A Quick Guide to the Best Cocktails with Bourbon

A Quick Guide to the Best Cocktails with Bourbon

Bourbon, celebrated for its versatility within the whiskey family, goes beyond its classic oaky and citrus notes found in favorites like the Old Fashioned and Whiskey Sour. This spirit, along with its kin, such as scotch and rye, is delicious on its own, but it adds incredible depth and complexity to plenty of cocktails.

This post highlights all the best bourbon drinks you can make at home. So grab your favorite bourbon — your next favorite bourbon cocktail is right here. 

Old Fashioned

Arguably the most popular whiskey drink worldwide, the Old Fashioned can be poured with bourbon, whiskey, or scotch. Since the early 1800s, whiskey lovers have enjoyed the Old Fashioned for its smooth, classic taste and sophisticated vibe. 

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, the Old Fashioned is a perfect concoction of bourbon, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, and a splash of water. Sweet and spicy, with just a light bitter kick, the Old Fashioned is served with ice and an orange peel or maraschino cherry in a lowball glass. 

There are many variations on the Old Fashioned, with ingredients including pure maple syrup, honey, cranberry, orange juice, and even liquified fat from cooked country ham. 

Whiskey Sour

The Whiskey Sour is one of the more popular bourbon drinks, thanks to its delicious citrusy flavor. Made with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, bourbon, and sometimes a dash of egg white, this drink is tart and refreshing and can be enjoyed all day and night. 

The sweet taste of the bourbon mixes well with the acidic notes of the lemon for a crisp, tasty cocktail. This bourbon cocktail is typically served shaken over ice with a cherry or orange slice as garnish. 


For a sophisticated and cool bourbon cocktail recipe, nothing tops the classic Manhattan. Believed to have originated in the 1870s in New York City, this iconic bourbon cocktail is enjoyed by those who crave something strong and refined. 

A Manhattan cocktail is the perfect blend of bourbon, sweet vermouth for a subtle hint of sugar, and Angostura bitters to balance it all out. Strong, sweet, with bitter notes and a smooth finish, this cocktail is best served in a lowball glass with a single ice cube and garnished with a brandied cherry.

Mint Julep

Born in the South, the Mint Julep is a minty, crisp cocktail made from bourbon, sugar or simple syrup, mint leaves, and a splash of water. 

It’s the signature drink at the Kentucky Derby and is best served with crushed ice and garnished with Angostura bitters. Refreshing and cheerful any time of year, the Mint Julep is one of the most popular bourbon cocktails for events and gatherings because it’s simple to make and a crowd-pleaser.

Tip: To experience the classic Southern charm of the Mint Julep, enjoy it chilled in a traditional pewter or silver cup. 

Paper Plane

For a slightly bitter, herbal, and sour but fruity flavor profile, nothing comes close to the Paper Plane. Made with bourbon, fresh lemon juice, Aperol, and the Italian herbal liqueur Amaro Nonino, the Paper Plane is a close, fruity cousin of the Whiskey Sour. 

Created by an Australian bartender who was inspired by MIA’s pop hit “Paper Planes,” this bourbon cocktail should be gently shaken and served ice cold. Since the flavors are bold and can mask the strong taste of bourbon, the Paper Plane is an excellent cocktail for those new to whiskey who are still developing a taste for the spirit. 

Whiskey Smash 

Since 1887, the Whiskey Smash has been quenching the thirst of patrons worldwide. Known for its smooth combo of mint and citrus, this bourbon cocktail will satisfy even the most skeptical whiskey drinkers in the bar. 

The Whiskey Smash is made with bourbon, mint leaves, lemon wedges, and simple syrup. Sweet, tangy, and refreshing, many describe it as the perfect remix of a Whiskey Sour and a Mint Julep.

Hot Toddy

Most known for its healing properties, the Hot Toddy consists of bourbon, lemon juice, honey, and cinnamon. Sweet and spicy, with a hint of citrus, it's ideal for cold evenings or when you need a comforting drink to soothe a sore throat. It’s the perfect cocktail to drink for winter nights or to unwind with before bed.

To make the perfect Hot Toddy, simply pour boiling water over bourbon, add your favorite seasonal spices, and feel the warmth spread from your head to your toes.


A distant cousin of the Manhattan, the Revolver consists of bourbon, coffee liqueur, and orange bitters. Bold, slightly sweet, with notes of vanilla and oak, this cocktail has a smooth, velvety texture and a warming, strong bittersweet coffee finish. 

A garnish of flamed orange twist adds a subtle citrusy aroma to this tasty cocktail, enhancing the overall complexity of the drink. Ideal for when you need a boost of caffeine, offer these bourbon cocktails at parties, events, and weddings. 


The Millionaire bourbon cocktail is believed to originate from the Prohibition era and is a crisp, sour drink that has a touch of sweetness and complexity. This cocktail is more complicated to make and contains a few high-end ingredients. The recipe contains bourbon, Grand Marnier, grenadine, lemon or lime juice, absinthe, egg white, and grated nutmeg on top. 

The recipe gives the cocktail a unique balance that's both invigorating and rich, perfect for savoring during sophisticated gatherings or as an elegant nightcap.

Bonus: Make your Millionaire extra delicious with homemade grenadine, made with fresh pomegranate, sugar, and lemon juice or, even better, orange blossom water.

Kentucky Mule

The close cousin of the Moscow Mule, the Kentucky Mule contains bourbon, lime juice, and ginger beer. Since bourbon is more flavorful than vodka, the Kentucky Mule is significantly stronger than the traditional Moscow. A zesty ginger beer pairs nicely with the intensity of the bourbon, blending warmth and spice with a refreshing twist.

Traditionally served in a copper mug, this is a well-rounded drink that's perfect for any occasion.

Bourbon Cocktails: FAQ

What’s the difference between bourbon and whiskey?

Whiskey is generally the umbrella term or parent spirit for various types of whiskey, bourbon, and scotch. Whiskey is distilled from grain, but the additives used during the process determine whether it falls into the scotch, bourbon, or rye category. 

In simple terms, all bourbon falls under the whiskey category. To be considered bourbon, the whiskey has to contain 51% corn, be at least 80 proof, be made in the United States, and aged in charred American white oak barrels. 

What does bourbon taste like?

Bourbon is slightly sweet and spicy, which is typically achieved during the aging process. Bourbon can have oak, grain, fruit, or floral flavor notes. When compared to whiskey, bourbon has a much smoother and sweeter taste. This is probably because it’s made primarily from corn, often called “nature’s sweetener.”

What mixes best with bourbon?

If you enjoy the taste of bourbon on its own, soda water is a great mixer, along with ginger ale or ginger beer. Mixing bourbon with sweet vermouth or with cola is another popular way to enjoy bourbon cocktails neat if you prefer them that way.

What makes whiskey bourbon?

Whiskey is classified as a bourbon when it follows a few qualifications. During the distilling process, the grain mixture has to consist of at least 51% corn to be considered bourbon. Additionally, the mixture must be stored in charred new oak barrels at 125 proof (or less). Lastly, no additives can be used throughout the distilling process.

What is the best summer bourbon cocktail?

In the summer, try a Mint Julep or a Paper Plane for a crisp, refreshing drink to enjoy outside in the sunshine. You can enjoy most bourbon cocktails any time of the year, however—drink whenever and whatever suits your fancy.

What glassware is best for bourbon cocktails?

The best glassware depends on the bourbon cocktail you’re enjoying. The Glencairn tulip-shaped glass is the top choice if you want to go the traditional route. In the movies, we often see gentlemen enjoying bourbon whiskey cocktails from short, thick tumblers. 

However, lowball glasses are also ideal for drinking bourbon. This type of glassware has a solid base and serves 6 to 8 ounces of liquid. The lowball style is designed for cocktails with muddled ingredients, which many bourbon cocktails contain.

Create a Classic Bourbon Cocktail with Bartesian

Give some of these delicious bourbon cocktails a try with Bartesian’s cocktail maker. Simply pour your favorite bourbon into the spirit reservoir, pop a capsule into the machine, select your desired strength, and press Mix. You’ll enjoy a perfectly mixed bourbon drink on demand in less than 30 seconds—no more running in a grocery to buy ingredients or watching videos of complicated bourbon cocktail recipes.

Take your pick from our whiskey capsule selection, including the Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, Paper Plane, Manhattan, and more. Get started on your whiskey adventure with the Bartesian cocktail maker today!