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 (or a bourbon-spiked take on the Bee’s Knees, if you prefer). But that whiskey-honey combination transforms the cocktail’s flavor and mouthfeel, making the Gold Rush a drink all its own.
The Gold Rush was first created at New York City’s famous bar, Milk & Honey, in the early aughts and spread worldwide at such a pace that the cocktail is commonly assumed to be a pre-Prohibition classic. But this modern invention occurred at a time when important drinks were appearing all over the USA, as bartenders experimented by tweaking classics. Newly available liqueurs were poured liberally, alternate base spirits were swapped into tried-and-true recipes, and rules were broken with regularity. The era resulted in a lot of great success stories, like this one. And in the Penicillin, which was also created at Milk & Honey during this time as a scotch-laced riff on the Gold Rush.
When making the Gold Rush, choose a good bourbon with a little age on it. You don’t need one that is too old, as heavy oak can overpower the other ingredients. But one in the four-to-eight-year range will do nicely. Rather than squirting honey straight into your shaker, try making a honey syrup, which is like simple syrup, but with honey instead of sugar. A one-to-one ratio works well, but if you want a fuller drink, you can use more honey than water to create a lush mouthfeel and richer taste. Fresh lemon juice is key to cut through the honey and whiskey. It brings balance to the cocktail.
Note that many Whiskey Sours include egg white, but the Gold Rush does not. Nor does it need it: The honey provides plenty of body. Give everything a hard shake with ice to incorporate the ingredients (honey requires a good rattle about the tins), and strain into your glass. Take a sip, and you just might find your new favorite bourbon-based beverage. The three-ingredient drink is a lesson in synergy and a reminder that, sometimes, simple is best.
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 1 ounce honey syrup
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Garnish: lemon peel
Add the bourbon, honey syrup and lemon juice into a shaker with ice and shake hard for 30 seconds.
Strain into a chilled rocks glass with one large ice cube.
Garnish with a lemon peel.