Gold Rush

yellow cocktail in rocks glass with black silhouettes of pine trees etched onto glass

The Gold Rush is a modern whiskey cocktail made with bourbon, lemon juice, and honey.

The Gold Rush is basically a Whiskey Sour made with honey syrup instead of simple syrup (and without foam or bitters). You could also think of it as a Bees Knees made with whiskey.

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pouring whiskey into a gold cocktail shaker

A modern classic

However you categorize it, the Gold Rush is a brilliant mix of flavors that surprisingly has only been around for 20 years. The drink was invented by T.J. Siegal at the legendary NYC bar Milk & Honey in 2001.

It quickly found its way onto bar menus around the world, making it an instant modern classic. In the book Regarding Cocktails, Richard Boccato explains:

“The Gold Rush is one of the fundamental examples of the Milk & Honey cocktail program: three ingredients, perfect balance, and no fuss.”

And if you’re looking for more three ingredient cocktails with minimal fuss, check out my first book, Essential 3-Ingredient Cocktails.

The book includes both classic and original recipes, including my three-ingredient take on a Gold Rush riff called the Penicillin. My riff on a riff named Doctor’s Orders replaces smoky scotch with smoky mezcal and shakes it up with fresh lemon juice and a ginger honey syrup.

squeezing lemon juice into a gold cocktail shaker

There are some differing recipes out on the internet today, but the original Gold Rush recipe was made with two parts bourbon and three-quarters parts each honey syrup and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

I love this ratio for most sours, as it’s well-balanced while letting the spirit take center stage.

No garnish necessary

While no garnish is required for the Gold Rush, I love to use a slice or wheel of lemon for that bright citrus aroma, and if I have one, an edible flower. Honey cocktails and fresh edible flowers are a no brainer!

Here I’ve used a mini marigold from a box of edible flowers I bought at Whole Foods. Read more about edible flowers for cocktails in my Cocktailian’s Guide to Edible Flowers.

How to make honey syrup

Honey syrup is really just honey mixed with water. The water loosens up the thick consistency of the honey just enough to allow it to incorporate easily into other liquids.

I typically make a honey simple syrup, but the original Gold Rush recipe in Sasha Petraske’s Regarding Cocktails calls for a rich syrup made with 1 cup honey to ⅓ cup water.

Combine ⅓ cup of hot water with the honey and stir until the honey has dissolved. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

This rich honey syrup gives the cocktail a silky mouthfeel that really sets it apart from a traditional Whiskey Sour.

The smooth texture and honey flavor also perfectly complement and enhance bourbon’s caramel and vanilla flavors.

Learn all about honey syrup and other uses for it here!

pouring a cocktail from a shaker into a rocks glass filled with ice

Recipe variations

The Gold Rush is traditionally made with bourbon, but don’t let that stop you from trying it with rye, Canadian whiskey, Irish whiskey, blended Scotch whisky, or even an unaged white whiskey!

Lemon and honey get along well with every spirit, so this is a no-fail recipe that can be easily made at home with whatever bottle you have on hand.

And if you want to venture out of the whiskey category, swap bourbon for gin and you have a Bee’s Knees. Try it with white rum for a Tahitian Honey Bee!

a yellow cocktail in a rocks glass with a forest outline on it

The smoky and ginger-spicy Penicillin is a well-known riff on the Gold Rush, but other ways to mix it up include muddling some fresh fruit.

Try muddling fresh strawberries or blackberries in the summertime for a warm weather spin on the classic. Simply muddle a few berries with the honey syrup in your cocktail shaker, then add the bourbon and lemon juice.

Add ice, shake, and then fine strain into a double rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a berry and a slice of lemon. Yum!

a hand adding an orange flower to a cocktail

Love this glass? Find it on Amazon. See more of my favorite Amazon glassware picks!

You may also like these other whiskey cocktails:

yellow cocktail in rocks glass with black silhouettes of pine trees etched onto glass

Gold Rush

Amy Traynor
The Gold Rush is a modern classic whiskey cocktail made with bourbon, lemon juice, and honey.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1 cocktail

Ingredients
  

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • ¾ oz honey syrup (1 cup of honey mixed with 1/3 cup hot water)
  • ¾ oz lemon juice

Instructions
 

  • To make the honey syrup, combine the honey and hot water and stir until the honey has dissolved. Store any leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • Add all cocktail ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill it 3/4 with ice.
  • Shake until chilled, then strain into a double rocks glass filled with ice.
  • No garnish is required, but I like to add a lemon wheel and an edible flower, if in season.

Notes

Gold Rush Recipe Variations
Make a Berry Gold Rush by muddling a few fresh berries with the honey syrup in a cocktail shaker. Then add the lemon juice, bourbon, and ice, and shake until chilled. Fine strain the liquid into a double rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a lemon wheel and a berry.
Keyword bourbon, honey syrup, lemon juice, rye whiskey


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