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 whiskey like:
These cocktails have stood the test of time for a reason — they are delicious and really showcase the incredible flavors within bourbon.
So, what can you mix with whiskey?
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.
Tip: you can find literally any bottle of bourbon you want using Wine-Searcher (ignore the name it’s not just wine!) just search for the bottle you are looking for.
Bourbon whiskey 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 whiskey.
The most dominant flavors in bourbon whiskey often include:
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.
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 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:
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.
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:
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 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:
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:
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: