Bourbon. One of those exquisite, tantalizing liquids we can drink any time, in any weather, in any place on Earth. Sometimes we like it neat, sometimes we like it on rocks, and hell, sometimes we take it in a shot glass. Any way you serve it to us, we’re happy to have it.
But of all the ways to imbibe your bourbon, shaking and straining it into a cocktail is still frowned upon by bourbon purists. For the life us, we can’t understand why. Does it stand on its own? Hell yeah it does. But a bourbon cocktail is like good company. If different things can all hang out and get along swimmingly, we think the more the merrier.
The Bourbon Old Fashioned
The Ol’ Reliable of the bourbon cocktail stable, this is one of those cocktails that any bourbon guy—aficionado or not—will recognize at the drop of a hat. Part of the allure of the old fashioned is that it’s a hard cocktail to screw up, whether you’re a seasoned mixologist or an at-home novice. Toss a sugar cube (or a teaspoon of sugar), a few dashes of bitters, a splash of water (or club soda), and two ounces of your favorite bourbon into an old fashioned glass. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then add ice, stir to chill, and then garnish with an orange wheel and maraschino cherry. Recipe
New York Sour
People talk crap about New York sours all the time, but it’s important to understand that there’s a huge difference between the kind of sours you get in a proper whiskey sour cocktail, and the kind of sours you get from one of those pre-made messes of high fructose corn syrup swill you can buy in the store (or get at your local dive bar). We always opt for a New York Sour because aside from looking totally badass, we love the flavor contrast the red wine adds to a drink we might normally consider a bit too sweet for our palates.
It’s also real simple to make, too: Two ounces bourbon, one ounce fresh lemon juice, one ounce simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, shake, and strain into a rocks glass. Then gently float a half ounce of red wine (preferably something fruity, like Shiraz) on top. What results is very deep and complex cocktail that’s a little bit sweet, a little bit sour, and a lotta bit tasty. Recipe
Another well-known-but-criminally-underrated bourbon cocktail, the Mint Julep was a cultural staple in the American south during the 19th and 20th Centuries and is still the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. This interesting bourbon-based cocktail involves adding bourbon to a Julep cup, along with simple syrup, fresh mint, and shaved ice, and turning it into a delicious adult treat for the summertime. It might not sound too appetizing at first (We’re admittedly not the biggest fans of mint anything), but it’s one of our ideal cocktails for a scorching summer day. Recipe
The original iterations of this Prohibition-era cocktail usually included rye whiskey (rye was a lot easier to come by than bourbon at the time), but bourbon is most preferred today. The story behind the Scofflaw cocktail is pretty awesome, but that’s not why it makes our list. It’s here because it’s really simple to make and delicious. Two ounces bourbon whiskey, one ounce dry vermouth, a quarter ounce lemon juice, a half ounce grenadine, and a couple dashes orange bitters, tossed into a cocktail shaker, shaken vigorously, and then strained into a chilled cocktail glass. That’s it. Recipe
We’re real grateful the world is in the midst of another cocktail revolution because so many seemingly forgotten classics are making their ways back to sticky wrap-around bar tops all over the country. One of those is the boulevardier, which is essentially a Negroni, but with bourbon instead of gin. And while we’re huge fans of the Negroni, it’s a drink we reserve for warmer, sunnier days. The boulevardier, on the other hand, which is a mix in equal parts of bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth, is a drink we’d take year ‘round. It offers the beautiful and complex symphony of the Campari melding with the sweet vermouth, but the bourbon really grounds the drink and keeps it from getting too sharp in a way that gin sometimes fails to smooth over. The best part is that it’s simple as mixing everything into a glass, filling with ice, stirring, and then straining into a chilled cocktail glass. It comes garnished with a cherry or an orange peel, depending on what you’re looking for out of it. Recipe
The Gold Rush is another new-age bourbon cocktail we can’t get enough of, we love it because it’s simple to make, with just three ingredients: Fresh squeezed lime juice, honey, and bourbon. And before you even think about calling it a Hot Toddy, let us stop you. This boozy cocktail packs an incredible punch, with four ounces of bourbon in every glass and respectable toddies are made with lemon. You heathen.
The real trick here is properly dissolving your honey into an appropriate syrup with water. We’ve seen recipes say the formula should be anywhere from one part honey dissolved into one part boiling water, to three parts honey to one part boiling water. Either way, you can experiment to find the recipe you like best. Recipe
Is the Mitch Morgan technically just a shot with a bacon garnish? Absolutely. Is that still a cocktail? Why not? It’s a drink with a name.
This bourbon cocktail comes to us from the resort-side party town of Telluride, Colorado, and originated in a little barbecue spot called Fat Alley Barbecue. It’s named after the man who invented it. Do the flavors complement one another? Not particularly, no. But it is bacon and bourbon, and frankly, that’s all we’re concerned with. Recipe