Frozen drinks are a summer staple for a reason: they’re easy to whip up and The margarita reigns over most blenders and few can deny the sublime indulgence of the Piña Colada. But the Bourbon Slush, a sweet, frosty whiskey concoction that sips like a roadside slushie, is a heat-beating, easy-to-whip-up drink worthy of your frozen cocktail rotation.
The traditional Bourbon Slush recipe is a combination of bourbon, black tea, water, lemon juice, and orange juice, which is then frozen until it reaches — or is blended into — a slush-like consistency. The resulting mixture is then poured into a glass and topped with a soda or sour mix to melt it a bit and enhance the sweetness.
The Bourbon Slush is simple to make: mix, freeze/blend, pour. The difference between a fine one and a phenomenal version lies in your ingredients. “It doesn’t have to be top-shelf bourbon but don’t go for the cheapest,” advises Darron Foy, head bartender of The Flatiron Room in New York City where Bourbon Slushes are often served in the summer. As far as the juice is concerned, go for freshly squeezed whenever possible.
While the traditional Bourbon Slush recipe is great on its own, it’s also wildly adaptable. A bit of heat adds layers of complexity to the icy drink. Different kinds of citrus also punch up the flavor. As the four bourbon slush variations below illustrate, small tweaks lead to big flavor.
Oh, and one last thing. The Bourbon Slush is great as a batch drink for the beach or lakeside and easy to make at scale. You just multiply the ingredients by the number of drinks you’re trying to make. Your only real limit is your freezer space or the size of your blender.
1. The Classic Bourbon Slush
Darron Foy’s Flatiron Room recipe is a classic interpretation of the bourbon slush recipe: bourbon, lemonade, orange juice, black tea, sugar, and sour mix. It’s cold, sweet, and has just the right amount of bite. For those looking to mix it up, Foy suggests adding pineapple for a citrusy kick or throwing in some sprigs of mint for freshness.
- 1 cup bourbon
- 1 cup lemonade (concentrate or juice)
- 1 cup orange juice (concentrate or juice)
- 2 cups brewed black tea mixed with 1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup sour mix (equal measure of simple syrup, lemon juice, and lime juice)
Combine the tea, bourbon, juices, and an extra cup of water (if too sweet or too alcohol heavy) in a large container. Freeze for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight. You want the slush to be firm but not frozen solid. Scoop into a tumbler or mule cup and top with around 2oz of sour mix.
2. The Bespoke Heat Bourbon Slush
It seems almost counterintuitive, but sometimes adding a little heat to a frozen drink enhances its refreshing nature. Lucinda Sterling, managing partner at Seaborne in Red Hook, Brooklyn, created a riff on the Bourbon Slush that adds both a tickle of fire courtesy of Ancho Reyes as well as some passion fruit liqueur for a nice punch.
Combine all ingredients plus a heaping cup of ice in a blender and blend for 15-30 seconds. Pour into a glass and enjoy.
3. The Frozen Mint Julep
The Mint Julep is perhaps the most iconic summer bourbon cocktail. But creating the perfect texture for crushed ice is a bit of a pain in the keister. The obvious solution: turn it into a slush. “We’re taking the mint julep from a once-a-year celebration to a lazy pool day summer sipper,” says Random Ward, a Dallas-based mixologist for Woodford Reserve. His version of the Bourbon slush takes a bit of the fuss out of the classic derby cocktail. “Its frozen cousin loosens the tie and undoes the top button.”
- 2 oz Woodford Reserve Bourbon
- 1/2 oz mint syrup*
- 3/4 oz ice
Add ingredients to a blender and blend until it has the consistency of a slushy.
*For Mint Syrup, combine equal parts white sugar, mint, and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Take off heat and let cool. Strain out mint leaves and store the syrup your fridge for one to two weeks.
4. Persimmon and Yuzu Bourbon Slush
This version of the Bourbon Slush, courtesy of Will Shifrin, food and beverage manager at the Hip Flask Rooftop Bar and Seventh State Restaurant and Lounge at Marriott Headquarters in downtown Bethesda, features persimmon juice and a Yuzu lemonade lend for a distinct punch of citrus. “It’s a great way to enjoy your spirit of choice while catching those summer vibes from the frozen lemonade and touch of sweet tea,” he says.
- 2 juiced persimmons (or plum juice as a substitute)
- 1 cup orange juice
- ½ cup earl grey black tea
- ¼ cup demerara sugar
- 2 cups east imperial yuzu lemonade
- 1 cup bourbon
Dissolve Demerara sugar into freshly made tea. Combine all ingredients and stir to mix. Freeze the cocktail in a two-inch deep sheet pan for around 8 hours (or until slushy consistency). To serve, rake slush with a fork and scoop into four serving glasses.