Here are the best bourbon cocktails that make the best of this popular whiskey! These bourbon drinks work for summer, winter, and every time in between.
Got a great bottle of bourbon whiskey? The sweet notes of vanilla and oak make bourbon drinks some of the most complex and intriguing out there. Of course, you can drink bourbon straight up. But why when there are so many great bourbon cocktails to try? Bourbon works in any season. Though it might feel autumnal with its full-bodied flavor, there choices for summer bourbon cocktails as well.
Here at A Couple Cooks, we prefer bourbon in most of our Classic Cocktails instead of rye whiskey, because of its smooth and sweet flavor. Here’s our list of best whiskey cocktails using bourbon! They include classics like the Whiskey Sour and Old Fashioned, to unique spins like the fresh and summery bourbon berry smash.
The Bourbon Sour is one of the best known bourbon cocktails there is! Also known as the Whiskey Sour, it's balanced and sweet tart, complementing bourbon with the acidity of lemon and the sweetness of simple syrup. This version uses maple syrup to add a nuanced flavor. Also try an egg white foam topping to make a Boston Sour.
The Boulevardier is a bourbon drink that's smooth, rich, spicy, bitter, and warm all at once. The vibrant red jewel tone makes it stunning to look at. It’s essentially a Negroni made with whiskey instead of gin, and wow! The sweetness of the bourbon perfectly balances the flavor.
Here's one of the most stunning and complex bourbon cocktails out there: the New York Sour! First you have the whiskey sour layer: sweet tart and perfectly balanced, sweetened with maple for some nuance. Then float a layer of red wine over the top and it adds intrigue, complexity and a fruity acidity. Not to mention it looks simply stunning with the bright two-toned layer. A favorite!
Swap vodka for bourbon in a Moscow mule and you’ve got the Kentucky mule! It’s bubbly, bright and bold: with zingy lime and a spicy whiskey finish. Even better: it’s so easy to make! There’s no shaking or stirring required: just pour it all into the glass. The mule has had a major comeback lately: but it’s a classic cocktail that’s solidified it’s place in cocktail history.
Seasons: Works anytime, but it's a great summer bourbon cocktail
The Sidecar is one of the most classic of all sour cocktails. Change the brandy to bourbon, and you’ve got a whole new drink: the Bourbon Sidecar This one trades the fruitiness of brandy for the spicy sweet finish of bourbon whiskey. Also try Between the Sheets, which adds rum.
Here’s a bourbon cocktail recipe that’s classy and refreshing: the bourbon smash! Contrary to most whiskey cocktails, this one is tangy and light, not heavy and boozy. It’s a citrus spin on the classic Mint Julep, featuring lemon and muddled fresh mint. It’s perfect for entertaining or evening cocktails on the patio.
This classy cocktail has a retro name and a sweet tart flavor: it’s the Gold Rush! The name makes it sounds like a 1920’s mixed drink, but it’s actually a modern take on the classic whiskey sour. If you’re a lover of bourbon drinks, add this one to your “to do” list. The combination of the zing of the lemon, the nuance of the honey, and the spicy whiskey finish is perfection.
This sophisticated whiskey drink has a long history and has come back into style: the Manhattan! It’s a three ingredient cocktail, but there’s so much going on in one sip! Vanilla, oak and caramel notes from the bourbon, sweet and spicy from the vermouth, and bitter and herby from the bitters.
The Old Fashioned is one of the most famous whiskey cocktails there is: possibly because it’s the oldest! This bourbon drink dates back to the early 1800’s, before the words classic and cocktail were even said next to each other. It's barely a cocktail at all: just lightly sweetened booze seasoned with bitters. You can use either rye whiskey or bourbon, but we like the round flavor with bourbon. Variation: try a Smoked Old Fashioned!
Here’s a refreshing way to drink your favorite bourbon: the classic Whiskey Highball! This two-ingredient cocktail originated around the turn of the 20th century and it’s still popular to this day. It’s so easy to make, and it's an intriguing way to enjoy the flavors in a sip of whiskey.
Want a sophisticated yet easy whiskey cocktail to whip up to impress? Try the Toronto cocktail! If you love whiskey, this is the cocktail for you. It's traditionally made with rye whiskey, but you can make it with bourbon too. A fancy spin on the Old Fashioned, it features whiskey and Fernet-Branca. It tastes like a fancy cocktail you’d get from a bar, with a sophisticated, complex, and rich flavor.
This bourbon cocktail is tangy and refreshing, perfect for summer: the Bourbon Smash! Featuring muddled blackberries, mint, and lime, tangy, lightly sweet, and boozy from the bourbon. Add a splash of soda water and it rounds out the flavor, then serve with crushed ice! It’s so tasty and lighter than so many bourbon cocktails.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.