourbon lemonade, you can make a lot of small adjustments to customize it. You can muddle mint, or mint and some berries, in the bottom of the glass before pouring in the bourbon and lemonade. You can use a flavored syrup to make the lemonade, like lavender, blueberry or basil. You can freeze fruit into ice cubes to toss into the cocktail to add visual interest or flavor. Bitters always go well with bourbon, and adding a dash or two of orange, floral, or even a spicy bitters will intrigue the palate.
First though, I need to confess. I made a big mistake testing this cocktail. I knew I wanted to use Elijah Craig small batch for it, so when I went to the liquor cabinet to pick it up, I grabbed the first Elijah Craig bottle I saw. Unfortunately, it was the barrel proof version. Which is amazing and wonderful and made a kick-ass cocktail. . .
You know the “but” is coming. But it made the drink far stronger than a summer cooler cocktail should be. Don’t get me wrong. It was an amazing cocktail. But when you make it, be sure to keep the proof under 100 if you want to make a light summer cocktail that won’t knock you out for a few hours. That bourbon was over 124 proof!
Now, for the soda topper because I did want to keep this light, I went with Regatta Craft Mixer’s Club Soda. You could just as easily top it with any unsweetened citrus seltzer. I tested it with both lemon and lime and preferred the lime slightly.
The soda’s carbonation adds a little bit of bubbles and texture to the drink as you start to consume it. Soda tickles the palate in a way that a spirit forward cocktail does not. It’s a fun addition for summer.
This is a build-in-a-glass cocktail. Not pretentious or difficult, just a fun pour – and even more fun to stir.
If you enjoy summer bourbon drinks, take a look at Hot as Pop Outside – Peach Mango Popsicle Sipper or this That’s No Moon – Lavender Orange Highball. Both are gorgeous, tall, tasty cocktails for a lazy summer afternoon.
Rainbow Bourbon Cooler
- 5 oz lemonade
- ¾ oz butterfly pea flower simple syrup
- 1.5 oz small batch bourbon (I used Elijah Craig)
- 1-2 oz seltzer or soda
- Garnish: mint or lemon verbena, orange rose
- In a tall glass filled with ice, add the lemonade, then gently add the butterfly pea flower simple syrup. Top with the bourbon and the soda and add a straw. Garnish with an orange or lemon rose and some mint.