On paper, the Gold Rush is a very simple drink. Composed of bourbon, honey syrup and fresh lemon juice, it’s essentially a Whiskey Sour with honey in place of sugar. This also essentially makes it a variation on the classic Bee’s Knees cocktail, but one that uses bourbon rather than gin. The interplay of whiskey and honey transforms the cocktail’s flavor and mouthfeel, making the Gold Rush a drink that transcends the sum of its parts.
The Gold Rush was first created at famed New York City bar Milk & Honey in the early 2000s, and became a staple of bars worldwide at such a pace that the cocktail is often commonly assumed to have been a pre-Prohibition classic, rather than a modern drink. But its appearance came at a time when new drinks were appearing all over the U.S. fueled by a new generation of craft bartenders experimenting with tweaks to classic cocktails. Newly available liqueurs were poured liberally, alternate base spirits were swapped into tried-and-true recipes, and rules were broken with regularity.
This era resulted in many great success stories like the Gold Rush, as well as the Penicillin, another Milk & Honey creation which follows the same template but substitutes Scotch whiskey for bourbon, and incorporates a touch of ginger.
How to Make a Gold Rush Cocktail
When making the Gold Rush, choose a decent quality bourbon with a little age on it. You don’t need one that's too old, as heavy oak can overpower the other ingredients. But a whiskey in the four-to-eight-year range will do nicely.
Rather than adding honey straight into the shaker, create a honey syrup first by stirring equal parts honey and water together until fully dissolved. This will allow the honey to more easily mix into the drink while shaking, rather than stick to the bottom of your shaker. Similar to creating simple syrup, combining a one-to-one ratio of honey and water works well, but if you want a fuller drink, you can double the amount of honey used to make your syrup, which will enhance the cocktail's mouthfeel and create a richer taste. Fresh lemon juice is key to cut through the honey and whiskey, and bring balance to the cocktail.
2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3/4 ounce honey syrup
Garnish: lemon twist
Add the bourbon, honey syrup, and lemon juice into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled rocks glass over one large ice cube.
Garnish with a lemon twist.
How to Make Honey Syrup
Combine an equal volume of pure honey and water in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the honey is fully dissolved and the syrup turns clear, and no remaining honey sticks to the pan. Allow the mixture to cool, and place into a storage container, where the honey syrup will keep for up to 2 weeks refrigerated.
While a 1:1 ratio of honey to water is standard, you can make a rich honey syrup by doubling the amount of honey, or tweak even further to personal tastes.