Bourbon is an American style of whiskey, which has been designated a ‘distinctive product of the United States’. It has a strong association with the South, with 95% of all bourbon coming from the state of Kentucky. To be classed as true bourbon, it must be stored in barrels of charred new oak, and the mix of grains used in fermentation, known as the ‘mash bill’, must contain at least 51% corn. Discover more about the different styles of whiskey with our guide to the differences between rye vs bourbon.
In terms of flavour, bourbon tends to be sweeter than other whiskeys, with vanilla, oak and caramel notes. Bourbons are sometimes divided into categories depending on which notes predominate, with the 4 major categories comprising grain forward bourbons, nutmeg forward bourbons, caramel forward bourbons and cinnamon forward bourbons. It is also a popular ingredient in cocktails, its sweet, smoky flavour mixing well with a variety of flavours, from citrus fruit to vermouth.
The bourbon sour, also known as a whiskey sour, is a classic cocktail dating back to the 1870s, and appears on the International Bartender Association’s (IBA) list of official cocktails. A simple blend of bourbon and freshly squeezed lemon juice with a touch of sugar or simple syrup, it is a perfect balance of sweet and tart, and is usually garnished with a slice of orange, a cherry, or both. Serve on the rocks in an old fashioned or rocks glass. For a simple, authentic version, check out this bourbon sour cocktail recipe from Food Republic.
Made from a blend of bourbon, sweet vermouth and Campari, the boulevardier is a variation on a Negroni cocktail, with the gin replaced by bourbon for a richer, warmer flavour. It is said to have been invented by Erskine Gwynne, an American living in Paris in the 1920s, who published a magazine for expats, which was also called Boulevardier. Roughly translated, the name means ‘man-about-town’, and lends the drink an urbane, metropolitan air. Its fame spread after it appeared in the 1927 cocktail guide Barflies and Cocktails, by celebrity barman Harry MacElhone. To make your own, take a look at this boulevardier cocktail recipe from Ivan Della Nave.
Made with bourbon, Cointreau and lemon juice, the bourbon sidecar is a variation on a classic 1920s cocktail called a sidecar, which is made with brandy instead of whisky, and appears on the IBA’s official list of cocktails. Switching the brandy for bourbon adds a slightly drier, spicier flavour that mixes well with the zesty citrus notes from the Cointreau and lemon juice. Make your own with this bourbon sidecar cocktail recipe from A Couple Cooks.
The Manhattan is a classic whiskey cocktail, made with whiskey, vermouth and aromatic bitters. It is thought to have been invented sometime around 1880 in New York’s Manhattan club, from which it takes its name. Traditionally made using rye whiskey, the classic Manhattan becomes a mellower, slightly sweeter cocktail when made with bourbon. It should be stirred, but not shaken, and garnished with a brandied cherry. To make your own, check out this bourbon Manhattan cocktail recipe from Liquor.
New York sour
The New York sour is a whiskey sour with a layer of red wine floated on the top. The red wine adds acidic, fruity notes to the cocktail, and poured correctly, will stay as a distinct layer, creating a cool two-tone look.
Despite its name, this cocktail is thought to have been developed in Chicago in the 1880s, and was originally known as a continental sour. It later became popular in New York City, and the name changed accordingly. Find out how to make one with this New York sour cocktail recipe from Ivan della Nave.
The John Collins is made with bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda, and takes its name from the better-known Tom Collins, which is made with gin instead of whiskey. John Collins is a warmer, spicier drink than his gin-based older brother, and is also a longer version of the bourbon sour. Make your own with this John Collins cocktail recipe from A Couple Cooks.
The gold rush is a modern take on the classic whiskey sour, made using honey syrup instead of sugar. Despite its retro sounding name, this cocktail was actually invented in the 2000s by bartender T. J. Siegal for New York’s Milk & Honey bar. It’s flavour is similar to a classic whiskey sour, but with added depth and richness from the honey. If you want to make your own, try this gold rush cocktail recipe from our Ivan Della Nave.
This modern cocktail from bartender Damian Windsor accentuates the sweet, spicy notes in a good bourbon with a black tea and star anise-infused simple syrup, fresh ginger and Creme Yvette, a violet and fruit-based liqueur. Make your own with this ginger rabbit cocktail recipe from Liquor.
The old fashioned is the grandfather of all cocktails, and the first drink to be referred to using the name ‘cocktail’, back in 1806. When other cocktails began appearing in the 1880s, the drink that started it all had already been around for several decades, and so was dubbed the ‘old fashioned’.
This timeless classic is a simple blend of whiskey, water, a few dashes of bitters and a sugar cube. Whiskey is truly the star of an old fashioned, with the other ingredients simply helping it to shine. It can be made with any type of whiskey, but if you’re a bourbon fan, a bourbon-based old fashioned is one of the best ways to savour your favourite spirit. Make your own with this old fashioned cocktail recipe from here at Fine Dining Lovers.
Another modern cocktail, this time from New York bartender Franky Marshall, the black demure is a spicy blackberry flavoured cocktail, made with bourbon, crème de mûre blackberry liqueur, Cointreau, lemon juice and simple syrup. Serve in an old fashioned glass over ice and garnish with an orange slice and a blackberry. Find out how to make your own with this black demure cocktail recipe from Liquor.