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11 Essential Bourbon Cocktails Everyone Should Try

Bourbon is the quintessential American spirit. It’s one of the most versatile bases for cocktails and there are countless recipes that accent it’s oak and caramel notes. Whether you’re drawn to its sophisticated side or more about its outlaw history, bourbon’s got something for everyone. 

To celebrate it, we put together 12 of our favorite bourbon cocktails. Remember to enjoy responsibly and let’s get right into the list.

1. Old-fashioned

We may as well start with the king of simple bourbon cocktails: the old-fashioned. For how remarkably simple it is, this cocktail has certainly stood the test of time and remains a favorite among both whiskey connoisseurs and causal dabblers. 

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • Dash of bitters
  • Sugar cube
  • Orange peel for garnish

Muddle the sugar cube in an old-fashioned glass with a dash of bitters and fill the glass with ice. Add the bourbon and stir with a bar spoon to incorporate the sugar. Garnish with an orange peel and enjoy.

2. Manhattan

Named after New York City’s Manhattan Club, this cocktail quickly became popular all over the world when it was invented in the 1880s. The Manhattan is often made with rye, but bourbon works just as well and many prefer it. 

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • 1 ounce of vermouth
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • A dash of orange bitters

Fill a shaker with ice and add all the ingredients. Stir with a bar spoon until all the ingredients are mixed well and then strain it into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a skewered Maraschino cherry.

3. Mint Julep

A classic Kentucky cocktail with a history going back hundreds of years. The mint julep is the perfect way to take the edge off a sweltering evening in the South. It has a nice kick of bourbon tempered by the crisp freshness of mint. 

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • 1 tsp of powdered sugar
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of water

Muddle the sugar, water and mint leaves in a highball glass and fill it with ice. Add the bourbon and stir until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Garnish with a sprig of mint and enjoy.

3. Mint Julep

4. Hot Toddy

Winter bourbon cocktails have a way of truly warming you from the inside out. And chilly winter nights are when hot toddies shine, but hot cocktail fans enjoy them all year round. 

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • 2 cloves
  • A lemon peel
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • ½ ounce of lemon juice

Boil the lemon peel and cloves in water briefly. Fill a mug with the boiling water and add sugar to dissolve. Add lemon juice and bourbon and stir to combine the ingredients. Garnish with a slice of lemon and enjoy.

5. Whiskey Sour

A cousin of the Amaretto sour, this cocktail dates back all the way to the pre-war United States. Don’t let the egg whites throw you off, they’re only there to give the drink some texture and they don’t really change the flavor. 

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • ½ an ounce of lemon juice
  • ½ ounce of simple syrup
  • ½ ounce of egg whites

Put all the ingredients in a shaker full of ice and shake until you see a froth form on the top. Strain it into a cocktail glass and garnish with a few dashes of Angostura bitters. You can try it without the egg whites, as well.

6. Boulevardier

The boulevardier was invented by the publisher of a magazine for Americans living in Paris in the 1920s. Today, it remains equally popular among high society as it is with casual bourbon-drinkers. 

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • 1 ounce of Campari
  • 1 ounce of vermouth

Add all the ingredients in a shaker full of ice and stir to incorporate. Strain it into an old-fashioned glass, garnish with a twist of orange, and enjoy.

7. Gold Rush

The gold rush is a more contemporary drink than most of the others on this list. It’s similar to a hot toddy but it’s served cold and makes for an excellent sipping cocktail before dinner. 

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • 1 ounce of lemon juice
  • 1 ounce of honey

Combine the ingredients in a shaker full of ice. Shake vigorously until they’re incorporated. The honey will take quite a bit of shaking to fully dissolve. Strain it into an old-fashioned glass and enjoy.

8. Billionaire

Some cocktails become fan favorites as a result of their simplicity and ease of access. The billionaire is not such a cocktail. It features a rich mix of quality ingredients, and you’ll want a high-proof bourbon to keep up with the rest of the components

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • ½ an ounce of simple syrup
  • ½ an ounce of grenadine syrup
  • 1 ounce of lemon juice
  • ¼ of an ounce of absinthe

Combine the ingredients in a shaker full of ice. Shake it thoroughly, until all the ingredients are combined. String the drink into a cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of lemon.

9. John Collins

A riff on the whiskey sour, this cocktail is great for just about any occasion. If you’re ever in doubt this is the cocktail to order, since every bartender will know it and it’s a great sipping drink. 

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • 1 ounce of lemon juice
  • ½ an ounce of simple syrup
  • 2 ounces of club soda

Combine the bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup in a Collins glass full of ice. Stir with a bar spoon to thoroughly mix them and top with club soda. Garnish with an orange slice and enjoy.

9. John Collins

10. Bourbon Sidecar

The sidecar is one of the most popular cocktails of all time and deservedly so. The only problem with it is that it features brandy instead of bourbon. But that’s easy enough to fix. 

  • 2 ounces of bourbon
  • 1 ounce of orange liqueur
  • 1 ounce of lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker full of ice. Shake gently or stir with a bar spoon. Strain it into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lemon twist, and enjoy. The key to an excellent sidecar is to find the right balance of ingredients. If you find it too sweet or sour, play around with the orange liqueur and lemon juice. Even half an ounce of one or the other can make a huge difference.

11. Beggar’s Banquet

This is the cocktail for people who like things simple but also want a little depth to their drink. It’s a robust cocktail but you can build it directly in the glass in a hot minute. 

  • 2 ounce of bourbon
  • ¾ of an ounce of maple syrup
  • 5 ounces of lager

Combine the ingredients in a tumbler and stir gently. It doesn’t need a garnish, but an orange slice will do if you insist. 

Enjoy Responsibly

This list of essential bourbon cocktails should be enough to get you started. From there, you can move on to more adventurous options. We’re fans of all things Southern, so if you have a favorite bourbon cocktail you want to share, we’d love to hear about it. 

We have a few favorites of our own. If you’re ever in the area and fancy a drink, come try one of our signature bourbon cocktails. Call us today to reserve a table, and we’ll leave a light on for you.

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