I am heading out to a tailgate party this weekend that involves a horse race, fancy hats, and daytime drinking. Do you have any great ideas for a fun, adults-only beverage I could make ahead to share with the group?
Let’s play a word association game! When I think of horses, I think of Kentucky. And when I think of Kentucky, I think of bourbon. I mean, doesn’t everyone?
So it’s a natural assumption that any drink you’re stirring up for a party that involves adults in fancy hats—scratch that, for any easy breezy outdoor party at all—should involve a big glug of bourbon. As Julie Andrews says, it’s a very good place to start.
The second place you’ll want to go after you pull the bourbon out of your liquor cabinet is over to the grill, because that bourbon is going to taste even better when you mix it with lemonade. Specifically fresh lemonade. And though it’s not a requirement that the lemons be grilled before you squeeze them, I’m strongly suggesting it because of the incredibly summery, smoky flavor it imparts to the finished drink. (And we all know how much I love smoky grilled fruit in my drinks.)
There’s no trick or mystery to grilling lemons: just cut ‘em in half and place ‘em face-down on your screaming-hot grill grates for a few minutes. Some people brush the cut side of the lemons with honey or dip them in granulated sugar before grilling. Again, not a requirement—I grill my lemons naked and they char up just fine without any additional sugar.
So grill your lemons if you can, but rest easy: I’m not going to force you into grilling a whole tree’s worth of peaches and puréeing them to get 4 cups’ worth of peach juice for this drink. There are enough excellent options for organic peach nectar in the supermarket that we can hedge our bets here. I am, however, going to make you do one last thing to send this lemonade into the stratosphere.
It’s called brown sugar simple syrup, and it really is simple—follow the same 1:1 ratio of sugar to water that you’d use to make regular simple syrup, but switch it up with brown sugar instead of white granulated sugar. It’s almost as good as using maple sugar or maple syrup but a lot less pricey. You can make the same substitution with coconut sugar or demerara sugar, if you’d like. Both the grilled citrus and the brown sugar are deepening the flavor of the lemonade, giving you more of that caramelized sweetness that mimics the charred oak-and-vanilla undertones of the bourbon.
The following recipe makes a whole jug of lemonade, enough to keep the party going for a while. If you plan on keeping the drink over ice in a large pitcher or drink dispenser for a few hours, you can add less water to the finished product so it won’t dilute too much as the ice melts.
Cheers, tally ho, well done, and move your bloomin’ arse, or whatever they say at horse races! (Sorry, my horse knowledge is limited to the polo match scene from Pretty Woman and My Fair Lady.)
Bourbon Peach Lemonade
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
Makes about 3 quarts
- 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark, your choice)
- 1 cup water + 1 quart water, divided (see instructions below)
- 1 quart organic peach nectar, such as Ceres
- 1 cup bourbon
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (even better when you grill your lemons before juicing!)
- peach slices for garnish (optional)
- lemon wheels for garnish (optional)
Make brown sugar simple syrup: Stir the brown sugar together with 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat.
Cook, stirring, until the brown sugar dissolves completely and the syrup comes to a simmer. Remove from the heat to cool.
Stir the brown sugar syrup together with the remaining water, peach nectar, bourbon, and lemon juice.
Serve over ice with peach slices and lemon wheels for garnish, if desired.
The lemonade can be made a day in advance; refrigerate until ready to serve.