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Bourbon is an alcoholic spirit that is enjoyed around the globe. Known for having an intense flavor profile and deep color, bourbon is equally complex and robust. For those who have little experience with bourbon, it can also be hard to drink. Having an idea of what to mix with bourbon can not only make bourbon easier to consume but also a more enjoyable experience. Once you have mastered some of the traditional bourbon cocktails, we also introduce some creative mixer ideas for you to try.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- Drinks That Mix Best With Bourbon
- What to Mix With Bourbon For Cocktails
- Let’s Get Mixing
Drinks That Mix Best With Bourbon
Knowing what to mix with bourbon means abandoning some notions of what goes with alcohol. The mixes that pair excellently with vodka or rum often clash with the finer flavors in bourbon. If you accidentally mismatch, your bourbon cocktail is going to taste awful, which you don’t want. Bourbon is too expensive to waste.
Here are some of the best drinks to mix with bourbon to make it more palatable:
When it comes to what to mix with bourbon 90% of the time, the answer is always water. Yes, adding a splash of water is often all you need to temper the flavors of bourbon and make it taste infinitely better.
Bourbon is a drink with a lot of punch, because most have an ABV of 40%. Though this is standard for most alcohols, the flavors of bourbon, paired with the burn of alcohol, can make it challenging.
Room temperature water can cut down some of the alcohol and let the more subtle notes come through. You will have to play around with the amount of water you add, but you will eventually find that place where the bourbon tastes just right.
Check out this video on how to drink bourbon, including adding water:
Soda water is one of the few mixers in the world that seems to pair well with everything, including bourbon. Again, you are working with water, which dilutes some of the alcohol, but also getting some added fizz.
There are a couple of cocktail recipes including bourbon and soda water including Bourbon Rickey, John Collins, and Whiskey Soda.
You can also add some different fruit juices to your bourbon and soda water mix, like pineapple, lime, or orange bitters.
From ginger beer to ginger bitters, there are plenty of ginger liquids out there that you can mix together with bourbon for a delightful treat. Ginger is refreshing and also cuts through some of that bite from the alcohol. It’s a great way to make your bourbon more palatable without overdoing it.
If you are looking for an excellent ginger beer, may we recommend Bundaberg?
Want to know one of the best ways to mix bourbon? Pour it into some coffee. You will be surprised by how well coffee and bourbon complement one another. The bitterness of black coffee pairs well with the sweet vanilla and cinnamon notes in bourbon. The combination is bold and invigorating—exactly what you want from a cup of coffee, right?
The best part is that you can add a splash of bourbon to hot or iced coffee. This even works with cold brewed coffee.
When it comes to what to mix with bourbon, apple cider is probably the last thing you would try. Well, guess again.
Apple cider has an inherent sweetness that naturally pairs well with bourbon’s sweeter side. You can also spice up your bourbon and apple cider with a dash of lemon juice, ginger beer, or Vermouth. It feels like a seasonal drink to share with your friends during the holidays, or you can keep this delicious little secret to yourself.
If you are not a fan of apple cider, here’s some good news: Bourbon also pairs well with eggnog.
Technically, angostura bitters are not a mixer. However, because this ingredient works so well with bourbon, it could not go without a mention in this list. Angostura bitters are indeed bitter but also aromatic, which helps cut down some of bourbon’s more sweeter notes.
You can try mixing angostura bitters, bourbon, and other mixers on this list together to see what you can come up with, or you can turn to Ol’ Reliable—a Classic Old Fashioned.
Another time-honored mixer is cola. From Michelin star restaurants to late night dance clubs, bourbon and cola is an appealing beverage. No doubt, you have heard that whiskey and Coca-Cola are an excellent pair. It works for bourbon, too. The carbonation in cola helps cut back some of the alcohol, which the flavors of Coca-Cola—nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla—enhance the caramel notes in bourbon.
All you need is some bourbon, cola, and a few cubes of ice. It’s a winner.
What to Mix With Bourbon For Cocktails
Aside from the mixers that should not be overlooked, there are a couple of quintessential bourbon cocktails that every bartender knows how to make. You should add these recipes to your bourbon repertoire so you can whip up a delicious drink whenever you want:
- Classic Old Fashioned
- Whiskey Highball
- Bourbon Manhattan
- Kentucky Mule
- Bourbon Sour
Let’s take a look at the recipes.
1. Classic Old Fashioned
Usually people say, “Out with the old, in with the new,” but that has never been the case with the Classic Old Fashioned cocktail. When you are looking for what to mix with bourbon, the answer is in this drink’s ingredient list. The Old Fashioned is a beverage that complements the flavors of bourbon with some sweetness, while bringing everything together with a shot of bitters. If you are a novice when it comes to consuming whiskey or bourbon, then this is the cocktail you have to try first.
- Bourbon of your choice
- 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
- 1 teaspoon water
- 2 tablespoons of simple syrup
- 1 cup of ice
- 1 maraschino cherry
- A spiral of orange peel
- Add the water, bitters, and simple syrup to a clean glass.
- Stir the ingredients together then add in the ice.
- Top with bourbon and garnish with the maraschino cherry and orange slice.
- Bottom’s up!
There are many ways to make an Old Fashioned. Some recipes call for brown sugar, which you caramelize with an open flame before muddling it into a glass. So, if you do not happen to like one recipe, consider trying another.
2. Whiskey Highball
When it comes to mixing bourbon, simple is best. Case in point: the Whiskey Highball. You don’t need much for this bourbon cocktail to come together. Keep the Whiskey Highball in the back of your mind, when you are craving a late night drink but don’t feel like mixing together several ingredients.
- Soda water (or ginger beer)
- Lemon slice
- Take a highball glass and fill with about a finger of bourbon. If you want a stronger drink, use a little bit more bourbon.
- Top with soda water.
- Add some ice and stir together.
- Enjoy this simple yet delicious bourbon drink.
3. Bourbon Manhattan
Here is another example of how bourbon and angostura bitters play well together. Manhattans typically use rye whiskey, but you do not have to stick to the original game plan. When you swap rye whiskey for a smoky bourbon, you create something much more robust and heady.
- 1 ounce sweet red Vermouth
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 3 dashes of angostura bitters
- A cherry for garnish
- For Manhattan cocktails, you never want to shake the ingredients, because it will dilute the flavors. Instead, stir together your bourbon, vermouth, and bitters in a mixing glass.
- Strain into the cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a cherry.
- Drink up!
4. Kentucky Mule
There is the Moscow Mule, which uses vodka and ginger ale or ginger beer. But what about the Kentucky Mule? As mentioned earlier, ginger is one of the best drinks to mix with bourbon. The Kentucky Mule proves it. If you are not a fan of the Old Fashioned, give this recipe a try.
Keep in mind that you will get the best results with a higher end ginger ale or ginger beer. In other words, use a drink that has real ginger in it, not just flavoring.
- 2 ounces of bourbon
- Ginger beer
- 1/2 ounce lime juice
- Mint spring
- Grab your trademark copper Moscow Mule mug. Add in the bourbon and lime juice.
- Fill the mug with ice cubes.
- Top the ice with ginger beer.
Stir and garnish with a mint spring.
5. Bourbon Sour
Looking for a summery drink that helps you relax by the pool or gets you primed for a barbecue? Then you are going to love the Bourbon Sour. Although sour mix was not mentioned on the list of what to mix with bourbon, it does go well with it. However, this cocktail does not call for sour mix, only a bit of lemon. Here is how to make it:
- 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeeze
- 2 ounces bourbon whiskey
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar, superfine
- 1 slice of orange or a maraschino cherry for garnish
- Combine the bourbon, lemon juice, ice, and sugar in a shaker. Stir everything together to avoid diluting the drink.
- Strain the beverage into a glass over ice or stone cubes.
- Garnish with your orange or maraschino cherries.
- Take a sip and relax.
If you want to try taking your Bourbon Sour recipe up a notch, consider swapping out the superfine sugar and adding in simple syrup and an egg white. Yes, it’s weird, but the egg white will give the Bourbon Sour a creamier texture and a decadent head of foam. Consider the egg white version to be the wintry Bourbon Sour drink. Go on, impress your friends.
This video gives you a great explanation of a Whiskey Sour using bourbon, as well as some other recipes:
Let’s Get Mixing
Bourbon whiskey is a unique experience, one that often requires some tempering with mixers before you can enjoy it fully. Now that you know what to mix with bourbon, you are probably itching to get started. You probably have some of the ingredients already in your home, so why not give some of the recipes a try?
Also, don’t forget to check out our list of the best bourbon under $50!
There are many great mixers for bourbon, including cola soda, soda water, lemon juice, ginger ale or ginger beer, coffee, apple cider, eggnog, and even plain water. These mixers temper the alcoholic burn of the bourbon while bringing out the more subtler notes.
You can make bourbon taste better by adding a few drops of water to the drink. Plain water separates the ethanol from other molecules in the drink, making it more palatable and smooth. You can also try mixing bourbon with Coca-Cola if you prefer a bit more sweetness.
You may be surprised, but lime, lemon, pineapple, and orange juice all go well with bourbon. That is why Bourbon Sours are such a popular bourbon cocktail!