Bourbon Peach Cooler

Depending on your point of view, I’m either the best or the worst person when it comes to shopping for fruit at the outdoor market in the summer. I tend to buy way, way too many fruits; since they ripen at different rates, I want to have my pick of the crop when I feel like eating a peach or nectarine. On the other hand, I find myself with way too much fruit on my hands at any given time and in between coddling the fruits through their different stages of ripeness, to refrigerating any overload that I can’t use right away, it seems like my entire summer is all about managing fruit. (When, to be honest, I could use some beach time.)

This week I bought way too many peaches. For some reason, they didn’t just ripen all at once, but they all went from unripe to almost overripe, within a day. I’ve been thinking about a bourbon and peach-based cocktail for a while and had been eyeing my bottle of Bonal, figuring the earthiness of the French apéritif would pair nicely with all-American whiskey in a fruity, refreshing summer drink, and knew I got it right when I took my first sip of this Peach Bourbon Cooler, which really hit the spot.

Bonal is a French apéritif that was originally sold as a health tonic. Developed in 1865 by a monk in the French alps, who eventually pursued a career in medicine, it’s made from alpine herbs which were gathered around the monastery, along with quinine and gentian root, which gives it an earthy, slightly bitter edge.

During its heyday, Bonal was marketed as an energy drink with posters of bicyclists pedaling over an arduous trail in the forest, a soccer goalie catching the ball just before it sails through the goalpost, and a boxer knocking out his opponent, presumably fueled by the alpine apéritif, which was referred to as L’ami des sportifsor “The friend of athletes.”

While today it’s dubious that someone would think an apéritif might improve athletic performance (my unofficial guess is that it might have the opposite effect), I can say with confidence that it does make an excellent addition to this peach and bourbon-based cooler. If you can’t get it, I’ve offered a few substitutions in the headnote to the recipe below. No matter what you use, I think you’ll agree that this summertime cooler is indeed, quite a knockout.

Bourbon Peach Cooler
Print Recipe
1 drink
If you can't get Bonal, you can use another spirit in its place, such as crème de pêche (or peach liqueur), Lillet, Cap Corse, Dubonnet, or Punt e Mes or Dolin sweet vermouth - or another red vermouth that leans toward the bitter side. If using something on the sweet side, like crème de pêche or Lillet, you may want to use only 1/4 ounce of the muscovado syrup. To make muscovado syrup, heat 1/4 cup (60ml) water with 1/4 cup (50g) dark brown sugar. Stir over the heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool, then pour into a jar and refrigerate until ready to use. The syrup will keep for at least a week.
Three (1/2-inch/2cm) slices of fresh peaches, peeled and diced
1/2 ounce muscovado syrup (see headnote)
2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce Bonal
Ginger beer, sparkling cider, tonic water, or beer
Peach slices, for garnish
Fresh mint, for garnish
1. Put the peach pieces in a cocktail shaker with the muscovado syrup. Use a muddler or a fork to mash them very well, so they are liquified as much as possible.
2. Add the bourbon and Bonal to the cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker half-full of ice, cover and shake vigorously until well-chilled and the ice is broken up, 15 to 20 seconds.
3. Remove the lid and either strain into a tumbler (the peaches may be a bit fibrous so you might need to help it pass through the mesh strainer with the aid of a soup spoon or spatula), then add ice. Or you can just open the shaker and pour the icy mixture into a tumbler. Pour a splash of ginger beer, or another sparkler, into the glass and garnish with peach slices and fresh mint.
Bourbon Peach Cooler


    June 21, 2020 1:34pm

    It sounds delightful. Reply

  • June 21, 2020 2:47pm

    This looks delicious. The peaches sont magnefique this year. I think it must have been the rain we had in the spring. Was wondering if you’ve come across Frigolet liqueur which was made by monks at the Abbaye de Frigolet near where I live (between Tarascon and Avignon). I might try using it here. It’s made of local herbs and honey. Reply

    • June 21, 2020 3:28pm
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t tried that liqueur but there are so many regional liqueurs and apéritifs in France that don’t make it outside of their region. Sounds like a good one! Reply

  • Ellen Napier
    June 21, 2020 6:08pm

    I make a slush in the blender with a peach, vodka, frozen lemonade concentrate, ginger ale and lots of ice. It’s always a refreshing favorite in the summer, but I am usually a bourbon drinker so I definitely will try this. My liquor cabinet is overflowing with liqueurs I have purchased to try several of your awesome drink recipes. I think until I can share with friends, I may need to put the brakes on! Reply

  • Carol J Butterfield
    June 21, 2020 6:57pm

    “…it seems like my entire summer is all about managing fruit…”. I hear you! We live in a very rural food desert, so when I get ahold of fruit, it’s Katie Bar the Door! (Try to explain that one to Romain!) Reply

  • Mairi Athanatos
    June 22, 2020 11:45am

    Difficult to source Bonal…what can
    be substituted in it’s place.
    Evcharisto ..thanks! Reply

    • June 22, 2020 11:50am
      David Lebovitz

      In the headnote just before the recipe, I gave some recommendations – “If you can’t get Bonal, you can use another spirit in its place, such as crème de pêche (or peach liqueur), Lillet, Cap Corse, Dubonnet, or Punt e Mes or Dolin sweet vermouth – or another red vermouth that leans toward the bitter side. If using something on the sweet side, like crème de pêche or Lillet, you may want to use only 1/4 ounce of the muscovado syrup.” Reply

  • Stewart
    June 23, 2020 12:26am

    Can’t get Bonal but I do have a bottle of Suze here… would that be a decent substitute? Reply

    • June 23, 2020 6:34am
      David Lebovitz

      Suze is pretty bitter and might overwhelm the other ingredients so I’d stick to one of the substitutes I offered in the headnote to the recipe. Reply

  • lamassu
    June 23, 2020 4:08pm

    I had peaches at home but no bourbon
    so I tried instead peaches (the flat ones) + red Vermouth, italian style (Carpano); Prosecco + Soda
    something in between Strawberry Spritz + Peach Cooler Reply

  • Adam Hevenor
    June 25, 2020 1:02am

    looking forward to trying this our later in the summer when peaches are fresh. Thanks for the book – it’s been a good way to experience France this year from Colorado Reply

  • CoquilleDC
    June 26, 2020 5:00am

    This is beyond amazing. I used local farm peaches and mint, plus local Washington, DC bitter vermouth (Capitoline Tiber). Phenomenal. Thank you! Looking forward to trying with white nectarines. Reply

  • Beth
    July 1, 2020 3:49pm

    I was able to buy Bonal in Georgetown/DC a few days ago (I live in Arlington).

    SO GOOD. I love this drink. I’ve made two drinks in a row with it. I will be making this one after I visit my farmer’s market. Reply

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