Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Bourbon Cocktails

Bourbon & Berries

A rocks glass on a dimpled dark surface holds an amber-hued drink over ice cubes. It’s garnished with an orange peel. / Tim Nusog

Outside of drinks like the Mint Julep, bourbon is considered to be more of an autumnal and wintery spirit, meant for sipping in front of fire places or in warm bars. Unlike tequila or rum, it’s not generally considered a summer sipper. But when combined with the right ingredients, bourbon can easily become an all-season, year-long spirit. One such ingredient that can be used to bring it into the warmer months is strawberries, those quintessential summer treats.

Originally created by former bar lead Willem Van Leuven at San Diego’s Herb & Wood and adapted by bar lead Emily Carroll, this take on the Old Fashioned employs a different flavored syrup depending on the seasonal produce that’s available. “The strawberry-vanilla syrup that we use to add dimension to this cocktail was the result of a collaborative effort with our executive pastry chef, Adrian Mendoza, who’s the brains behind the berry syrup series and to date has developed a cranberry-cinnamon and blackberry-cinnamon, in addition to the strawberry,” says Carroll.

One of the best elements of the Bourbon & Berries recipe is its flexibility. For one, you can use the strawberry-vanilla syrup in other recipes. For instance, try substituting it for the simple syrup in a Daiquiri or for the sweetener in a Margarita to add a fruity touch. Additionally, you can adjust the recipe for different fruits—like other berries in summer, or fall fruits like apple or pear, both of which marry with vanilla lovingly.

Similarly, even the base spirit can be altered. While the purpose is to drink bourbon year-round, there’s nothing stopping you from using another spirit in its stead. Rum, for instance, would make a lovely Old Fashioned with the strawberry-vanilla syrup. Or, you could use a rye whiskey instead of a bourbon, for extra spice that pairs well with the vanilla. The point is to have fun with a fruit syrup and an Old Fashioned base.


  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 barspoon strawberry-vanilla syrup*
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Garnish: orange twist


  1. Add the bourbon, strawberry-vanilla syrup and Angostura bitters to a double rocks glass filled with 1 large ice cube and stir for 18 to 20 seconds, then add a few more ice cubes.

  2. Express the oil of an orange peel, then drop the peel in the glass.

*Strawberry-vanilla syrup: Add 1 cup water, 1 cup granulated sugar and the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean to a saucepan. Bring to a low simmer until the sugar dissolves, then add 2 cups sliced strawberries and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, mash the strawberries and let cool. Strain out the solids and store the syrup in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.