If you don’t like whisky because it’s too strong, these bourbon cocktails might be the perfect middle ground.
What’s the difference? Well, in basic terms, bourbon is whiskey, but not every whiskey is bourbon.
The difference is in the percentage of grains used and how it’s aged.
To be classified as bourbon, it needs to be made using at least 51% corn.
Bourbon also must be aged in new charred oak barrels, where whiskey barrels can be recycled from other distilleries.
That large percentage of corn is what gives bourbon its unique sweet taste and why I think you’ll love every one of these recipes.
20+ Must-Try Bourbon Cocktail Recipes
It won’t come as a surprise to hear that a classic whiskey or bourbon sour recipe includes plenty of lemon juice.
That said, there is sugar in the mix, too, to keep this from being out of balance.
Depending on your tastes, you might want to up the lemon juice for this since bourbon is noticeably sweeter than whiskey.
Either way, I highly recommend using maple syrup as it pairs perfectly with the vanilla notes in the bourbon.
This cocktail is like a cross between a whiskey sour and a mint julep.
It gets the name from the fact that you need to muddle or smash the mint with sugar and lemon.
When you look at the ingredients, you’ll notice that it’s almost identical to the above recipe, with the exception of the mint.
It’s also served over plenty of ice and not meant to be strained.
The old-fashioned can be traced way back to 1806 and is one of the very first recorded definitions of the cocktail.
Traditionally made with sugar, bitters, water, and a decent glug of bourbon or whiskey, it’s the kind of drink you take your time to make and then sip, rather than devour in one mouthful.
Since the drink contains bitters, which have lovely orange notes, this drink is perfect with a simple piece of orange peel.
The smell alone will enhance the flavors like you won’t believe.
The Manhattan is a straightforward cocktail made using three ingredients and a lot of love. It’s intense, rich, and full of bourbon flavor.
This drink does not get shaken over ice but needs to be stirred gently before serving.
To get the chill, add crushed ice to your glass while you make the drink, then tip it out before pouring.
Then add two parts bourbon to a shaker with one part sweet vermouth and bitters and stir to combine.
This cocktail was created in San Francisco by a bartender with a few too many bottles of Bulleit bourbon.
Since it was an unknown brand, he wanted to create something new to help it sell.
He came with this twisted version of a Manhattan that uses Bulleit bourbon and flamed orange peel that you can smell from across the bar.
Hence the name, revolver.
The flamed orange peel is a crucial addition, and it’s easy to replicate at home.
Just take a thick slice of peel and squeeze it over your finished cocktail and an open flame.
Use a lighter and let the orange oils pass through. Then rub the smokey peel around the rim and drop it in the drink.
Did you know that the mint julep is the drink of the Kentucky Derby and that over 120,000 cocktails are served over that one weekend each year?
With a drink that popular, we’d be silly not to try it, right?
I mentioned above that the whiskey smash was a cross between the julep and a whiskey sour.
So, while the latter brought the lemon, this drink is all about the mint.
As the weather gets colder, the last thing I want at night is a glass full of ice. Even with warm alcohol, like bourbon, it’s just too cold to enjoy.
What better way to fight the chill than with a glass of hot, sweet bourbon, lemon, and honey?
It won’t just warm you up; it will also fight off any nasty winter bugs.
This recipe calls for 1 ½ ounce of bourbon with two teaspoons each of honey and lemon juice.
That’s a great base, but you can adjust it to your tastes with ease.
Other than the inclusion of ginger, I could not find out why this is called a ginger rabbit. Any ideas?
This cocktail is surprisingly complex, and it’s so much more than just ginger, lemon, and bourbon.
First, you’ll make black tea and anise simple syrup that is slightly spicy and makes this a little like spiked ice tea.
But then it also has 1/2 ounce of Creme Yvette, a liqueur made with parma violet petals, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cassis, honey, orange peel, and vanilla.
It’s pretty sweet, and the violet taste and fragrance are a lot. If you’re not a fan of Parma Violet candies, you won’t enjoy this drink.
There’s nothing demure about this bourbon cocktail. Instead, the name refers to the use of Crème de mûre, a vibrant blackberry liqueur.
It’s very sweet and often enjoyed as an after-dinner digestif. Crème de Cassis would make a good alternative, though the flavors are slightly different.
This drink also includes Cointreau, adding a lovely light orange note.
Traditional sidecars are made with Cognac and citrus. They’re sweet, and tart and are known to be a lighter version of the whiskey sour.
Where the sour uses only lemon juice, the sidecar has Cointreau, which makes it boozier and provides a more mellow citrus flavor.
You can also use triple sec if that’s all you have, but it’s a little harsher and less balanced.
I’m sure you’ve tried or at least heard of the Tom Collins.
It’s a refreshing blend of gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda, first published in 1876 (thought believed to be much older).
As you might have already guessed, the John Collins is pretty much identical, but for the use of bourbon.
Where Tom is botanical and summery, John is deep and full of caramel and vanilla notes. Both are refreshing, but the latter has more warmth.
Also known as milk punch or egg milk punch, eggnog is one of those drinks that people either love or hate.
Full of milk, cream, sugar, and plenty of eggs, this cocktail is thick, creamy, and almost like a boozy milkshake (though it’s often made without any alcohol).
Some very traditional recipes call for raw eggs, and it is safe to consume for most people. Obviously, kids and pregnant women should steer clear.
But today, it’s more often than not made with pasteurized eggs, which are sort of cooked, to the point they’re completely safe for everyone to consume.
You can buy pasteurized eggs, yolks, and whites in the refrigerator section of your local supermarket.
If you’re looking for a festive cocktail to serve at your next Holiday party, this drink is for you.
First, it’s full of sweet and tart cranberries, which are synonymous with the festive season. Look for unsweetened juice, not the syrupy cocktail mixer.
Next, you’ll add lemon juice and simple syrup to enhance the fruity berries and balance out the sour taste.
Finally, use a decent bourbon that you would drink on its own. Otherwise, it might be too overpowering.
Adding raspberry to whisky might not be the best blend. Whiskey is harsh and very strong, and I don’t know that the raspberries would pair well.
Bourbon, on the other hand, has a beautiful warmth and plenty of sweet taste. Between the orange and vanilla flavors, raspberry fits in like a dream.
You’ll also lighten this up with citrus soda, making it bubbly and full of clean, zesty goodness.
Remember when I said the Black Demure would work with Crème de Cassis?
Well, others thought so too and came up with this rich berry-flavored bourbon cocktail.
It’s more bourbon than anything else, but the blend of berry liqueur, lemon juice, and bitters provides just enough to cut through the alcohol.
For those who like things less sweet, just start without the simple syrup and add as much as you think you’ll need.
Served in a copper mug, the Moscow mule is a blend of vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice.
It’s super easy to modify, using rum, tequila, or even bourbon instead of vodka.
Since this is called Kentucky mule, it’s best to find Kentucky bourbon.
Contrary to popular opinion, bourbon can be made anywhere in the US. It just happens that most of it is made in Kentucky.
I’m a huge fan of Jefferson’s Reserve for its dreamy honeyed fruit and caramel taste.
Also, Old Forester Birthday would be wonderful here with its unique chocolate and almond flavors.
The idea behind the whiskey sour is, of course, the sourness. Though it includes sugar, it’s not a sweet drink.
But there’s nothing that says you can’t change that. Drink how you want to drink, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
There are no wrong answers in cocktail making, and it’s all about finding something you love.
So, if the classic bourbon sour above is too tart for you, try this maple syrup and cinnamon version instead.
You can use a pinch of cinnamon in the drink if you have it, or for a spicier kick, try using Jim Beam Kentucky Fire.
Here’s another fruit and sweet riff on the classic whiskey sour recipe.
Rather than using blackberry liqueur, this cocktail included blackberry simple syrup and blackberry bourbon.
To make the simple syrup, just add twice as many frozen blackberries and sugar along with half the amount of water as sugar.
For example, that could be two cups of fruit to one cup of sugar and ½ cup water.
If you can’t find blackberry bourbon, go ahead and use whatever you have and add a little blackberry liqueur.
Do you crave twisted tea and lemonade as much as I do? They’re super summery and just boozy enough to make you smile.
Start with store-bought lemonade and just add as much bourbon as you like.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can add all kinds of fruit to the pitcher.
Muddle them a little before adding the liquids and let it sit in the fridge until it’s time to serve.
The Man O’War is another quintessential Kentucky Derby cocktail. In fact, it’s named for the legendary horse, Man O’War, who won 20 out of 21 races in 1920.
Since Man O’War was a Kentucky native, this drink should only be made with Kentucky bourbon (but I won’t tell if you don’t have any).
Unlike the julep, which is loaded with fresh mint, this race day cocktail is full of DeKuyper® Orange Curacao Liqueur, sweet vermouth, and orange juice.
I’ve had cocktails with mint, thyme, rosemary, and cucumber. But pine-infused simple syrup?
Pine is very recognizable by its fragrance, though it is quite herbal, a little sweet, and almost similar to rosemary when consumed.
Those sweet and herbal tones work pretty well with the lovely warmth of the bourbon.
However, some might find the fragrance overwhelming and distracting.
Lemon drop candies are lip-smackingly delicious and the kind of treat that gets your juices flowering.
This cocktail is similar, putting a lot of its focus on the sourness instead of the sweet side.
Of course, just adding pure lemon juice to your drinks can leave them a little flat. So, you’ll use lemon and lime, making your own sour mix of sorts.
I had to end with a twisted tea cocktail. Bourbon is, after all, known to be a southern fave, and what’s more southern than sweet tea?
Just add honey simple syrup, bourbon sour mash whiskey, and citrus bitters to your favorite iced tea recipe.
Or, look for this incredible Owl’s Brew cocktail mixer.
The Owl’s Brew Pink & Black has hibiscus tea, strawberry, and lemon, but they also have a citrus sweet tea version.
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