Words by Simon Difford
Photography by Dan Malpass
Ageing in toasted new oak barrels imparts a rich sweet body to bourbon which sets it apart from other styles of whisk(e)y. That richness makes it both shine in cocktails and also mix harmoniously with most ingredients, although when pairing with citrus, like other whiskies, lemon is preferable to lime.
20 best bourbon cocktails
Follows our favourites of the over 270 bourbon cocktails on Difford’s Guide.
Benton’s Old Fashioned
With: Bourbon (bacon fat washed), maple syrup and Angostura Bitters.
We say: Everybody likes Old Fashioneds.
With: Bourbon, sweet vermouth and Campari.
We say: Basically, a Negroni with bourbon replacing gin. A combo which Negroni lovers should try.
With: Bourbon, pink grapefruit juice and maple syrup.
We say: Maple syrup combines wonderfully with bourbon and balances grapefruit sourness to make a short drink that’s equally as enticing at the beginning or end of a night.
With: Bourbon, sweet vermouth, Aperol, Suze and Bob’s Grapefruit Bitters.
We say: A bittersweet Manhattan-style lightly sparkling cocktail.
With: Bourbon, crème de cacao liqueur, Fernet Branca, green chartreuse, single cream and milk.
We say: Chocolaty bourbon with a freshening herbal blast of Fernet Branca, smoothed by sipping through a Chartreuse cream head. The ultimate after-dinner drink.
With: Bourbon, Suze, apricot brand liqueur and lemon juice.
We say: Zesty, bittersweet and sweet ‘n’ sour, this Haystack will make you salivate – a tasty bittersweet and sour aperitif.
With: Bourbon, Swedish punsch liqueur and byrrh aromatized wine.
We say: Forceful and Manhattan-like in style but with sweet delicate influences from France and Sweden.
With: Bourbon, lemon juice, sugar syrup, Angostura Bitters, ginger beer and strawberries.
We say: A tall, strawberry influenced bourbon sour with a subtle spicy hint of ginger.
With: Bourbon, Fernet Branca, lemon juice and sugar syrup.
We say: Just enjoyed a hearty meal? Well, this digestive is just the ticket. If you’re not accustomed to the taste of fernet then the first couple of sips may be challenging, but then this very refreshing cocktail becomes eminently sippable, quaffable even, and certainly stomach settling – well, we think so.
With: Mint leaves, bourbon, sugar syrup and Angostura Bitters.
We say: This superb drink is better if the shaken and its contents are placed in the refrigerator for several hours prior to mixing with ice. This allows the mint flavours to infuse in the bourbon.
New York Sour
With: Bourbon, lemon juice, sugar syrup, red wine and Angostura Bitters.
We say: A classic bourbon-based Whiskey Sour made more interesting – both visually and in flavour by the addition of a float of red wine.
With: Bourbon, rye whisky, sugar syrup and Bob’s Abbotts Bitters.
We say: The melting and stirring in of ice cubes is essential to the dilution, chilling and so the taste of this sublime classic.
With: Bourbon, Aperol, lemon juice and amaro.
We say: This pink/rust red drink is bittersweet with underlying bourbon character and lemon zestiness.
Perfect Summit Manhattan
With: Bourbon, dry vermouth, Muscat wine, orange curacao liqueur and Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters.
We say: A riff on a Dry Manhattan given extra depth by the addition of dessert wine and whiskey bitters.
With: Bourbon, Aperol and pink grapefruit liqueur.
We say: Being a mix of spirits and liqueurs, it was stirred, as you’d expect of such a combination. However, somewhat reminiscent of Shakerato, the Sunset Strip seems to benefit from the aeration and extra dilution provided by shaking, hence this is the method we’ve chosen.
With: Bourbon, sweet vermouth, Angostura Bitters and Maraschino syrup.
We say: I must confess to preferring my Manhattans served ‘sweet’ or ‘perfect’ at a push. The Manhattan is complex, challenging and moreish. Best of all, it’s available in a style to suit every palate.
With: Bourbon, cognac, Suze, dry vermouth, amaretto liqueur, sugar syrup, Peychaud’s Bitters and Angostura Bitters.
We say: Spirit-forward and bittersweet yet balanced and eminently drinkable. Reminiscent of an old-fashioned but with the option to enjoy as an aperitif.
With: Bourbon, cognac, Benedictine, sweet vermouth, Angostura Bitters and Peychaud’s Bitters.
We say: Like an ultra-smooth and complex Sweet Manhattan served on the rocks.
With: Bourbon, mint leaves, lemon juice and sugar syrup.
We say: A mint flavoured version of the Whiskey Sour.