Thunderbird Cocktail Recipe

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Thunderbird Nutrition Facts





Alcohol %:20%

Created by

Nic Polotnianko

I fell in love with the art of mixology 6 years ago. Since then, I've honed my skills, crafting a myriad of cocktail recipes, and sharing my passion with other enthusiasts.

Last Updated: January 7, 2024


The Thunderbird cocktail is a classic drink that dates back to the 1950s. It was first introduced by the United States Air Force's Thunderbirds aerobatic team. This cocktail was a favorite among the pilots and quickly gained popularity in bars across the country.

  • Who would like it?

    If you're a fan of strong, citrusy cocktails, you'll love the Thunderbird. It's a great choice for those who enjoy a good balance of sweet and sour flavors.

How Thunderbird Tastes?

The Thunderbird cocktail is a delightful blend of sweet, sour, and strong flavors. The sweetness of the grenadine and the sourness of the grapefruit juice are perfectly balanced by the strong, robust taste of the whiskey.

Interesting facts about Thunderbird

  • The Thunderbird cocktail was named after the U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds aerobatic team.

  • It's a classic cocktail that has been enjoyed for over six decades.

  • The cocktail's strong, citrusy flavor makes it a popular choice for summer gatherings.



Whiskey is the heart of the Thunderbird; it brings warmth, complexity, and a hint of smokiness or sweetness, depending on the variety used. Using 2 oz is just right to assert its presence without overpowering the other ingredients. If you use less, you might not feel the soul of the cocktail, and more might turn the cocktail into a boozy punch. If whiskey isn't your thing, trying a dark rum could add a fun, tropical twist to your Thunderbird.

Emma Rose

Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit juice offers a pleasantly bitter and tart counterpoint to the sweetness of the whiskey and grenadine. 1 oz balances the cocktail with just enough zing without making it too tart. If you forget it, you'll miss out on the refreshing citrusy lift it gives. For a twist, orange juice could work but would bring a sweeter, less complex profile to the drink.

Alex Green


Grenadine syrup adds a splash of color and a touch of sweetness that rounds out the drink and gives it its signature blush. Half an ounce is perfect for a subtle hint of pomegranate sweetness that doesn't turn the drink cloying. If grenadine's not on hand, a simple raspberry syrup could do the trick but would bring a more berry-forward sweetness to the cocktail.

Mary Mitkina

Recipe. How to make Thunderbird Drink

  1. Fill a shaker with ice.
  2. Add 2 oz of whiskey, 1 oz of grapefruit juice, and 1/2 oz of grenadine.
  3. Shake well until the outside of the shaker becomes frosty.
  4. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  5. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Pro Tips

Use fresh grapefruit juice for the best flavor.

  • Chill your cocktail glass before serving for a refreshing drink.
  • Don't overdo it with the grenadine. A little goes a long way.

Perfect Pairings

Appetizers & Snacks

  • Bold cheeses: The whiskey's robust flavor pairs wonderfully with sharp, pungent cheeses.
  • Citrus-infused seafood dishes: Complement the grapefruit juice component by pairing with citrusy seafood like grapefruit marinated shrimp.
  • Smoked meats: Enhance the smoky notes of the whiskey with a side of smoked pork or chicken.
  • Nuts: Try a mix of almonds or walnuts for the complimentary earthy and crunchy textures.

Sweets & Desserts

  • Fruit tarts: The tart sweetness of fruits like lemon or berries in a tart can nicely balance the drink's sweetness and acidity.
  • Dark chocolate: The bitterness of dark chocolate will create a delightful contrast to the cocktail's sweeter grenadine notes.

Non-alcoholic Pairings

  • Sparkling water: Between sips of Thunderbird, cleanse the palate with some fizzy water.
  • Bitter lemon soda: A non-alcoholic beverage that still complements the citrus notes of the cocktail.

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What you could change in Thunderbird

You can substitute the whiskey with bourbon for a slightly sweeter taste.

  • If you don't have grapefruit juice, you can use lemon or lime juice instead.

Explore all drinks starting with T here

And of course - twists🍹

Smoky Thunderbird

  • Swap regular whiskey for a peaty Scotch.
  • Maintain the same ratios - 2 oz Scotch, 1 oz grapefruit juice, 1/2 oz grenadine.
  • Shake and strain as above. The drink adopts a pronounced smoky character, ideal for those who love a deep, intense flavor.

Thunderbird Royale

  • Add 1/2 oz of Chambord to the recipe.
  • Top the strained cocktail with a splash of champagne or sparkling wine.
  • The result is a luxurious, bubbly cocktail with a berry twist perfect for celebrating special occasions.

Tropical Thunderbird

  • Use a dark rum instead of whiskey.
  • Add a dash of coconut cream.
  • The use of rum and coconut cream will transport you to an island paradise, softening the cocktail and adding a velvety tropical twist.

In case you forgot basics how to make Thunderbird

Add your ingredients to the shaker first, then ice. Fill it up to ¾ of its capacity to ensure enough space for shaking. Hold the shaker with both hands (one on the top and one on the bottom) and shake vigorously. The shake should come from your shoulders, not your wrists.

Learn everything on how to shake

Place your chosen strainer on top of the shaker or mixing glass, ensuring a secure fit. Pour the cocktail into a glass through the strainer, which will catch solid ingredients and ice. If double straining, hold the fine mesh strainer between the shaker and the glass.

Learn everything on how to strain

Garnishing a bar drink depends on the type of garnish and the cocktail. Generally, it involves preparing the garnish (like cutting a citrus wheel or picking a sprig of mint), and then adding it to the drink in a visually appealing way (like perching it on the rim or floating it on top).

Learn everything on garnishing

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Frequently Asked Questions on Thunderbird

What type of whisky is the best to use in a Thunderbird cocktail?

While any type of whisky can be used in a Thunderbird cocktail, it is generally accepted that a rye or bourboun whisky gives the best flavor.

Are there any non-alcoholic versions of the Thunderbird cocktail?

Yes, the alcohol can be omitted from the recipe for a non-alcoholic version. There are also non-alcoholic spirits available on the market that replicate the flavour of whisky.

What other cocktails have a citrus base similar to the Thunderbird?

The Margarita, Paloma, and Tom Collins are other popular cocktails that have a citrus base.

Can I use other types of citrus juice besides grapefruit?

Yes, while grapefruit is the traditional choice, you can experiment with other citrus juices such as orange or lime. However, this alters the signature taste of the cocktail.

What is the ideal time to serve a Thunderbird cocktail?

The Thunderbird cocktail is a versatile drink that can be served anytime. It is particularly popular during summer evenings and party gatherings.

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