What to mix with bourbon? [Explained]

When it comes to crafting the perfect cocktail, few spirits offer the timeless charm and robust character of bourbon. The rich and distinct flavors of this beloved whiskey make it a versatile base for a wide range of libations.

Whether you’re a seasoned mixologist or just beginning your journey into the world of cocktails, knowing what to mix with bourbon can unlock a realm of possibilities to tantalize your taste buds and impress your guests.

In this article of flavors and combinations, we delve into the art of mixing bourbon with various ingredients, from classic companions to innovative twists, to create truly exceptional drinks that cater to every palate and occasion.

What mixes well with bourbon for a classic cocktail?

What to mix with bourbon

When crafting a masterpiece with bourbon as your base, you want to harmonize its rich, caramel notes with complementary ingredients that elevate the experience. Allow me to share some of my seasoned insights:

  1. Old Fashioned: A venerable icon in the cocktail realm. To create this timeless elixir, muddle a sugar cube with aromatic bitters, then add bourbon and ice. Garnish with a twist of orange or a Luxardo cherry. The marriage of bourbon’s oaky warmth with the bitters’ complexity is nothing short of enchanting.
  2. Manhattan: For those seeking sophistication in a glass, look no further. Combine bourbon, sweet vermouth, and a dash of Angostura bitters. Stir with ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. A maraschino cherry lends a subtle sweetness that dances gracefully alongside bourbon’s bold embrace.
  3. Whiskey Sour: When tangy meets robust, magic happens. Blend bourbon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and simple syrup, then shake with ice until your arms feel the rhythm of the spirits. Strain into a rocks glass, adding a lemon twist for an extra touch of zest. The result? A harmonious symphony of sweet, sour, and bourbon’s sultry depths.
  4. Mint Julep: A Southern classic that celebrates the marriage of bourbon and mint. Muddle fresh mint leaves with sugar to release their aromatic essence. Add bourbon and crushed ice, garnishing with a mint sprig. As you savor this refreshing concoction, the mint’s vivacity will partner beautifully with bourbon’s refined soul.
  5. Boulevardier: For those who crave a touch of European elegance, this cocktail beckons. Mix bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Campari, then stir with ice and strain into a chilled glass. An orange twist crowns this masterpiece, creating a tantalizing fusion of bitterness and bourbon’s velvety charm.

Remember, my friend, a classic bourbon cocktail is a canvas awaiting your artistry. Let your instincts guide you as you balance flavors and aromas to create a libation that transcends time, reflecting your own unique touch and the storied history of this cherished spirit.

What flavors complement bourbon in a cocktail?

Bourbon is a complex and flavorful spirit with a rich profile that includes notes of caramel, vanilla, oak, spice, and sometimes fruity undertones. When creating cocktails with bourbon, you can enhance its flavors by complementing them with other ingredients that work well together. Here are some flavors that complement bourbon in cocktails:

  1. Citrus: The bright and zesty flavors of citrus fruits, such as lemon, lime, and orange, can balance the richness of bourbon. Citrus juices or twists can add a refreshing and tangy element to your cocktails.
  2. Spices: Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger can enhance the warm and spicy notes in bourbon. They add depth and complexity to the overall flavor profile.
  3. Sweetness: Bourbon’s natural sweetness can be complemented by ingredients like honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, or simple syrup. These sweeteners can balance the spirit’s heat and amplify its caramel and vanilla flavors.
  4. Herbs: Fresh herbs like mint, basil, thyme, and rosemary can add aromatic and earthy dimensions to bourbon cocktails. Mint, for example, is a classic choice for cocktails like the Mint Julep.
  5. Berries: Berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries can bring a fruity and slightly tart element to bourbon cocktails, complementing the spirit’s flavors.
  6. Coffee or Chocolate: Coffee and chocolate flavors can add richness and depth to bourbon cocktails. Ingredients like coffee liqueur or chocolate bitters can create a harmonious combination.
  7. Fruit: Fruits such as apples, peaches, and cherries can provide a natural sweetness and enhance the fruitier notes that can sometimes be found in bourbon.
  8. Aromatics: Aromatics like vanilla extract, allspice, and clove can accentuate the bourbon’s existing vanilla and spice characteristics.
  9. Savory Elements: Savory ingredients like smoked sea salt, bacon, or herbs like rosemary can add a unique twist to bourbon cocktails, creating a balance between sweet and savory flavors.
  10. Bitters: Bitters are concentrated flavor extracts that can enhance and elevate the overall taste of a cocktail. Adding a few dashes of bitters, such as Angostura or orange bitters, can introduce complexity and depth to a bourbon drink.

When crafting bourbon cocktails, don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of flavors to find the perfect balance that suits your palate. Whether you’re creating a classic cocktail or inventing your own signature drink, the key is to enhance and highlight the wonderful flavors that bourbon brings to the table.

What kind of mixers enhance the taste of bourbon?

What to mix with bourbon

Mixers can play a significant role in enhancing the taste of bourbon by complementing its flavors and creating a more well-rounded and enjoyable drinking experience. Here are some mixers that can enhance the taste of bourbon:

  1. Ginger Ale/Ginger Beer: The spicy, slightly sweet flavors of ginger ale or ginger beer can complement the warm and spicy notes in bourbon, creating a harmonious and refreshing combination.
  2. Soda Water/Seltzer: Soda water can help mellow out the intensity of bourbon while adding a gentle effervescence. This is a simple way to enjoy bourbon without overpowering its flavors.
  3. Citrus Juices (Lemon, Lime, Orange): Freshly squeezed citrus juices can add a bright and tangy element to bourbon cocktails, balancing its richness with a burst of acidity.
  4. Sweet Vermouth: In cocktails like the Manhattan, sweet vermouth can provide a slightly sweet and herbal counterpoint to the bourbon’s flavors, creating a balanced and sophisticated drink.
  5. Fruit Juices (Apple, Cranberry, Pineapple): Fruit juices can add natural sweetness and fruitiness to bourbon cocktails, enhancing the overall flavor profile.
  6. Maple Syrup/Honey: These natural sweeteners can add depth and complexity to bourbon drinks while complementing the spirit’s caramel and vanilla notes.
  7. Mint: Fresh mint leaves can enhance the aromatic qualities of bourbon and create a refreshing and herbaceous character, as seen in the classic Mint Julep.
  8. Coffee Liqueur: Combining bourbon with coffee liqueur can create a rich and complex cocktail, blending the flavors of whiskey and coffee.
  9. Bitters: Adding a few dashes of bitters, such as Angostura or orange bitters, can enhance the overall flavor profile of bourbon cocktails, adding depth and complexity.
  10. Coca-Cola: Mixing bourbon with cola can create a simple and approachable cocktail, with the sweetness of the cola complementing the bourbon’s flavors.
  11. Lemonade: The sweet and tangy flavors of lemonade can balance the richness of bourbon, resulting in a refreshing and easy-to-drink cocktail.
  12. Cinnamon/Cloves/Nutmeg: Adding a touch of warm spices can enhance the bourbon’s natural spice notes and create a cozy and comforting drink.
  13. Herbal Liqueurs (e.g., Chartreuse, Amaro): Herbal liqueurs can add intricate herbal and botanical flavors that complement and enhance the complexity of bourbon.

When selecting mixers, consider the flavor profile you want to achieve and how the mixer’s characteristics will interact with the bourbon. The key is to create a balanced and harmonious combination that allows the bourbon’s unique qualities to shine through while adding depth and interest to the drink.

What fruits or juices go well with bourbon?

What to mix with bourbon

Several fruits and juices can complement the flavors of bourbon and create delicious and well-balanced cocktails. Here are some fruits and juices that go well with bourbon:

  1. Citrus Fruits (Lemon, Lime, Orange): The zesty and tangy flavors of citrus fruits can brighten up the rich and robust flavors of bourbon. Freshly squeezed lemon, lime, or orange juice can add a refreshing and lively element to cocktails.
  2. Apple: Apple juice or apple cider can provide a natural sweetness and fruity character that pairs well with bourbon’s caramel and vanilla notes. This combination can evoke a cozy and autumnal feel.
  3. Cranberry: Cranberry juice adds a tart and slightly astringent quality that can balance the sweetness of bourbon, creating a well-rounded and refreshing cocktail.
  4. Pineapple: Pineapple juice brings tropical and tropical flavors to bourbon cocktails, enhancing its complexity with a hint of sweetness and acidity.
  5. Peach: Peach puree or peach nectar can infuse a delightful fruitiness into bourbon cocktails, complementing the spirit’s natural flavors.
  6. Blackberry/Raspberry/Strawberry: These berries can add a touch of sweetness and a burst of fruity goodness to bourbon drinks, creating a balanced and flavorful profile.
  7. Cherry: Cherry juice or muddled cherries can create a sweet and slightly tart component that pairs well with bourbon’s depth and richness.
  8. Grapefruit: The slightly bitter and tangy profile of grapefruit can add a unique twist to bourbon cocktails, creating a complex and refreshing drink.
  9. Mango: Mango juice can contribute a luscious and tropical sweetness that works harmoniously with the bourbon’s flavors.
  10. Pomegranate: Pomegranate juice can add a vibrant and tangy element to bourbon cocktails, creating a visually appealing and flavorful drink.

When using fruits and juices with bourbon, keep in mind the balance of flavors you’re aiming for. The natural sweetness, acidity, and fruitiness of these ingredients can complement the bourbon’s characteristics, creating cocktails that are both enjoyable and intriguing. Experiment with different combinations to find the perfect fruit and juice pairings that suit your taste preferences.

What non-alcoholic beverages pair nicely with bourbon?

If you’re looking to enjoy the flavors of bourbon without the alcohol content, there are several non-alcoholic beverages that can pair nicely with bourbon to create delicious and flavorful mocktails. Here are some options:

  1. Soda Water/Seltzer: Mixing bourbon with soda water or seltzer can create a refreshing and effervescent mocktail. You can add a twist of citrus or a splash of fruit juice to enhance the flavors.
  2. Ginger Ale/Ginger Beer: The spiciness of ginger ale or ginger beer can complement the rich flavors of bourbon, creating a mocktail with a pleasant balance of sweet and spicy.
  3. Lemonade: Mixing bourbon with lemonade results in a sweet and tangy mocktail that’s perfect for a hot day. You can adjust the sweetness and tartness to your preference.
  4. Iced Tea: Combining bourbon with iced tea can create a Southern-inspired mocktail with a hint of bitterness from the tea and the sweetness of the bourbon.
  5. Apple Cider: Mixing bourbon with apple cider can create a cozy and autumnal mocktail with warm spices and fruity notes.
  6. Cranberry Juice: Cranberry juice adds a tart and slightly astringent element that can balance the sweetness of bourbon in a mocktail.
  7. Pineapple Juice: The tropical sweetness of pineapple juice can add a delightful twist to a bourbon mocktail.
  8. Pomegranate Juice: Pomegranate juice adds a tangy and vibrant flavor that can enhance the overall profile of a bourbon mocktail.
  9. Mint Infusion: Muddled or infused mint leaves can add an aromatic and refreshing quality to a bourbon mocktail, similar to a Mint Julep.
  10. Black Tea: Combining bourbon with black tea can create a mocktail with a hint of tannin and a rich, deep flavor.
  11. Citrus Zest and Juice: Using citrus zest and juice can add a burst of freshness and tanginess to a bourbon mocktail, enhancing its overall complexity.
  12. Maple Syrup or Honey: Using natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey can add depth and sweetness to a bourbon mocktail, complementing its flavors.

When creating bourbon mocktails, feel free to experiment with different combinations and ratios to find the perfect balance of flavors that suits your taste. The key is to choose non-alcoholic beverages that enhance and complement the unique characteristics of bourbon while creating a satisfying and enjoyable drink.


You can learn what to mix with bourbon on this page. Bourbon is a versatile spirit that can be paired with a variety of mixers to create delightful and flavorful cocktails. Whether you’re seeking a classic combination or a unique twist, the key is to find a balance that enhances the rich flavors of bourbon.

Mixers like ginger ale, citrus juices, sweet vermouth, and fruits such as apple, cranberry, and pineapple can all complement bourbon’s caramel, vanilla, and spice notes. Experimentation is key, so feel free to explore different ingredients to craft the perfect bourbon cocktail that suits your palate.