The Best Bourbon Cocktails Are the Whiskey Classics

best bourbon cocktails

Bourbon has a special place in American drinking culture. The whiskey’s origins began with the early European settlers of Kentucky, who tweaked the distilling and aging processes—greatly assisted by the labor and expertise of enslaved people—to craft the bourbon we recognize today. Now, in the 21st century, folks tromp along Kentucky’s bourbon trail, as well as tour the many bourbon distilleries spread across the country. They snap up bottle after bottle of Jim Beam, and put some dollars aside to go big on buzzier small-batch releases. Hardcore fans line up overnight to snag new bottles, as more get excited and irate in turn over rare bottles cropping up on Facebook’s black market bourbon channels. And the oldest known cocktail, the Old Fashioned, is a bourbon drink—and still the most popular cocktail the world over.

So it fits into bourbon’s lore that the handful of whiskey cocktails that loom over the rest, right up there with the Old Fashioned, can all be made with bourbon. You might’ve heard of them: the Manhattan, the Whiskey Sour, the Mint Julep. They’re heavy hitters. If you’re the kind of person who picks a bottle of Kentucky’s finest over rye, single malt, or Irish any day, then mix yourself one of them when the mood strikes for something other than neat. None will let you down.

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Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is the king of cocktails. The great-grandfather, too, considering that it’s the original cocktail. If you can memorize the method to making one, muddling and all, consider that a life skill that’ll serve you for years to come. Mix with care—and good bourbon.

Ingredients
• 2 oz. bourbon
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters
• 1 sugar cube
• club soda

Directions
1. Place the sugar cube in an Old Fashioned glass.
2. Wet it down with Angostura bitters and a short splash of club soda.
3. Crush the sugar with a wooden muddler, then rotate the glass so that the sugar grains and bitters give it a lining.
4. Add a large ice cube. Pour in the whiskey.
5. Garnish with an orange twist, and serve with a stirring rod if you’re so inclined.

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Manhattan

Although we tend to see more Manhattans with rye whiskey, if bourbon is your preference, have at it. This is a cocktail that is brash in flavor and in strength—much like the borough it takes its name from.

Ingredients
• 2 oz. bourbon
• 1 oz. Italian vermouth
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Directions
1. Stir the rye, vermouth, and bitters well with cracked ice.
2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a twist or a maraschino cherry.

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Mint Julep

There’s no substituting bourbon in a true Mint Julep. This cocktail is Kentucky charm—sweet and sharp—through and through. Take the time to achieve perfection with a pre-chilled mug, cracked ice, and small, tender mint leaves. Bet on a horse while you’re at it.

Ingredients
• 3 oz. bourbon
• 5-6 mint leaves
• 1 tsp. sugar

Directions
1. Place mint leaves in the bottom of a pre-chilled, dry pewter cup. Add sugar and crush slightly with a muddler.
2. Pack glass with finely cracked ice, then pour a generous 3 ounces of Kentucky bourbon over the ice.
3. Stir briskly until the glass frosts.
4. Add more ice and stir again before serving. Stick a few sprigs of mint into the ice to get the aroma.

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Whiskey Sour

You could make a Whiskey Sour with sour mix. That doesn’t mean you should. Especially when one from scratch isn’t exactly a back-breaking endeavor. The egg white is optional but recommended to lend creaminess soften the drink’s tart bite.

Ingredients
• 2 oz. bourbon
• 2/3 oz. lemon juice
• 1 tsp. superfine sugar
• 1/2 of an egg white

Directions
1. Shake the whiskey, juice, sugar, and egg white well with cracked ice.
2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
3. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and/or lemon wedge.

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Boulevardier

A whiskey cocktail for Negroni drinkers is a gift to many. The Boulevardier swaps gin out for bourbon (or rye), but remains stiff and bitter like a true Negroni fan wants.

Ingredients
• 1 1/2 oz. bourbon
• 3/4 oz. Campari
• 3/4 oz. vermouth rosso

Directions
1. Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass until chilled.
2. Strain into a glass, then garnish with a twist of orange peel.

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Hot Toddy

A steaming Hot Toddy is a liquid cure for a bad day, like herbal tea and then some. Just what the doctor ordered.

Ingredients
• 2 oz. bourbon
• 1 oz. honey
• 1 oz. lemon juice
• 4 dashes Tiki bitters (optional)
• 1 star anise pod or tea bag

Directions
1. Boil water in a teapot. Steep star anise pod or tea bag inside.
2. Add bourbon, honey, lemon, and Tiki bitters to a mug. Stir.
3. Serve in glass mugs with a spoon and the teapot.
4. To enjoy, pour tea over cocktail base to taste, and stir.

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Gold Rush

A Gold Rush is essentially a Hot Toddy served cold. It’s just as comforting, though more suited to sipping at a bar or before dinner, since it won’t send you right to sleep. We recommend a higher proof bourbon for more kick.

Ingredients
• 2 oz. bourbon
• 3/4 oz. lemon juice
• 3/4 oz. honey

Instructions
1. Combine the ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
2. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. No need to garnish.

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Paper Plane

The Paper Plane is a daring, new-age cocktail with equal parts bourbon, Aperol, amaro, and lemon juice. The origami paper plane is an optional, but undeniably cool, garnish.

Ingredients
• 3/4 oz. bourbon
• 3/4 oz. Aperol
• 3/4 oz. Amaro Nonino Quintessentia
• 3/4 oz. lemon juice

Directions
1. Add ingredients to a shaker. Shake with ice.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.

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Sarah Rense is the Associate Lifestyle Editor at Esquire, where she covers tech, food, drink, home, and more. 

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Source : Esquire