Take advantage of the flavor of fresh strawberries in the spring and early summer with this fabulous Strawberry Old Fashioned. It’s easy to make, delicious to sip and a great cocktail to convert cocktail lovers to summer whiskey cocktails. I’m a sucker for strawberries from the Farmer’s Market or picked straight from the fields, and that intense, sweet-tart strawberry flavor combines in lovely ways with an easy-to-sip bourbon.
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What is an Old Fashioned?
Most people don’t think of Old Fashioned whiskey cocktails as summer drinks, but here in Kentucky we’re well-versed on the ways bourbon can blend with mixers and syrups to make yummy drinks perfect for warm weather. With just three ingredients, bourbon or whiskey, simple syrup and bitters, this strawberry whiskey cocktail is easy and fast to put together. While I make mine in a mixing glass, summer’s convenience means making it in the rocks glass you’ll serve it in is always an option.
If you’d like to know more about Old Fashioneds, their history, and how to make them, head to my article here: How to Make the Perfect Old Fashioned. In this twist on a classic Old Fashioned cocktail, I used fresh strawberry syrup and some vanilla bitters to make a sweet and fun drink for summer.
Strawberries and Whiskey
While strawberry isn’t a common flavor to find in whiskey and bourbon, it’s sometimes present in the aroma or nose of whiskey. It’s easier for me to identify a general aroma of berries rather than strawberries particularly.
But the freshness of strawberries can sometimes seem almost floral, and that is a flavor and aroma that is often present in whiskies. As you look for the perfect whiskey match for the Strawberry Old Fashioned think about which whiskies present floral notes, sweet hay notes, or dried fruit/berry aromas.
In this case, my first instinct was to reach for Maker’s Mark – often paired with strawberries in cocktails and it was an excellent match. I even got to open my Maker’s Mark Ambassador bottle that had been barreled in 2013. It was a very good year to have my name on the barrel.
If you don’t know about the Maker’s Mark Ambassador program, you can find out more here. But I highly recommend it as a great way to learn more about Maker’s and it’s a fantastic thrill to have a tour with Bill Samuels and dip bottles with your own barrel in it in that iconic red wax.
How to Make a Strawberry Old Fashioned Cocktail
Simple: You need a great bourbon, (see section above), some fresh strawberry simple syrup, and a few dashes of bitters. In my case, I used Bittercube’s Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters, but for my next experiment, I may well use Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters – applied VERY lightly. In fact, I may even infuse the strawberry simple syrup with cardamom as well.
Strawberry bitters are not common, but if you have some on your home bar, add a dash or three to this summer strawberry bourbon cocktail.
I use a cold process, no cook strawberry simple syrup that’s super easy and captures the flavors of fresh strawberries in a way no cooked strawberry syrup can. The fresh, homemade simple syrup sweetens the cocktail without overwhelming the bourbon in the cocktail. It adds enough strawberry flavor that it’s perceptible, but not so much that the bourbon doesn’t remain the star of the show.
What to Do If It Tastes Too Strong to You
As a bourbon geek I regularly make cocktails with 95 to 110 proof whiskey, but not everyone wants that much bourbon burn in their cocktail. If this drink tastes too strong, or you feel that the strawberry flavor is being overwhelmed by the whiskey, there’s a simple fix: add a splash of strawberry soda or seltzer water.
Adding the strawberry pop or soda increases the strawberry flavor and can add more sweetness to the cocktail. But it also dilutes the bourbon from the drink – making it a much softer cocktail. If you make it for yourself and it tastes too strong, or you’re mixing for someone who’s just learning to enjoy bourbon cocktails, softening the flavor with some soda will turn the drink into a winner for them.
Other Spring and Summer Bourbon Cocktails You Might Enjoy
Along with this strawberry whiskey cocktail, you can always try some of these other fun summer bourbon cocktails. Sours, spritzes and popsicle topped cocktails find center stage at my house for guests enjoying bourbon cocktails.
Recommended Bar Tools
You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:
You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:
Strawberry Old Fashioned
- 2 oz bourbon or whiskey
- ½ oz strawberry simple syrup
- 3 dashes Cherry Bark Vanilla bitters or 1 dash Scrappy’s Cardamom bitters
- Garnish: fresh strawberries
- Combine bourbon, whiskey, and bitters in a mixing glass and add ice.
- Stir for 20 seconds or until well-combined.
- Strain into a chilled rocks glass with one large cube and garnish.