A Beginner’s Guide To Drinking Whiskey in the Summer

Keep the ice cubes fresh and the herbs seasonal.

PHOTOS COURTESY JAMESON, SHUTTERSTOCK; DESIGN BY REBECCA HOSKINS

Why is it that once the temperature is consistently over 70 degrees, whiskey takes a back seat on your bar cart? For some reason, the spirit has gotten a reputation as a rugged, cold-weather drink… but it really is more versatile than that. With some ice, the right mixers, and a few bent rules, whiskey can hang at your backyard barbecue just as easily as it can in front of a fireplace. Here’s what you need to keep in mind as you pour: 

Know your way around ice cubes 

There’s nothing wrong with adding some ice to a whiskey cocktail, especially when it’s hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk. Popular wisdom suggests that ice = watered down cocktails, but in whiskey’s case, that’s not entirely true. In fact, a little water from melted ice can actually help enhance the flavors of the whiskey in your cocktails. That said, there are some rules to follow: for spirit-forward cocktails like an Old Fashioned, always go with one extra large ice cube, rather than a handful of smaller ones or crushed ice, as these can melt so fast they’ll throw the whole drink out of balance. For cocktails made with fruit juices, a shaker with ice is the move (never shake soda or carbonated beverages, though!) Lastly, if your recipe calls for crushed ice, it’s likely for a reason: the mint julep, for example, depends on that extra water from the ice cubes to make the drink more sessionable in hot weather.  

Keep the mixers tart and fruity 

If you’re mixing up drinks for a hot summer day, focus on keeping the mixers refreshing and light, rather than complex. (Essentially, leave the bitters on the bar cart ’til the temperature drops.) For simplicity’s sake, lean into classics that are kicked up a notch with a simple addition, like a twist of lime in this Jameson & ginger. A little lime, citrus soda, and Jameson is all you need for a whiskey-forward take on a paloma, too. (Don’t skip the chamoy & Tajin rim, either, that little bit of heat will make this cocktail extra special.)

PHOTOS COURTESY JAMESON, SHUTTERSTOCK; DESIGN BY REBECCA HOSKINS

Don’t take it too seriously 

Frose, boozy popsicles, frozen margaritas — summer is the time to have some fun with your cocktails, whiskey-based included. You may be thinking: “Wait! My freezer can’t possibly get cold enough to freeze alcohol!” My sweet summer child, you are mistaken. Yes, if you just stuck a bottle of Jameson in the average freezer, you’d just have really cold whiskey, but if you mix that whiskey with enough non-alcoholic juices and liquids, you’ll bring the ABV down low enough to freeze. The sweet spot for a solid freeze rather than slush is 5-10% ABV, which roughly translates to 5 ounces of juice to 1 ounce of whiskey. The amount of sugar can also bring the freezing point up, like you see in this Jameson Lemonade Popsicle recipe. Just make sure to truly give it a whole night to rest in the freezer.

Go with a younger whiskey 

A backyard barbecue isn’t the place for the precious, 18-year-old bottles in your whiskey collection, especially if you plan to use it for cocktails. Those are best sipped neat, or used in a cocktail where the flavors can really shine (like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan.) Instead, look for younger whiskeys that are a bit paler in color, which won’t overpower the other, lighter ingredients you may be using to mix. Jameson Irish Whiskey, for example, is aged a minimum of four years, but it’s triple distilled for a smooth and mellow nose that’s accentuated by mixers, rather than overpowered by them. 

Pop the bottle in the fridge 

Whiskey snobs will tell you to avoid cooling a bottle at all costs, because whiskey is typically served at room temperature to get all the complex notes and flavors, or over ice (like we mentioned earlier). That said, if you’ve got a house full of guests coming over and forgot to make extra cubes, giving it a chill for 15 minutes is not going to destroy the drinking experience. That short time in the fridge will make it a bit more refreshing to add to cocktails, without numbing all the flavors. Still avoid putting the bottle in the freezer, though: it’s just too harsh and will likely require you to wait a while for it to warm back up, or all you’ll taste is alcohol. 

PHOTOS COURTESY JAMESON, SHUTTERSTOCK; DESIGN BY REBECCA HOSKINS

Try an iced take on Irish coffee 

In the summer, rules like “no cocktails before 5pm” just don’t exist. Instead of leaning into mimosas or Bloody Marys at brunch, though, change things up with an iced take on Irish coffee. Mixing Jameson Cold Brew (which combines Jameson whiskey’s vanilla notes and coffee beans) with true cold brew and a bit of whipped cream is the kind of pick-me-up we like best at a summer Sunday brunch. The same Jameson Cold Brew brings an unexpected twist to a whiskey cola highball, also perfect for sipping on a lazy summer afternoon.

Add seasonal ingredients

You wouldn’t make a watermelon feta salad in the middle of winter, because watermelon is out of season, meaning it traveled a very long distance to end up in your grocery store. Apply the same knowledge to your summer cocktails and lean into ingredients that are at their peak now. Strawberries, for example, are a great addition to a classic mule. Herbs like mint and basil also complement Jameson Irish Whiskey’s slightly spicy notes, and you can grow ’em right on your balcony or windowsill. And the next time someone tells you they save whiskey cocktails for colder months? Mix 'em up one of these versatile, refreshing options and change their mind.