17 Classic Bourbon Cocktail Recipes

You guys, guess what month it is? Okay, perhaps an obvious answer, it’s the month of September. But for our purposes, I’m talking about National Bourbon Heritage Month. I know, many celebrations only get a day, but bourbon gets an entire month. And yes, National Bourbon Heritage Month is an actual national observance, enacted by congress nearly a decade ago. Bourbon is my single favorite spirit. Alright, so perhaps it’s a little customary, since I’m from the south after all. But even still, I strongly believe bourbon is one of the best spirits. Bourbon is steeped in history, it's versatile (in how many of them are tasty as both sippers and mixers), and it's a great value. Best spirit ever?


So with bourbon being my favorite spirit, and September being National Bourbon Heritage Month, it only seemed appropriate to share my favorite classic bourbon cocktail recipes. So let's get this bourbon cocktail party started. (Note: Some of these bourbon cocktail recipes may traditionally call for either rye or bourbon, though it's really a matter of preference.)

Bourbon Cocktail Recipes

Old Fashioned

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 tsp. sugar (or 1 sugar cube)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 cherry
  • Orange peel for garnish

This is my single favorite whiskey cocktail, and what I believe anyone who wants to make whiskey cocktails should first learn to master. Most Old Fashioned cocktail recipes call for soda water, however I'm adamant about getting the right dilution without using any water. My take on the Old Fashioned cocktail recipe begins with adding 1 teaspoon of sugar (or 1 sugar cube) to an Old Fashioned glass, wetting the sugar with a couple dashes of bitters, and muddling. I then add several pieces of ice and bourbon, and stir approximately 50 rotations. Lastly, I remove the ice and replace with a big 'ole ice cube/sphere (though it's just as good neat, too), and add a cherry and orange peel for garnish. If you want to add water, add a splash before muddling the sugar.


  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes bitters
  • Cherry for garnish

Don't worry, I'm not so particular about the Manhattan as I am the Old Fashioned, even if it is my second-favorite whiskey cocktail (and makes a great barrel-aged cocktail). To make it, simply add all of the ingredients to a mixing (or pint) glass with ice, and stir. Strain intro a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry. And voila, that's it. How easy is that?

Mint Julep

  • 3 oz. bourbon
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Several mint leaves

The Mint Julep seems simple in nature, with really just a couple ingredients. However, getting the right balance you want may try some experimentation, such as using more or less sugar or subbing simple syrup for granulated sugar. This Mint Julep recipe comes from one of the foremost cocktail experts, David Wondrich. To make it, add a few mint leaves and sugar to a chilled glass, and muddle. Pack the glass with crushed ice, add bourbon, and then stir vigorously until the glass begins to frost. Add more ice if necessary and then garnish with mint leaves. It's summer in a whiskey glass.

Whiskey Sour

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • .75 oz. lemon juice
  • .75 oz. simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
  • Cherry and/or lemon wedge for garnish

I feel like the whiskey sour cocktail is like the gateway whiskey cocktail, and what could largely be considered one of the original whiskey cocktail recipes. You begin drinking whiskey sours, and then it's mint juleps, followed by Manhattans, and then you're drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle. Furthermore, the whiskey sour is one of the easiest cocktail recipes to make. Simply add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake, and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a cherry, lemon wedge, orange wedge, or any combination of your favorite fruits. Some whiskey sour cocktail recipes call for egg white, but this is the whiskey sour at its simplest, most traditional form.

New York Sour

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • .5 oz. dry red wine

And then there are the whiskey sour variations, of which the New York Sour cocktail is my favorite, and what you may even recognize from Boardwalk Empire. Some people may call it blasphemy, adding wine to a cocktail, but I call it brilliant. You'll make the New York Sour similar to that of the whiskey sour, adding the bourbon, simple syrup, and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and shake. You'll strain it into a rocks glass filled with ice, and then very gently pour the red wine onto the top of the cocktail by holding the back of a spoon just over the surface of the drink, and pouring the red wine over it, creating a float effect.

Ward Eight

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • .75 oz. lemon juice
  • .75 oz. orange juice
  • 1 tsp. grenadine

The Ward Eight is essentially Boston's version of the whiskey sour, replacing sugar with grenadine, and adding orange juice. Many bartenders insist that the Ward Eight is only to be made with rye, but I'm throwing insistence to the wind in this case. To make the Ward Eight, you'll add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. For a slight variation, add it to a glass with ice and top with a little club soda. The only additional note I'll make is that about the grenadine. Most grocery stores only carry Rose's grenadine, which I don't think holds a candle to other grenadine syrups like Jack Rudy's Small Batch Grenadine.

Bourbon Smash

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 lemon half
  • .75 oz. simple syrup
  • Several mint leaves

The Whiskey Smash, like the whiskey sour, has a long history that dates back many decades. It's kind of like the citrusy upgrade to the mint julep, and is very literal in name, since you're smashing (or crushing) lemons. Similar to the whiskey sour, there are a number of variations, of which the peach bourbon smash is my favorite (simply add a couple peach slices to muddle). However, for this traditional bourbon smash recipe, you'll make it by muddling the lemon, mint, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Then add ice and bourbon and shake, straining into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with any remaining mint and fruit of choice.

Kentucky Buck

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • .75 oz. lemon juice
  • .75 oz. simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 strawberry, sliced
  • Ginger beer

The "buck" is a style of drinks that typically consists of a spirit, citrus, and ginger beer. It's easy to make and refreshing, albeit a little dangerous. The Kentucky Buck gets its name, obviously, because of the use of bourbon as the spirit of choice. For this bourbon cocktail recipe, you'll muddle the lemon juice, simple syrup, and strawberry in a cocktail shaker. Next, add the bourbon, bitters, and ice, and shake. Strain into an ice-filled glass and then top with ginger beer and garnish with a strawberry.

Brown Derby

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. grapefruit juice
  • .5 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)

It's only appropriate that the Brown Derby would be one of my favorite bourbon cocktails, since legend has it that it hails from Los Angeles in the early 1900s. Most of the work is in the honey syrup, which you'd make similarly to simple syrup, except using honey rather than sugar. To make the Brown Derby cocktail, add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a grapefruit wedge or twist.

Gold Rush

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • .75 oz. lemon juice
  • .75 oz. honey syrup

The honey theme continues with the Gold Rush bourbon cocktail recipe. If you have some honey syrup left over from the Brown Derby cocktail recipe, then you've already got 1/3 of your ingredients for the Gold Rush. Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with a lemon slice. Is it just me, or are these bourbon cocktail recipes getting easier?


  • 1. 5 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth

The Boulevardier has perhaps taken the longest of any classic bourbon cocktail for me to come around to. That's because it's essentially bourbon's answer to the Negroni, which I've never really enjoyed until the last year, but am now obsessed with. It's kind of an acquired taste, unless you by default love bitterness, which in case you'll probably love it. Being so booze-forward, the Boulevardier is all about balance, which you may have to play around to get the right ratio. To make the Boulevardier, add all of the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with an orange twist.

Remember the Maine

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • .75 oz. sweet vermouth
  • .75 oz. Cherry Heering
  • 1 tsp. absinthe

I just recently made the Remember the Maine bourbon cocktail for the first time, and it is delicious. If you like booze-forward cocktails, and especially the Sazerac, then you'll likely enjoy this bourbon cocktail recipe. You'll first do an absinthe rinse, which you can do by swirling the absinthe in a glass (and discarding) or putting absinthe in a spray bottle and spraying a couple times to coat the walls of a chilled cocktail glass. Next, add the rest of the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Lastly, strain it into the chilled, absinthe-rinsed cocktail glass.


  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • .5 oz. orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
  • .5 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • .25 oz. grenadine
  • 1 tsp. absinthe

The Millionaire isn't so much a single cocktail, as a style of cocktails from prohibition-era. They would typically involve a spirit, orange liqueur, citrus, and grenadine, but often also include egg white, and sometimes an absinthe rinse. I made it a few different ways, but settled on this version sans the egg white. You'll begin making it similarly as the Remember the Maine bourbon cocktail, doing an absinthe rinse of a chilled glass, except you'll then add the rest of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Lastly, strain into a chilled glass.


  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. dry vermouth
  • .5 oz. grenadine
  • .25 oz. lemon juice
  • 2 dashes of orange bitters

The Scofflaw is the cat's pajamas, and my new favorite bourbon cocktail. The word itself is steeped in classic, prohibition-era history, since it describes a person who lawlessly drank during prohibition. To make the Scofflaw cocktail, you'll add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake, straining it into a chilled cocktail glass and garnishing with a lemon twist.

Bourbon Cider

  • 2.5 oz. hard cider
  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • Nutmeg
  • Apple slices for garnish

Well what's a fall cocktail recipe post without a cider cocktail? This is quite possible my favorite, easiest to make fall cocktail recipe that can easily be adjusted to include your favorite autumn spices. You can really begin simply with your favorite hard cider and bourbon, and then adjust sugar, spices, and garnishes as you want. For this particular bourbon cider recipe, you'll first warm the cider, honey, and a couple apple slices in a small saucepan. Once warm, pour it into a mug (or glassware that can handle the heat) and add bourbon, your favorite fall spice (like nutmeg, cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, clove, anise, etc.), and garnish with an apple slice. You could just as easily pour over ice for a more refreshing take on bourbon cider.

Hot Toddy

  • 2 oz. bourbon
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • .5 oz. lemon juice
  • 4 oz. hot water
  • Cinnamon stick (or other favorite fall spice like nutmeg, ground cinnamon, clove, anise, et.)
  • Lemon wedge

And if there's a bourbon cider, then there must be a bourbon hot toddy! While many classic bourbon cocktail recipes follow a certain traditional method of ingredients, the hot toddy is more of a subjective warm bourbon cocktail recipe. Most hot toddy cocktail recipes at least call for bourbon, honey, lemon juice, hot water, and autumn spices. However, variations may include apple cider vinegar, tea, brown sugar, orange slices, lemon peel, or some combination of these ingredients. For this more traditional hot toddy cocktail recipe, you'll simply add the bourbon, honey, lemon juice, and hot water to a mug and garnish with lemon and your favorite fall spice.

Milk Punch

  • 1.5 oz. bourbon
  • .5 oz. rum
  • 2 oz. milk or creamer (in this case, French vanilla creamer)
  • 3/4 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. of superfine sugar
  • Grated nutmeg

One of the oldest bourbon cocktail recipes, the milk punch is believed to date back centuries, typically consisting of some combination of brandy, rum, milk, and spices. This particular version comes from one of the most popular cities for milk punches, New Orleans, at Arnaud’s French 75, which has been serving milk punch since the end of prohibition. To make this version of the milk punch cocktail, combine all of the ingredients (except nutmeg) in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain into a rocks glass and top with nutmeg.

What are your favorite bourbon cocktail recipes?