Early Summer Cocktail

Bourbon, Dandelion Wine, Strawberry summer cocktail

In the midwest, sometimes winter feels endless. The long spans of subzero temperatures and endless grey skies are depressing enough to make the idea of picking a fresh tomato or a spicy chili out of the front yard far from reality. Despite any temporary doubts, summer always manages to come and renew my faith as well as offer a bounty of delicious and fresh ingredients to not only cook with, but also drink.

While I would never consider myself a learned mixologist, I do know that the base of a great cocktail is great ingredients, and by utilizing the summer's ripest fruits, the results tend to border on magical. It just so happened that I had gallons upon gallons of beautiful strawberries in my garden at the time of photographing this recipe, so that is what I built the rest of beverage around.

I would suggest growing or foraging for berries, rather than relying on supermarkets. Berry seasons are generally fairly short and only span several weeks at a time throughout the summer, depending on when you are harvesting fresh berry options may include strawberries, mulberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, grapes, huckleberry, currants, and service berries just to list some of the more popular wild and cultivated berries. If you plan on utilizing a berry other than strawberry for this recipe I would suggest fresh raspberries, mulberries, blackberries, or serviceberries, make sure to puree and then pass through a mesh strainer or cheesecloth to catch seeds and berry skins.

In a cocktail meant to embody summer a diverse spirit is required in order to pair with the fresh berry puree and the intensity of the mint oil. I believe that whether spring, summer, autumn, or winter, Bourbon is always an appropriate choice. I've developed a healthy appreciation for Bourbon, both as an ingredient in recipes and poured directly into a shot glass. Bourbon must be aged in charred oak barrels, and this process actually enhances the oaks natural chemical compound vanillin, the same distinct compound found in vanilla beans. (320, Guymon & Crowell). Bourbon is not a direct substitution for vanilla bean or vanilla extract, however for this purpose it works beautifully.

The star of this cocktail and what I would consider the most unique ingredient is the dandelion wine. Dandelion wine is made from the fermented pedals of the common dandelion. I could not think of a better way to utilize the aggressive weed than turning it into a a delicious wine which wine master Jack Keller describes as "light and invigorating". Dandelion wine is sweet with a honey-like flavor, I often serve homemade dandelion wine as a dessert wine, and guests often ask for a second glass.

The primary issue with dandelion wine is that the window in which to actually pick the dandelion pedals is fairly small, in addition the physical collection of dandelion pedals is labor intensive and time consuming. Although, this could be a fun family activity, but for those without the patience or time I have provided links to two commercial dandelion wines. You might want to check out Breitenbach Winery's Dandy Wine or Maple River Winery's Dandy Wine.

Let me know if you have any favorite summer cocktails through e-mail or the comment section below.

Bourbon, Dandelion Wine, Strawberry summer cocktail

Early Summer Cocktail

  • 1 & 1/2 oz Bourbon
  • 1 & 1/2 oz Dandelion wine
  • 1 & 1/2 oz Strawberry Puree
  • 6 Mint leaves, muddled
  • (Optional) Club soda
Cooking Directions
  1. Puree a small portion of strawberries, either freshly picked or store bought.
  2. Add mint into a small glass, and muddle with the end of a wooden spoon.
  3. Pour one shot of good quality Bourbon, dandelion wine, and strawberry puree over the muddled mint.
  4. Add 2-3 ounces of club soda and stir. Finish with several ice cubes.
Total Time: 5 min

Citations and Further Readings:
  • Brown, Jared. "The surprising history of the cocktail." The Telegraph. The Telegraph, 13 Dec. 2012. Web. 
  • Guymon, James F., and Edward A. Crowell. "Separation of vanillin, syringal—Dehyde, and other aromatic compounds in the extracts of French and American oak woods by brandy and aqueous alcohol solutions." Qualitas Plantarum et Materiae Vegetabiles 16.1-4 (1968): 320-333. 
  • Keller, Jack. "Dandelions." Winemaking. N.p., 2 Nov. 2000. Web.


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