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Bourbon Cocktails for Any Mood, Season, or Time of Day

You might know some bourbon aficionados who will only drink the spirit on its own, nothing added. This definitely isn’t for everyone though. Especially if you’ve never tried bourbon and need an easy intro or you’re just wanting some new inspiration for a change from your faves, bourbon cocktails are the perfect solution. For a tasty, enjoyable way to end your day or delight your guests, check out these recipes.

How to Choose Bourbon

There are many types of bourbon to choose from that are ideal for mixing cocktails at home. A lot of what makes one bourbon taste better than others is personal taste, but don’t go too sweet or overlook quality and the most important aspect: abv (alcohol by volume). This shouldn’t be below 47 percent; otherwise, the bourbon will dilute too much as the ice in your glass melts.

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Top Bourbon Cocktails

Mint Julep

The history of the Mint Julep goes back to the 18th century when people in America’s south self-medicated with alcohol. Juleps – or, at the time, rye, steeped with mint – helped soothe their stomachs and then later became the traditional Kentucky Derby drink. Since the 1930s, this cocktail has become quite popular and is enjoyed over 100,000 times annually at each event. It’s balanced by smoky, sweet, and herbal flavors and can easily be made at home by following these steps:

  • Add the leaves from 4-5 mint sprigs and two cubes of sugar or half an ounce of simple syrup to a julep cup, double old-fashioned glass, or collins glass.
  • Muddle the ingredients well until the sugar is dissolved and the mint is aromatic.
  • Add 2.5 ounces of your favorite bourbon.
  • Toss in some crushed ice – as small as you can, since the more diluted the drink, the cooler it becomes and more it takes the bourbon’s edge off.
  • Stir until the glass gets frosty, and garnish with a mint sprig.

Old Fashioned

As the precise definition of a cocktail circa 1806 – alcohol, sugar, water, and bitters – Old Fashioneds were originally made with rye. Around 1875 or so, bartenders took matters into their own hands by improving the recipe and using different spirits. Today, bourbon is the go-to choice for these simple, classic cocktails with sugar, bitters, orange, and cherry. You can get a wide range of flavors in Old Fashioneds depending on the types and quality of ingredients you choose. In any case, the recipe is simple.

Add two teaspoons of simple syrup, a few dashes of Angostura and orange bitters, a large ice cube, and two ounces of your favorite bourbon to a cocktail glass. Stir for at least a minute. Squeeze an orange peel over the glass, then twist and add it in. Garnish with a cocktail cherry.

Manhattan

A simple, classic cocktail you can’t go wrong with for any occasion, the Manhattan is versatile and enjoyed with bourbon by many.

Into a mixing glass, pour two ounces of bourbon, an ounce of sweet vermouth, and three dashes of aromatic bitters, and add ice cubes. Give it a good stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add a cherry as garnish and enjoy.

Whiskey Sour

Add two ounces of bourbon, ¾-ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and ¾-ounces of simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake for about 20 seconds or until the shaker is very cold. Strain the drink into a rocks or old-fashioned glass and add ice. Garnish with a cherry and orange slice.

Brandy Alexander

Try this “Bourbon Alexander” for a neat spin on the classic Brandy Alexander cocktail. It gives you delicious, creamy chocolate with a bourbon kick to ignite your senses.

Combine one ounce each of your favorite bourbon, Creme de Cacao, and cream or half-and-half, a dash of simple syrup, and a dash of salt into a cocktail shaker. Shake hard for about 20 seconds. Add ice and shake for another 20 seconds, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Add some nutmeg for garnish.

Negroni

For a southern American take on the Italian classic, give this Negroni recipe a try. You’ll notice a softer, smoother, warmer finish compared to the typical Negroni’s astringency.

Into a cocktail shaker, combine two ounces of bourbon, one-ounce sweet vermouth, ¾-ounces of Campari, and a dash of orange bitters. Shake over ice and strain into a coupe or martini glass. Finish off with orange peel for garnish.

Pimm's Cup

Combine 1.25 ounces each of bourbon and Pimm’s No. 1 and ¾-ounces each of mint simple syrup (you can also make this yourself) and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Stir gently, add three ounces of club soda, and stir again. Strain the drink into an ice-filled Julep cup and garnish with a mint sprig.

Moscow Mule

You don’t need vodka to enjoy a Moscow – or Bourbon – Mule, which is best served in a copper mug designed to keep the cocktail ice cold.

Into a copper mug or highball glass, add 1.5 ounces of your favorite bourbon and a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice, then fill with ice. Add half a cup of light ginger beer and stir. Add a slice of lime and a sprig of mint to garnish.

Bourbon Cocktail FAQs

What are the Best Mixers for Bourbon Cocktails?

Some of the best ingredients to mix with bourbon cocktails include cola, sparkling or still water, eggnog, Angostura bitters, ginger beer, ale, or syrup, coffee, and apple cider.

What's the Best Way to Serve Bourbon?

If you’re not using bourbon in cocktails, try it neat at room temperature, or on the rocks, over ice. Ice will dilute some of the stronger, intense flavors, making the spirit go down easier.

Is Bourbon Meant to be Sipped?

Unlike bourbon cocktails, drinking this liquor straight is meant to be done slowly, so you can savor its scent and notes. Start by inhaling gently and periodically taking small sips.

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