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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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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
You may also like these other whiskey cocktails:
- 2 oz bourbon
- ¾ oz honey syrup (1 cup of honey mixed with 1/3 cup hot water)
- ¾ oz lemon juice
- 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.