(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

Memorial Day weekend is the official summer kick-off. Every year, this weekend marks the calendar with family picnics, backyard BBQs and of course pool parties. In our neck of the woods, it inevitably rains. But that never stop us from celebrating like it's sunny outside! Grab a pitcher and join me in turning summer's favorite staple — lemonade! — into the perfect cocktail for happy hour.

Memorial Day is an All-American holiday in honor of the men and women who have given their lives so that the rest of us can keep living the American dream.  It's fitting we toast them with an American-made adult beverage right from the heart of Kentucky: Wild Turkey's American Honey Bourbon.

Flavored spirits are booming in popularity and it seems honey is the "go to" for bourbon houses looking to get in the flavor game. It's no wonder — honey is an obvious choice since it works well with most whiskey (think hot toddy here!). In the past month I've tasted more than half a dozen honey-flavored whiskeys and this one (Wild Turkey American Honey Bourbon $21.99/ 750 ml bottle) is by far the most balanced. Sipped alone, it's a bit sweet for most bourbon lovers; but in cocktails like this simple grown-up lemonade, it's delicious.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

When making any cocktail that calls for lemonade you're not doing yourself any favors using a powdered mix. This goes for iced tea based drinks too. Those powdered mixes are overly sweet and deliver a less than appealing chemical aftertaste. It's easy enough to make lemonade from scratch, the hardest part being squeezing the lemons. But hey, since we're kicking off swimsuit season, your arms will thank you for the work out. 

Remember that lemon's sweetness and tartness can range dramatically from fruit to fruit, so taste-test your batch as you go. If you like your lemonade sweeter, increase the sugar to 2 cups and always add the water in stages. Start with adding 1 quart of water to the lemon juice and sugar, and continue adding water until you find your sweet spot. 

This lemonade spiked with honey bourbon is perfect for kicking off Memorial Day weekend, and every other weekend this summer, too. Get to squeezing and have a very happy happy hour!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

Honey Bourbon Lemonade

Serves 8 to 10

1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 quarts + 2 cups of water, divided
2 cups of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup American Honey Bourbon
1 lemon sliced into rounds, for garnish

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar and 2 cups of water to a simmer and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

In a large pitcher combine the simple syrup, lemon juice, American Honey bourbon and 1 quart of water. Taste and add additional water to taste.

Serve in ice-filled glasses and garnish with lemon slices.

Recipe Notes

Feel free to garnish with fresh herbs too.  Mint, basil, and lemon balm all work to add aroma and a pop of color to your spiked lemonade.

(Images: Maureen Petrosky)