Once June hits, it’s natural to crave a pilsner or glass of rosé. Perhaps vodka or gin, if you’re inclined toward spirits. But what about whiskey? It’s not the most obvious choice for summer drinking, but there are any number of ways to lighten the dark stuff up.

Here, we’re reaching for Maker’s Mark. Some bourbons are all sweet caramel and vanilla; others are sharper and spicier. Maker’s is very much the former. Designed to be soft and velvety, it’s as smooth as they come. For some cocktails, we do prefer a sharper bite; but for these three, Maker’s works perfectly. Grab a bottle and try them out. 

Easy: Maker’s & Cider

Hard cider is an excellent alternative to beer or wine, but when we’re looking to stiffen it up a little, bourbon is an ideal match. Angostura bitters add all sorts of warm spice notes, while a squeeze of lemon brightens it up. A pretty sophisticated drink, considering you’re really just pouring two ingredients together. 

Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine two ounces of Maker’s Mark and four ounces of a dry hard cider. Add two dashes of Angostura bitters. Stir briefly, squeeze in a lemon wedge, and add to the glass. Garnish with a long lemon peel, squeezed over the top of the drink to spray its citrus oils all over.

Intermediate: Rosemary Buck

Bourbon and ginger is a bar room classic, but it’s easy to class up a bit. Squeezing in a lime wedge adds a welcome burst of acidity; a sprig of rosemary contributes its herbaceous aroma, and really dresses this drink up. Pro tip: Clap the sprig of rosemary between your hands before adding it to the cocktail. It’ll make the aroma much more vivid. 

Instructions: In a tall glass with ice, combine an ounce and a half of Maker’s Mark and three ounces of ginger ale. Stir briefly, squeeze in a lime wedge, and add to the glass. Garnish with a rosemary sprig, clapping it between your hands before adding it to the drink.

Advanced: Frozen Julep

We’re all about classic juleps, of course, but they can be a bit tedious to make for a group. So when it’s summer and we’re feeling a little lazy, we take a shortcut—tossing it all in the blender. You still get the vibrant flavors of mint and whiskey, but in a way-too-drinkable slushy form. 

Instructions (makes two big drinks or three to four smaller ones): In a blender, combine four ounces of Maker’s Mark, two ounces of simple syrup, and 30 mint leaves, along with four cups of ice. Blend until smooth. Garnish with a few sprigs of mint, lightly tapping them against your hand before adding them to the drink. Add straws if you’ve got ‘em.

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