Spend time sipping with friends rather than behind your home bar making cocktails this season with these easy two ingredient bourbon cocktails for summer. While your bourbon fans may just want a bourbon on the rocks, the bourbon curious in your life will love you more if you add their whiskey to a mixer.
There’s more to two-ingredient bourbon cocktails than just bourbon and coke, so let’s cover some great ideas for easy cocktails to mix up on the fly for your party. I’m deliberately keeping this list to summer cocktails you can make with just bourbon and one other ingredient, but we’ll branch out beyond the basics Bourbon and Coke to make tasty summer bourbon drinks your friends and family will love.
We can all use a few more people who love bourbon as much as we do and because cocktails are the gateway to new bourbon sippers, let’s start with what to mix with bourbon.
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What to Mix with Bourbon
Bourbon and coke is a classic for a reason. Bourbon’s caramel, sweet bite pairs exceptionally well with the sweet, effervescent, and slightly sour taste of coke. It’s fast and easy to prepare. Personally, I avoid diet coke and bourbon combined. The artificial taste of the drink overwhelms the flavor of the bourbon and combines in a way I find unappealing, but you know I always advocate mixing to your own flavor profile.
But what is great to add to bourbon for an easy two-ingredient cocktail? Juices, teas, sodas (flavored and unflavored), and liqueurs. Anything with a flavor profile that matches the tastes found in a great whiskey will be a fabulous addition to a simple cocktail. I’ve laid out my favorites below. Some are classics, like bourbon and lemonade or bourbon with tea, but others may be new to you.
Technically, if you make the lemonade from scratch you’ve put together a John Collins cocktail but let’s go for easy. Fill a tall glass with ice. Add 1.5 to 2 oz of bourbon and top with your favorite lemonade. Garnish with a spanked mint sprig and lemon wheel to make it look fancy.
Any flavored lemonade works here, from pink lemonade, limeade, strawberry lemonade, to any fruity lemonade. I occasionally see mango and peach lemonade at some high end stores, and they would be amazing here.
Variation: To add a little extra flavor to your bourbon lemonade, add ½ oz of flavored syrup – blackberry, maple, strawberry, peach or even mint make fabulous, easy additions to a bourbon lemonade. If you’re trying to keep to low carb, a tiny squeeze of a caramel, mint, coconut, cinnamon or vanilla stevia syrup will work wonders. Don’t use an expensive bourbon here, but do use one over 90 proof, and give the spirit a little more volume to speak in the cocktail.
Kentucky Tea (Iced Tea)
I call this Kentucky Tea because we’ll add bourbon to an iced tea (preferably sweetened), but call it what you want if your bourbon comes from another state. Iced tea, especially sweet tea, makes a great mixer for a 100 proof, orange or fruit-heavy bourbon. The tannic notes from the tea can also emphasize the barrel notes in the whiskey, creating a refreshing summer porch sipper. Always garnish the tea with a citrus wheel or wedge and mint if you have it.
In my opinion, this is best made with peach sweet tea (although orange is a close second). I brew my iced tea with two ginger peach tea bags added to the regular tea bags and sweeten it to taste. To make the drink, fill your tea glass with ice, add 1.5-2 oz bourbon, and top with iced tea. If you’re using peach tea, top with a lemon wedge, mint and a fresh peach slice.
Variation: add ½ oz of lemon juice and a splash of fruity simple syrup. A dash of peach, blackberry, pineapple, or passionfruit syrup can spice up the cocktail with a bit of sweet fruitiness. I know this goes beyond two-ingredient bourbon cocktails, but if you have some syrups already at home, it’s a quick add that will boost the bourbon cocktail’s flavor.
In addition, you can venture out to mango, pomegranate, raspberry, chai or cinnamon teas for great variations on this basic recipe.
Want to sweeten the flavors without a lot of extra sugar? Muddle a couple of ripe berries with the bourbon or a little syrup before adding the tea. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, fig, blackberries (oh, blackberries with peach sweet tea is a beautiful base for a bourbon cocktail).
Bourbon Buck (Ginger Ale)
Bourbon and ginger are a match made in heaven, and the quick addition of bourbon to a tall glass of ginger ale makes a refreshing summer cocktail to sip in the heat. As with the previous bourbon summer cocktails above, the preferred ratio is 1.5-2 oz bourbon to ginger ale in a tall glass filled with ice. Keep the garnish simple with a lemon wheel or add an herbal element like basil, mint, thyme, or rosemary.
Variations: The buck cocktail – spirit and ginger ale – is quite similar to the mule, which is generally made with ginger beer and just a bit of lime juice. Try the Bourbon Buck with ginger beer and the juice from a few wedges of lime. Like the other variations above, adding simple syrup to the drink add flavor, but I love adding ½ oz of amaro, Campari, or Aperol to a buck cocktail to add some bitter notes, depth, and complexity.
Classic Bourbon Highball – Bourbon and Soda
The easiest of all bourbon cocktails, the classic highball takes 2 oz of bourbon in a chilled, ice-filled glass that tops the whiskey with ice-cold soda water. The bubbly soda lengthens the drink and the dilution brings out sweeter, fruity notes from the soda.
Variations: Most of the drinks in this list are variations of the classic, two-ingredient highball. But one of the easiest variations for a highball is swapping out plain soda for one of the hundreds of flavored, unsweetened sodas available. Lemon seltzer, orange seltzer and hibiscus seltzer are my current favorites. I’ve made amazing fast highballs with seltzers from Trader Joe’s (lemongrass ginger or blood orange) and the La Croix line of seltzers. Even Pellegrino has great flavor options here. However, I have never found a watermelon, strawberry or banana seltzer that tasted acceptable on its own so I avoid those in cocktails.
Another variation? If you love bitters, top the highball with several dashes of bitters. It adds color to the highball and brings a bitter aromatic to the forefront as you sip the cocktail. Whether Peychaud’s, Angostura, chocolate, or orange bitters, choose a bitter that complements flavors in the whiskey you chose as the base of the cocktail.
If you love Italian sodas, blood orange, grapefruit and peach are fantastic (if very sweet) fizzy flavors additions to highballs.
Bourbon Paloma (Grapefruit Soda)
If you love Palomas in the summer (tequila/grapefruit highball), you’ll love this easy variation on the Mexican cocktail for bourbon summer drinks. The true Paloma cocktail has more than just two ingredients, but if you’ve had a Brown Derby (or a Bourbon and Campari) you know that the combination of grapefruit’s tart flavor and slight bitterness can make bourbon’s sweetness explode.
For this Paloma-like cocktail, add 1.5 oz of bourbon to tall glass, an optional squeeze of grapefruit juice, and top with a slightly sweet grapefruit soda – in Mexico Squirt and Fresca are popular.
Variations: To make it closer to a real Paloma, add a splash of grapefruit juice, some fresh lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Play with the grapefruit soda you use here. You can use a Mexican favorite, or choose a dry grapefruit soda if you like less sweet, more tart variation. This two-ingredient bourbon cocktail isn’t the perfect recreation of a Paloma, but with a well-chosen grapefruit tonic and squeeze of a lime wedge or two it gets you close enough.
A few nights ago, I made a quick Bourbon Paloma with 2 oz bourbon, 3 oz ruby red grapefruit and a top off of lime seltzer water. Garnished with a fresh slice of grapefruit and a lime wheel, it was refreshing.
Bourbon and Tonic
I bet you didn’t know that a bourbon lemon tonic is a fast, refreshing summer cocktail perfect for poolside consumption. While we usually think of gin and tonics, bourbon and tonics (B&Ts) (especially with the right tonic) are delicious summer bourbon cocktails. Because bourbon goes a little better with lemon than lime, make this cocktail with fresh lemon wedges. The lemon is mostly garnish, so I’m keeping this solidly in the two ingredient bourbon cocktail camp.
To make the drink, put 1.5 to 2 oz of bourbon in a rocks glass, add ice, top with a high-quality tonic, drop your lemon in and you’ll be ready to sip. The tonic water’s bitterness can overwhelm the bourbon if you choose strong, brash tonic water. Choose a slightly sweet, lighter tonic water for best results.
Variations: I love using blood orange or a splash of orange liqueur in my bourbon tonics. A berry liqueur like Chambord, peach brandy, or apricot liqueur makes incredibly sweet and refreshing summer bourbon tonics as well. If you want to make it look fancy, you can drop in fresh fruit, berries or spices that match the flavor profile of your bourbon.
Bourbon and Bubbles
No great brunch is complete without sparkling wine cocktails, so drop an ounce or so of bourbon in your flute before topping it with great champagne or bubbly. If you’re a mimosa lover, adding in a splash of orange juice is no crime, but bourbon and bubbles by themselves are fantastic.
Variations: Starting the cocktail with a sugar cube in the bottom of the flute makes a gorgeous stream of bubbles float to the to as the sugar dissolves in the bourbon and champagne. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and a dash of absinthe if you want a cocktail closer to a Death in the Afternoon. A little peach nectar and some prosecco and you’ve almost got a bellini on your hands.
Boilermaker – Bourbon and Beer
I won’t suggest you drop a shot glass in your beer, but bourbon and beer make a classic combination if you choose the right beer. In the winter, I’d prefer a stout or porter mixed with sharp, aggressive bourbon. But in the summer, I want a wheat beer, amber ales, or maybe a light pilsner to mix with a vanilla and caramel forward bourbon. Generally, 1 oz of bourbon to 12 oz of beer lets the bourbon peek through and play nice, but you can choose your own ratio.
Bourbon and Iced Coffee
It’s no surprise that bourbon and coffee play well together. It’s easy to make in summer with cold press coffee for this two-ingredient bourbon cocktail classic. The basic flavor profile of the Irish Coffee cocktail is predicated on all the lovely ways whiskey and coffee play together. For a summer treat, add 1.5 oz bourbon to your iced coffee and top with whipped cream if you like (or that dalgona cream – but that gets us far more than 2 ingredients). You can also add your preferred amount and type of dairy.
So many canned cold press coffees offer vanilla and caramel expressions, and single serving pods with hazelnut, pecan or mocha flavors give a great sweet note for the bourbon to blend with in the coffee.
Variations: I love adding a few dashes of chocolate bitters to any coffee and bourbon drink. And if you enjoy some cream in your coffee, add that as well. A dash of a caramel liqueur, chocolate creme de cocoa, or hazelnut liqueur can make this summer iced coffee cocktail a bourbon favorite.
Bourbon and Cream Soda
These two were made to go together. Cream sodas are full of sweet caramel and vanilla notes – sometimes with added citrus (like an orange cream soda, or a cherry cream soda), and adding bourbon to a glass full of cream soda over ice is delicious. I prefer using about 2 oz of bourbon per tall glass of iced cream soda.
Variation: To really up your game, add a ½ oz of cream or half and half to the glass and top with whipped cream and a cherry if you want to pretend you’re sipping a creamy French soda. Again, we go over 2 ingredients, but if you try it, you’ll agree it’s worth it.
Bourbon and Hard Seltzers
Asking yourself, “Can I add bourbon to my hard seltzer?” The answer is yes. As the latest craze in the ready-to-drink cocktail market, hard seltzers pack a light punch, but come in many different summer flavors. From lemon, orange, and watermelon to grapefruit, black cherry, and pomegranate you can boost your favorite hard seltzer with a shot of bourbon and some sliced fruit to garnish.
Choose a flavor that you love to combine with bourbon. Citrus and cherry flavors are a common pairing in cocktails with bourbon, so start there. Hard seltzers are low ABV – usually 5-7% so 1.5 oz of bourbon is generally plenty to add to the drink.
I won’t tell if you want to take a sip from the can first, then add in your bourbon, but it looks prettier served in a tall glass with a mint and fruit garnish.
Conclusion: Easy Summer Bourbon Drinks
Two ingredient bourbon cocktails can be a snap to put together on the fly or to transport with you to a vacation home (or campsite). You won’t need to pack a lot of bartending equipment, but you’ll still get the benefit of great summer bourbon cocktails with a minimum of effort.
Looking For More Easy Bourbon Cocktails?
- Easy Bourbon Sorbet Mimosa
- Peanut Butter Whiskey Old Fashioned
- Fast and Easy Peanut Butter Whiskey Cocktails
- Easy Craft Cocktail Shortcuts with Mixicles
- How to Make Fast and Easy Jam Cocktails
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