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20 Best Bourbon Cocktail Recipes That Everyone Will Love (Promise)

Food52 logo Food52 10/20/2021 Kelly Vaughan
© Provided by Food52

When you picture bourbon and whiskey, what comes to mind? Bonfires and campgrounds, buffalo plaid, a cozy knit blanket, and maybe some softly falling snow, right? But bourbon is delicious 365 days a year—it all depends on the type of bourbon you choose and how you shake (or stir) it up for a cocktail. But before we dive in to our favorite bourbon cocktail recipes, let’s get a brief bourbon 101.

For starters, what’s the difference between bourbon and whiskey? “All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon,” explains Ashley Barnes, co-founder and master blender for Off-Hours Bourbon. “Whiskey is the overall category, and bourbon is a subclass within that category,” she says. In order for whiskey to be classified as bourbon, Barnes says that it must be made with 51 percent corn, has to be aged in a new charred oak barrel, and must be made in the United States.

When tasting bourbon, look beyond the usual vanilla and caramel notes. Barnes says you’ll find lighter, fruiter bourbons that may have notes of apricot and strawberry, which pair well with a warm-weather cocktail like a classic whiskey lemonade; other types of bourbon have heavier notes of warm spices like star anise and cinnamon, or even maple syrup. “When we’re talking about a high rye bourbon, you might taste a similar richness that you’d find in a spiced apple cider,” she says. Woodford Reserve and Redemption High Rye Straight Bourbon Whiskey are two solid examples of “heavy” spiced bourbon; the ever-popular Maker’s Mark is a light, easy-drinking bourbon.

Now that you’ve spent a little bit of time in the classroom, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge to the test (or rather, the taste test) with these 20 popular bourbon cocktail recipes.

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1. Bourbon Punch

You may associate bourbon cocktails only with the changing leaves, but you can also stir up a delicious summery drink with the spirit. Here, bourbon is mixed with sweet vermouth, sugar, orange liqueur, cherry juice, and soda water for a bright beverage.

Bourbon Punch From Basil Hayden® © Provided by Food52 Bourbon Punch From Basil Hayden® Bourbon Punch From Basil Hayden®

2. Passion Fruit Bourbon Sour

“In this sour, passion fruit pairs with the vanilla and floral notes of Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon, while the addition of egg white creates a dreamy almost meringue-like foam and velvety texture,” writes recipe developer Max Rappaport.

Passion Fruit Bourbon Sour © Provided by Food52 Passion Fruit Bourbon Sour Passion Fruit Bourbon Sour

3. Cherry Bourbon Smash

Fresh basil, fragrant lemons, juicy cherries, honey, and good-quality bourbon come together for a summer bourbon cocktail.

Cherry Bourbon Smash © Provided by Food52 Cherry Bourbon Smash Cherry Bourbon Smash

4. Bourbon Cocoa Cider

Three quintessential cold-weather staples—bourbon, homemade apple cider, and crème de cacao (it’s basically hot chocolate, right?)—join forces for this bourbon cocktail recipe.

Bourbon Cocoa Cider © Provided by Food52 Bourbon Cocoa Cider Bourbon Cocoa Cider

5. Bourbon, Orange & Ginger

Homemade fresh ginger syrup brings out the warm, spiced notes found in good-quality bourbon. A little bit of triple sec and freshly squeezed orange juice tie it all together.

a glass of orange juice next to a cup of coffee: Bourbon, Orange, and Ginger © Provided by Food52 Bourbon, Orange, and Ginger Bourbon, Orange, and Ginger

6. Spiced Pear Bourbon Collins

Consider this the one and only cocktail you need for fall sippin’. Spiced pear liqueur, honey syrup, your favorite bourbon, and rosemary (for garnish) make for one fine bartender-approved drink.

Spiced Pear Bourbon Collins © Provided by Food52 Spiced Pear Bourbon Collins Spiced Pear Bourbon Collins

7. Golden Hour Cocktail

Sweet, floral Lillet Blanc and bright, bitter Aperol are the perfect summer duo. But bourbon, too? It may seem like a strange addition, but the subtle sweetness is enhanced by the fresh, herbal liqueurs.

Golden Hour Cocktail From Basil Hayden's © Provided by Food52 Golden Hour Cocktail From Basil Hayden's Golden Hour Cocktail From Basil Hayden's

Video: How Maker’s Mark Bourbon is Made (Eater)

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8. Meyer Lemon–Vanilla Bean Bourbon Smash

Meyer lemons are prized because they’re less acidic than regular lemons and more aromatic. They bring the feeling of walking through lemon groves along the Amalfi Coast. Paired with sweet vanilla, orange bitters, and spiced bourbon, it’s a drink that will cure all sense of wanderlust.

Meyer Lemon-Vanilla Bean Bourbon Smash © Provided by Food52 Meyer Lemon-Vanilla Bean Bourbon Smash Meyer Lemon-Vanilla Bean Bourbon Smash

9. Bourbon Old-Fashioned

The usual notes of caramel and vanilla from bourbon bring new life to a, well, rather old-fashioned cocktail.

Bourbon Old Fashioned © Provided by Food52 Bourbon Old Fashioned Bourbon Old Fashioned

10. Spiced Bourbon Cocktail With Pomegranate Syrup

Our editors call this bourbon drink a “season-ready sipper starring a few classic fall flavors, like cinnamon, pomegranate, and fresh rosemary.”

a glass with a blue vase on a table: Spiced Bourbon Cocktail With Pomegranate Syrup © Provided by Food52 Spiced Bourbon Cocktail With Pomegranate Syrup Spiced Bourbon Cocktail With Pomegranate Syrup

11. Hayley's Comment (Blackberry, Sherry & Bourbon Cocktail)

I think I’ve established by now that bourbon goes way beyond campfires and s’mores. This blackberry and lemon cocktail gives it a whole other life for warm-weather drinking.

Hayley's Comment (Blackberry, Sherry, and Bourbon Cocktail) © Provided by Food52 Hayley's Comment (Blackberry, Sherry, and Bourbon Cocktail) Hayley's Comment (Blackberry, Sherry, and Bourbon Cocktail)

12. Holiday Manhattan

Looking to switch up the typical spiked eggnog or hot cocoa during the holiday season? Make this spirited version of a classic Manhattan with pomegranate molasses and arils.

Holiday Manhattan © Provided by Food52 Holiday Manhattan Holiday Manhattan

13. Bourbon Sour With Honey-Plum Syrup

"This drink is perfect for the last days of summer, and the ushering in of a new season," says our resident bartender, Elliott Clark.

a glass of orange juice: Bourbon Sour With Honey-Plum Syrup © Provided by Food52 Bourbon Sour With Honey-Plum Syrup Bourbon Sour With Honey-Plum Syrup

14. Mint Julep

We can’t talk about bourbon without talking about mint juleps. Take your first sip during the Kentucky Derby but keep shaking them up all throughout the spring and summer.

a vase of flowers sitting on a table: Mint Julep © Provided by Food52 Mint Julep Mint Julep

15. Paper Plane Cocktail

This four-ingredient cocktail pairs bourbon with Amaro, a bitter Italian digestif, plus Aperol and lemon juice.

Paper Plane Cocktail © Provided by Food52 Paper Plane Cocktail Paper Plane Cocktail

16. Boo Radley

Calling all aspiring mixologists! This cocktail doesn’t exactly use liquors that most people have on their bar cart (such as Cynar, an Italian bitter aperitivo, and Cherry Heering), but if you’re in the mood to experiment, it’s a fabulous bourbon cocktail.

Boo Radley © Provided by Food52 Boo Radley Boo Radley

17. Tipsy Arnold Palmer

Spike this classic black tea and lemonade punch with bourbon for a spirited summer beverage.

Tipsy Arnold Palmer © Provided by Food52 Tipsy Arnold Palmer Tipsy Arnold Palmer

18. Crimson Bulleit Punch

“This elixir has everything I look for in a holiday punch, a delicious ruby red color, the effervescence of champagne, a hint of ginger spice, and enough sweetness (but not too much) to coax this rather potent punch down with ease,” writes recipe developer Oui Chef.

a doughnut sitting on top of a wooden table: Crimson Bulleit Punch © Provided by Food52 Crimson Bulleit Punch Crimson Bulleit Punch

19. Hot Toddy

Although a hot toddy is traditionally made with whiskey, bourbon is a seamless substitute in this classic cold-weather cocktail.

a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice: Hot Toddy © Provided by Food52 Hot Toddy Hot Toddy

20. Apple Peel Bourbon

Infuse your own bourbon with just a few simple fall staples—peeled apples, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks. Let it sit for a few days, just until the aroma from the spices is notable.

a glass mug on a table: Apple Peel Bourbon © Provided by Food52 Apple Peel Bourbon Apple Peel Bourbon
Are you a fan of bourbon? What's your favorite way to shake (or stir) it? Let us know in the comments below!
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