bourbon whiskey cocktails and rum cocktails

A Mixologist’s Guide to Rum, Bourbon, Whiskey, and Scotch

For those budding mixologists or enjoyers of cocktails that aren’t sure of the difference between similar spirits, this is for you. While there are similarities between whiskey, scotch, bourbon, rum, and others, there are also big differences in determining which spirit to use for different cocktails or just for sipping. Each spirit has its background with its selection of delicious cocktails to try. Here’s what you need to know about these spirits to make perfect cocktails and delight guests.

Whiskey cocktails

Whiskey can be seen as the umbrella term for different kinds of whiskey, bourbon, scotch, and rye. Whiskey is the parent spirit. This spirit must be distilled from grain. Any additives factored into the distilling process determine whether or not it falls under another category like bourbon or scotch.

Classic whiskey cocktails

For lovers of whiskey, there’s always the Old Fashioned. Classic whiskey cocktails can be made with any liquor that falls under the whiskey category. It’s the drinker’s choice as bourbon or scotch, for example, might offer different notes to a cocktail. Other options include the Paper Plane or Whiskey Smash Bartesian capsules.

Paper Plane

This drink is an expert blend of bitter, herbal, and sour notes with elegant symmetry. The flavor profile of this whiskey cocktail is finished with a touch of lemon citrus and sweetness.

Whiskey Smash

There are no sure things in life, but combining a whiskey sour and a mint julep to result in the delicious Whiskey Smash is about as close as you can get. This classic cocktail appeals to both whiskey lovers and whiskey skeptics alike. Think minty like a mojito but with lemon and whiskey instead of lime and rum.

Bourbon whiskey cocktails

What makes bourbon a product of whiskey? The mash used to distill the spirit is at least 51 percent corn. The main grain is corn but other grains, such as rye, barley, and malt, can also be included. Bourbon is known for having a smoother, rounder taste, with notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel. 

The only additive that can be added is water, and it can only be produced in the United States. Bourbon is aged for at least two years in charred oak barrels to give it its unique taste. Bourbon whiskey cocktails include the Mint Julep or the Whiskey Sour.

Mint Julep

These drinks are sweet and balanced with mint and whiskey barrel notes. For a similar taste to the mojito, try the mint julep.

Whiskey Sour

Taste a smooth balance of sweet and sour. Notes of vanilla, lemon, and orange round out the flavor profile and make for a classic whiskey citrus cocktail.


To make a rye whiskey, the grain must be at least 51 percent rye and be aged at least two years in new oak charred barrels. Rye whiskey has a bolder finish than bourbon, with a note of spice and hardness to it. The Manhattan makes for one of the most delicious classic whiskey cocktails that any mixologist can make with the help of the Bartesian.


As the name suggests, this spirit comes from Scotland, otherwise, it can’t be scotch. It’s distilled from malted barley and other grains and is fermented by yeast only. Unlike rye and bourbon, scotch must mature in its oak cask for at least three years and only water and caramel color can be added.

There are different types of scotch depending on the way it’s produced. We outline them below.

  • Single malt is produced in single batches only containing malted barley.
  • Single grain is also produced in single batches but with another grain included.
  • Blended malt contains at least two single malt scotches made in different distilleries.
  • Blended grain contains at least two single-grain scotches made in different distilleries.
  • Blended scotch combines at least one single malt and at least one single grain scotch.

For mixologists on the hunt for scotch cocktails to enjoy, try the Scotch Old Fashioned variation by switching out rye with a great scotch.

Cocktails with rum

While rum has sometimes been confused with these other spirits, it’s a completely separate category. Instead of grains, rum is distilled using sugar cane, molasses, or sugar. Rum cocktails can include many types of rum:

  • White
  • Amber 
  • Dark
  • Anejo
  • Aged
  • Flavored 
  • Jamaican 
  • Rhum agricole
  • Demerara
  • Brazilian 
  • American 

Rum originates in the Caribbean. It’s normally aged for three to ten years in wood casks. The type of wood used often determines the color of the rum at the end. What’s left is a sweet and toasted sugar flavor. Different cocktails with rum will use different types. Like the Mai Thai which will mix dark and light rum for its strong taste.

Cocktails with rum

Mixologists might be familiar with the more classic rum cocktails like the Mai Tai, Long Island Iced Tea, and Daiquiri. For more options and to widen the palate, there’s also the Hurricane and the Jungle Bird.


This sweet, fruity, and tropical rum cocktail derives tart and sour flavors from passion fruit and sweetness from orange juice. A hint of citrus lime provides the perfect balance to this classic New Orleans cocktail.

Jungle Bird

Take a tropical adventure to the jungle! The Jungle Bird is a unique tiki cocktail driven by pineapple juice balanced with refreshing lime and bitters. With a Jungle Bird in hand, sit back, relax and enjoy a taste of the jungle.

Use the Bartesian Cocktail Maker

After considering everything on the differences and similarities between whiskey, scotch, bourbon, rye, and the outlier, rum, why not make things simpler with a machine that tracks it all for you?

The Bartesian cocktail maker not only makes a perfect cocktail every time, but it also has separate reservoirs for each spirit. All you have to do is fill the labeled reservoirs with your favorite brands so the cocktails always taste the way you want them to. A restaurant or bar doesn’t always have a brand for everyone. Don’t worry about the spirits getting mixed up in cocktails they don’t belong in, the Bartesian rinses itself after every use.

Use the Bartesian to fulfill hosting needs or mixologist level cocktails at your home away from home. Get the bartesian cocktail machine today.