Bourbon whiskey is a celebrated and timeless cocktail ingredient. Its versatility and distinctive flavour have greatly contributed to its popularity while different types of bourbon can yield different results.

In this guide, you will discover the top 10 best bourbon whiskey cocktails to make at home:

  1. Old Fashioned
  2. Mint Julep
  3. Millionaire Cocktail
  4. Boulevardier
  5. Whiskey Sour
  6. Brown Derby
  7. Kentucky Mule
  8. Bourbon Sazerac
  9. Amaretto Sour
  10. Manhattan Cocktail

Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read them all!

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1. Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned Cocktail

Given the sheer popularity of the Old Fashioned (and our own fondness of the cocktail), it would have been madness to include something else in first place! Indeed, this cocktail is so iconic that we’ve even written a guide on the best bourbon whiskey to use when making an Old Fashioned.

As it requires just a few ingredients, it’s both deceptively simple to make and surprisingly difficult to master. You’ll just need the following to make it:

  • 45 ml (1½ Oz) Bourbon Whiskey
  • Angostura Bitters
  • Orange Peel
  • Water
  • Sugar Cube

Saturate a sugar cube with a few dashes of bitters and place it at the bottom of a tumbler glass. Two dashes are generally used but you can add more if preferred. Add a few dashes of water and mix until the sugar has dissolved.

As sugar can take a while to dissolve in cold water, some people use simple syrup. However, if you use warm water, it’s easy and won’t take long. Don’t worry, you won’t end up with a warm cocktail thanks to the ice! In fact, the ice will also melt just slightly faster, which helps marry the flavours.

Fill the glass with ice cubes (these will also cool the water if it was warm) and add the bourbon whiskey. Stir and then garnish with an orange peel. Make sure that you twist the peel over the drink so it releases its oils onto the surface.

Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best bourbon to use for an old fashioned!

2. Mint Julep

Mint Julep Cocktail

Another classic bourbon cocktail and traditionally enjoyed at the Kentucky Derby, the Mint Julip is actually as old as the Old Fashioned! Indeed, it first appeared in a travelling book by John Davis in 1803.

Like the Old Fashioned, it requires few ingredients and it’s quite reminiscent of the mojito but with bourbon instead of rum while the lime is absent.

It requires the following ingredients:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Bourbon
  • 7.5 ml (¼ Oz) Simple Syrup
  • 2 Mint Sprigs
  • Angostura Bitters To Taste

Remove the leaves from one mint sprig and place them in either a julep cup or tumbler glass. Add the simple syrup (or a mixture of sugar and water) and muddle well. Add the bourbon then filled the glass with crushed ice.

Stir the contents until the glass is cold to the touch. Finish by garnishing with the second mint sprig and a few drops of bitters over the ice.

3. Millionaire Cocktail

Rosé Champagne Cocktail

Although there are many classic cocktails that share this name, the one that interests us here is the bourbon variety that emerged during Prohibition. It’s a surprisingly complex creation that requires a number of exciting ingredients:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Bourbon
  • 22.5 ml (¾ Oz) Grand Marnier
  • 7.5 ml (¼ Oz) Absinthe
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Lemon Juice
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Grenadine
  • Egg White
  • Nutmeg

Firstly, check your egg is fresh by placing it in a bowl of water. If it floats, it’s probably not fresh enough to use raw. Meanwhile, an egg that sinks is a good sign that it’s fresh. Separate the egg white from the yolk and add it to a cocktail shaker.

Add all of remaining the ingredients to a shaker and dry-shake vigorously. Dry-shaking means that you don’t use any ice, which allows the egg to emulsify. Add ice to the shaker and shake again until well-chilled to the touch.

Double-strain the ingredients into a chilled coupe or cocktail glass and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Finally, if you don’t have any absinthe to hand, you can use another anise-based spirit. Pastis and ouzo are great choices while sambuca is a little sweet but fine in a pinch.

4. Boulevardier

Negroni Cocktail

Strongly reminiscent of the classic Negroni, the Boulevardier showcases other ways to enjoy the celebrated bittersweet contrast between the Campari and vermouth.

It was created in around 1930 and named after writer Erskine Gwynne who founded the Parisian Boulevardier Magazine. The cocktail could be one of the earliest riffs or variants of the Negroni, which itself was created around 1918.

Overshadowed by the Negroni, the Boulevardier is a lesser-known classic cocktail that deserves far more attention than it gets!

It requires the following three ingredients:

  • 45 ml (1½ Oz) Bourbon
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Sweet Red Vermouth
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Campari

Stir all of the ingredients in a shaker with ice and strain into an ice-filled tumbler. Finish by garnishing with a lemon peel.

5. Whiskey Sour

Sour Cocktail

The celebrated whiskey sour has been with us since the 1870s. It’s one of the best-known cocktails to use egg white to produce a thick and foamy texture.

It’s very simple and just needs the following ingredients to make it:

  • 45 ml (1½ Oz) Bourbon
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Lemon Juice
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Simple Syrup
  • Egg White

As with the Millionaire recipe above, remember to make sure that your egg is fresh enough to use. Separate the egg white and add it to a cocktail shaker with the other ingredients.

Dry shake vigorously to emulsify the egg white and then add ice, shaking again until well-chilled. Double-strain into a glass and garnish with lemon.

The whiskey sour is traditionally served in a coupe but it can be also enjoyed “on the rocks” and strained into a tumbler glass with ice. You can also add a few bar spoons of red wine onto the foam. This finish results in the variant known as the “New York Sour”.

6. Brown Derby

Orange Cocktail

Often overlooked by other cocktails, the Brown Derby was a post-Prohibition creation during the 1930s from the Vendôme Club in Los Angeles. It was named after a local diner that was known for its hat-shaped design.

Here’s what you need to make it:

  • 45 ml (1½ Oz) Bourbon
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Grapefruit Juice
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Honey Syrup

Honey syrup is easy enough to make and you can throw some together on the fly. It simply consists of honey and water in equal measures that are mixed together with heat. Its purpose is to simply render the honey both milder and more liquid so it’s easy to mix into a cocktail.

When working with a small amount, you can just use honey and hot water. If you’ve just made it, make sure that you add the honey syrup and ice to the shaker first so it cools down before adding the other ingredients.

Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled. Fine strain the resulting mixture into a cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with grapefruit zest, making sure that you twist it over the glass to express the oils into the drink.

7. Kentucky Mule

Mule Cocktail

The Kentucky Mule is the first of a few bourbon variants and riffs of famous cocktails that we’ll feature in this list. Each is well known and equally celebrated in its own way. Indeed, the Kentucky Mule is regarded as a more complex and subtle alternative to its Russian cousin.

You’ll need:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Bourbon
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Lime Juice
  • Giner Beer To Taste
  • Mint Sprig

Fill a copper mule mug or highball glass with ice and then add the bourbon and lime juice. Stir while topping up with ginger beer to taste. Garnish with a mint sprig.

8. Bourbon Sazerac

Sazerac Cocktail

Did you know that the famous cognac Sazerac cocktail was made with whiskey throughout much of its history? Indeed, French vineyards were devastated by a phylloxera outbreak during the 19th century. Consequently, cognac was hard to find and bartenders had to make do with local ingredients.

Rye whiskey tended to be the popular substitute. However, bourbon is arguably a better choice, especially since it was even sold as a cheaper alternative to cognac during its early history thanks to its charred barrels.

Today, the hardest ingredient to find to make a Sazerac is probably the absinthe. Nevertheless, it’s starting to become much easier to find in the USA these days.

Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • 50 ml (1¾ Oz) Bourbon
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Absinthe
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 Lemon Peel

Add the absinthe to a tumbler glass and swirl it around until it leaves an even coating on the interior. Fill the glass with crushed ice and set it aside. Add the bourbon and bitters to a second tumbler glass and stir them with ice.

Afterwards, discard the contents from the first glass as you just want the absinthe’s essence. Strain the contents of the second tumbler into the first and add a lemon peel for garnish.

9. Amaretto Sour

Mai Tai Cocktail

There are two ways to make an amaretto sour. One calls for bitters whereas the other uses bourbon. Needless to say, we’re going to be using bourbon in this one! It’s probably the most famous almond liqueur concoction and is also featured as our favourite amaretto cocktail.

You’ll need the following to make it:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Amaretto
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Lemon Juice
  • 15 ml (½ Oz) Fresh Egg White
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1 Pinch Brown Sugar

Add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain back into the shaker, remove the ice, and shake again. Fine strain into an ice-filled tumbler glass.

10. Manhattan Cocktail

Bar Drake Manhattan Cocktail

An incredibly simple classic cocktail, the Manhattan is traditionally made with rye or Canadian whiskey. Like the Sazerac and cognac, the Manhattan is associated with rye due to its cultural and historical ties.

Most rye whiskey production took place nearer New York while Canadian whiskey was often imported from across the border. Nevertheless, it’s great with bourbon instead.

It just needs the following ingredients:

  • 60 ml (2 Oz) Bourbon
  • 30 ml (1 Oz) Sweet Red Vermouth
  • 1 Dash Angostura Bitters

Add the ingredients to a shaker and stir over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with maraschino cherries.

What Next?

Now that you have read about the best bourbon cocktails, learn more about America’s favourite whiskey!

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