Bourbon is typically thought of as a cold weather spirit, but this classic shaken cocktail of bourbon, honey syrup, and lemon is one of my favorite ways to enjoy it all through the summer and into the fall.
It’s sweet, tart, and all too easy to sip. Enjoy it for happy hour on the porch, or even as part of a lazy weekend brunch!
What’s a Gold Rush Cocktail and What’s in It?
A Gold Rush is a simple whiskey-based cocktail that was created at the now-closed New York City bar, Milk & Honey, in the mid-2000s by T.J. Siegel.
The cocktail is essentially a riff on a classic Whiskey Sour, which is made with a whiskey, be it bourbon, rye, or even Scotch, along with lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, and a dash of Angostura bitters.
A Gold Rush is a pared down version that requires just three ingredients: Bourbon whiskey, honey, and lemon juice. The cocktail became an almost immediate hit at the bar and has since become a modern-day classic.
How to Make a Gold Rush Cocktail
The recipe for the cocktail begins by making a honey syrup, which is simply honey that’s warmed with water so that it melts and becomes liquid-y.
While you might be tempted to add honey directly to the cocktail shaker, this extra step is important because honey thickens when it comes in contact with ice, so you need to be sure it will dissolve seamlessly into your cocktail. Making a syrup solves this problem.
After the honey syrup is made, you’ll add some to an ice-filled cocktail shaker, along with bourbon and lemon juice. The ingredients are shaken until well-chilled, then poured into an ice-filled glass.
What Kind of Whisky Should I Use?
Bourbon is a classic choice for a Gold Rush because it’s sweet, caramel-like flavor and full-bodied mouthfeel marry so well with honey and tangy lemon. However, if you'd like to experiment, give this cocktail a try with rye, which lends spicy, peppery notes to every sip.
For bourbon, I like Bulleit best, but Four Roses and Knob Creek are also solid, budget-friendly choices. If you end up trying this cocktail with rye, my favorite is Redemption.
The Best Glassware for a Gold Rush
A rocks glass, also known as an old-fashioned glass, is the preferred glassware for a Gold Rush. It allows for the cocktail to sit on ice easily, which makes for easy sipping, too.
Cocktail Garnish Options
A simple lemon peel or lemon slice are classic garnish choices. Both allude to the bright burst of lemon juice in the glass.
I often skip them if I am pulling together a quick happy hour on the couch for my husband and I but love to add one of the two if I am shaking up this cocktail for friends.
How to Scale a Gold Rush
The recipe for this cocktail serves one, but it’s easy to scale up as needed. Simply double or quadruple the cocktail ingredients and shake them altogether in an ice-filled shaker.
You may need to split anything larger than a double recipe into two batches depending on the size of your cocktail shaker.
What to Do with Leftover Honey Syrup
Though this recipe makes just one cocktail, you’ll actually have enough of the homemade honey syrup to make about eight cocktails.
That means you don’t need to make extra syrup if you’re doubling or quadrupling the recipe. Store the leftover honey syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
It will keep for up to a full month and can be used to make another batch of Gold Rushes, as well as other great cocktails, such as a Bee’s Knees or Penicillin. Or try using it to sweeten lemonade or iced tea!
Gold Rush Cocktail
- For the honey syrup
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup water
- For the cocktail
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce honey syrup
- Lemon peel or slice, for garnish (optional)
Make the honey syrup:
In a small saucepan over medium heat add the honey and water. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and stir until the honey and water are fully combined and homogenous, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Store leftover honey syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Make the cocktail:
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the bourbon, lemon juice, and 1/2 ounce of honey syrup. Cover and shake vigorously until very cold, about 15 seconds.
Strain, garnish, and serve cocktail:
Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with a lemon twist, if desired.