What to Mix With Bourbon

A glass of bourbon with a mixer
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Bourbon whiskey has seen a resurgence in popularity in the past decade, as bartenders and mixologists discover new ways to use it.

Bartenders love bourbon because it is a complex spirit with a wide range of flavors.

It can be used as the main ingredient in a cocktail or to add a hint of spice.

Many cocktail drinkers have also gone back to classic cocktails that use bourbon like:

  • Classic Old Fashioned
  • Manhattan
  • Mint Julep
  • Whiskey Sour
  • Ward Eight

These cocktails have stood the test of time for a reason — they are delicious and really showcase the incredible flavors within bourbon. See below for some recipes.

If you are bored if having it neat and are asking your self what to mix with bourbon, this article should help you.

Given that it is such a flavorsome spirit, you might think there are a limited number of mixers that go with it.

You might be surprised to find that it can mix well with everything from coffee to ginger beer.

This article will share some information about bourbon and the most useful mixers for this popular spirit.

Two bottles of bourbon

What is bourbon?

Bourbon is an American whiskey that is distilled and aged in barrels.

To be called bourbon, the mash that it is made from must be at least 51% corn.

Other ingredients that are often added to a bourbon mash include malted barley, wheat and rye.

Most bourbon whiskeys are made in Kentucky but they can be made in any location within the United States and still be called bourbon.

The most dominant flavors in bourbon often include:

  • Caramel
  • Vanilla
  • Oak
  • Toasted rye bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Cornbread
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Brown sugar
  • Chocolate

Bourbon Mixers

A glass of bourbon and coke with ice

There’s mixers all complement or enhance the complex flavors found in bourbon. Some are used in cocktails while others are simply mixed with bourbon and ice.

Water

Water being poured into a glass

When bourbon is in the barrel it is usually 120 proof (60% Alcohol by volume), which is too strong to be enjoyed by the average drinker.

It is then diluted to be around 80 proof (40% ABV) before being bottled, which is a balance between cask strength and the ideal drinking strength.

However, even at this strength, the alcohol and dominant flavors in bourbon whiskey can mask the more subtle flavors.

This is why drinkers often add a splash of room temperature water to their bourbon.

The water will separate the ethanol and guaiacol molecules in the drink.

This will make the bourbon more flavorsome and palatable.

Using water as a mixer is simple — gradually add water to your bourbon until you find the “sweet spot” where you can taste all of the flavors that your drink contains.

Coca-Cola

A bottle and glass of coke

Coca-Cola is one of the most popular mixers used with bourbon whiskey, particularly with young or inexperienced drinkers. 

The sweetness of the Coca Cola makes the bourbon easier to drink but the bourbon still retains its caramel, vanilla, and smokey flavor.

To make a Bourbon and Coke:

  1. Place some ice in a medium-sized tumbler
  2. Pour in 60 ml of bourbon whiskey
  3. Add about 300 ml of Coca Cola
  4. Gently stir
  5. Add a lime twist, wedge or slice (optional)

Soda water

Soda water is water that has been carbonated.

It is a very useful mixer for bourbon because it dilutes the spirit without changing its flavor.

Simply pour some bourbon on ice and blend in soda water until you are happy with its taste.

Club soda is very similar and call also be used.

Ginger ale, ginger beer or ginger syrup and soda

A glass of ginger beer and whiksy with ice

You might be surprised to learn that ginger mixers taste fantastic with bourbon whiskey.

The ginger adds a lot of “zing” to the sweetness and spiciness of the bourbon, making for a drink that is quite refreshing.

Use a ginger mixer like ginger ale the same way you would use Coca Cola — in a glass with ice and a mixture of about 1 part of bourbon to 5 parts ginger ale.

There are also many cocktails that incorporate ginger and bourbon including this terrific ginger ale, lemonade and bourbon cocktail:

  1. Fill a high glass halfway with ice.
  2. Add 45 to 60 ml of bourbon
  3. Add lemonade until inch below the rim.
  4. Fill the remainder with ginger ale or ginger beer
  5. Garnish with a lemon twist

Homemade Eggnog

A homemade egg nog

Homemade eggnog is delicious, particularly in the colder months.

Bourbon is the perfect spirit for pairing with it.

The rich creaminess of the eggnog is enhanced by the caramel and vanilla flavors in bourbon.  Here is a great recipe for homemade eggnog.

Apple Cider

Apple cider has a fresh, tart, and sweet flavor that pairs well with bourbon whiskey.

There are quite a few cocktails that use apple cider and bourbon, including the delicious Tender Knob:

  1. Muddle an apple slice in a cocktail shaker
  2. Add 45 ml bourbon, 60 ml apple cider, 20 ml Agave nectar, and a pinch of cinnamon
  3. Shake for 10 seconds and pour onto ice

Coffee

A coffee with Jameson Irish whiskey

If you want your cup of joe to really have a kick, consider adding some bourbon.

The bitterness and coca flavors of coffee pair perfectly with bourbon’s sweetness and smokiness.

Check out this cold brew coffee and bourbon recipe:

  1. Combine 75 ml cold brew coffee, 45 ml bourbon, 15 ml triple sec, 15 ml maple syrup with ice in a shaker
  2. Shake it!
  3. Strain into a rocks glass over ice
  4. Add 30 ml heavy cream and orange peel for garnish

Angostura bitters

An Old Fashioned Cocktail

Although not a mixer, this ingredient gets a special mention because it works so well with bourbon.

Angostura is an aromatic bitter that offsets the natural sweetness in bourbon.

Many cocktails add a dash of Angostura bitters to balance bourbon’s caramel and vanilla flavors.

A classic cocktail that uses Angostura bitters and bourbon is the Bourbon Old Fashioned:

  1. Add half a teaspoon of sugar to 3 dashes of Angostura bitters and 1 teaspoon of water
  2. Swirl until the sugar is almost dissolved
  3. Fill the glass with large ice cubes and 60 ml of bourbon
  4. Add the oil from some orange peel and drop the peel into the glass

Classic Bourbon Cocktails

As well as drinking your bourbon with a mixer you can also create some amazing bourbon cocktails with it. This works really well if you don’t want something quite as strong as a straight whiskey or if it’s a hot day and you want to enjoy a cool drink over ice.

Here are some of the best bourbon cocktails you can try making at home:

Old Fashioned

An Old Fashioned Cocktail

The old fashioned disappeared for a long time but is not one of the most popular cocktails in the world. It may be in part due to it being Don Draper’s drink of choice in Mad Men or it may just be because it’s a damn tasty drink!

Here is how we make it at WhiskeyBon:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • Orange peel garnish (optional)

How to make it:

  1. Put the sugar on a teaspoon and dash with bitters
  2. Burn the sugar and bitters mixture with a flame to caramelize the sugar
  3. Muddle into a glass
  4. Add ice
  5. Add the bourbon and bitters
  6. Stir
  7. Add orange peel garnish if that’s what floats your boat!

Manhattan

A whiskey Manhattan cocktail

The Manhattan is a classy and cool sounding cocktail that is a great bourbon cocktail to share with friends. The type/quality of Vermouth used makes a big difference so choose wisely!

Ingredients:

  • 2oz bourbon (you can also use rye whiskey)
  • 2oz sweet vermouth
  • 5ml syrup from a jar of maraschino cherries
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • ice
  • maraschino cherry

How to make it:

  1. Add the bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters to a glass with ice
  2. Stir until chilled
  3. Strain into your glass
  4. Garnish with the maraschino cherry

Bourbon Sour

A whiskey sour on a bar

The Whiskey Sour is a fantastic cocktail that can be enjoyed any time.

We use an egg white to get the fluffy texture but obviously, there are some risks with using raw egg so if you are worried, or if you are vegan the egg can be left out of the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg white 

How to make it:

  1. Add the bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white into a cocktail shaker and shake for 30 seconds
  2. Add ice to the shaker and shake until chilled
  3. Strain into your glass

So there you have it, we hope this article has given you some ideas for different ways you can enjoy your bourbon if you get bored of drinking it straight or on the rocks.

There are literally hundreds of other possible cocktails you can make with bourbon so if there is nothing here that tickles your fancy have a look at these:

https://www.whiskeytangoglobetrot.com/blog/17-classic-bourbon-cocktail-recipes