The 15 Best Bourbon Cocktails

A Gold Rush cocktail, elegantly presented in a detailed rocks glass with a solitary, large ice cube and a twist of lemon, set against a rich, dark marble surface.

While some enthusiasts advocate for sipping bourbon in its unadulterated form, the distinctive, mildly sweet, and smooth taste of bourbon truly comes to life in a diverse array of mixed drinks. From the robust classics like the Old Fashioned to delectable variations of the Whiskey Sour and fruit-laden highballs, bourbon’s versatility is unmatched.

No matter your taste preference, you’re bound to find a bourbon cocktail that delights. Below are 15 standout choices.

Old Fashioned

The quintessence of bourbon cocktails, the Old Fashioned, has withstood over two centuries, a testament to its simplicity and enduring appeal. Comprising mainly whiskey, enhanced with Angostura bitters and sugar, this cocktail offers something extraordinary, yet is as straightforward to relish as bourbon itself.

Whiskey Sour

This creamy blend of whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white stands as a prime example of bourbon’s adaptability in cocktails. Bourbon’s inherent sweetness flawlessly offsets the sharpness of lemon juice, creating a harmonious balance.

Mint Julep

Iconic for its association with the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julep, a fresh mix of bourbon and mint with simple syrup, deserves recognition beyond the racetrack. Opt for a stronger bourbon to counteract the dilution from its signature crushed ice.

Boulevardier

A cherished variant of the Negroni, the Boulevardier strikes a perfect harmony of bitter, boozy, and sweet elements. The substitution of gin with bourbon introduces a comforting warmth, appealing to fans of both the Negroni and Old Fashioned.

Manhattan

A staple in the whiskey cocktail repertoire, the Manhattan is traditionally made with rye, but bourbon’s softer characteristics are equally compatible with sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters.

New York Sour

Easily crafted and visually impressive, this twist on the Whiskey Sour features a float of red wine, adding an earthy complexity that complements the cocktail’s sweetness.

Gold Rush

Originating from New York City’s Milk & Honey in the early 2000s, this honeyed take on the Whiskey Sour, blending bourbon, honey syrup, and fresh lemon juice, has gained global popularity, often mistaken for a pre-Prohibition era drink.

Left Hand

Invented by renowned bartender Sam Ross, this take on the Boulevardier includes the addition of chocolate bitters, introducing a deeper, cherry-chocolate nuance to the flavor profile.

Paper Plane

A modern adaptation by Ross, the Paper Plane combines bourbon with Aperol, Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, and fresh lemon juice, achieving a balance similar to its inspiration, the Last Word.

Kentucky Maid

This exceptionally refreshing concoction by Ross features bourbon, muddled cucumbers, mint leaves, and simple syrup, using Elijah Craig Small Batch bourbon for its robust profile.

Bourbon Rickey

The original Rickey, preceding its gin counterpart, this cocktail blends bourbon, lime juice, and sparkling water, catering to those who favor a tarter highball.

Millionaire

Believed to originate from the Prohibition era, this Whiskey Sour variant combines bourbon with grenadine, Grand Marnier, absinthe or pastis, and egg white, requiring a high-quality grenadine for balance.

Brown Derby

Named after the Los Angeles diner shaped like the eponymous hat, this blend of bourbon, grapefruit juice, and honey syrup became a 1930s Hollywood favorite, offering a sophisticated sweet-tart taste.

Kentucky Buck

A modern classic by Erick Castro, this fruit-driven cocktail merges bourbon with strawberries and ginger, creating a sweet and spicy masterpiece.

Hot Toddy

Ideal for cold nights, this classic hot beverage combines whiskey, boiling water, sugar, and lemon juice, with bourbon being a favored choice for its warmth and sweetness.