How to drink bourbon?

How to drink bourbon?

Bourbon is a versatile alcoholic beverage. Enjoy it neat, on the rocks, or even as a cocktail. 

If the thought of sipping a bourbon neat makes you shudder, it could be as simple as adding an ice cube that helps you appreciate the flavor and allow it to go down a little easier.

In this article, we’ll be looking at the different ways you can enjoy a bourbon!

What is the best Bourbon drinking glass?

low ball bourbon glass

Before you even reach for the bottle, it’s time to consider what is going to hold the bourbon.

If you want to use a mug, go ahead I am not one to judge. But, if you want to really make the most out of your bourbon experience, I’d recommend a lowball glass also known as an old-fashioned glass or the rocks glass. This glass is great because you can use it to drink bourbon neat, on the rocks as well as many different bourbon cocktails.

What are the best ways to serve Bourbon?

So you’ve got your glass ready, now it’s time to grab your favorite bourbon and consider how you want to enjoy it.

Should you pop in an ice cube? Add some water? Shake up a cocktail with some lemon and egg white? We’ll explore the different ways you can enjoy a bourbon below so you can find the best way for you.

Bourbon straight up

If you’re not new to bourbon or appreciate your drink as it is, you may prefer drinking bourbon straight up, aka neat. A neat drink excludes the addition of ice and water and is served at room temperature.

Bourbon on the rocks (with ice)

Bourbon on the rocks is simply bourbon over ice. An alternative is adding in whiskey rocks, they work just as well.  This is a great way to enjoy your drink if you don’t like bourbon served at room temperature. Pour in your measure and add in an ice cube or two to suit your taste - the more ice the more it will dilute the bourbon, so start by just adding the one. 

Bourbon cocktails

Bourbon works really well as a dominant spirit within a cocktail. Think Mint Juleps, Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. All equally as delicious, in fact, let’s look at how you can play around and create your own!

Mint Julep

mint julep cocktail

The Mint Julep is a cocktail that’s easier to make than it looks! The mint gives it a summer feel, making it a great cocktail to enjoy in the sunshine. 

  • A large handful of mint leaves
  • 50ml Bourbon of choice
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar or 1 teaspoon of simple syrup
  • Crushed ice
  1. Put mint leaves, ice, sugar (or simple syrup) into a lowball glass
  2. Muddle to dissolve sugar and also release mint aroma
  3. Add the bourbon
  4. Fill the glass with ice and mix well
  5. Garish with a mint sprig

Old Fashioned

old fashioned cocktail

An Old Fashioned is a whiskey cocktail muddled with bitters and sugar and garnished with orange peel. A bourbon old fashioned in comparison to a scotch one can go down considerably smoother.

  • ½ teaspoon of sugar or alternatively
  • 1 teaspoon of simple syrup
  • 3 dashes of bitters - Angostura is a great choice
  • 50ml Bourbon of choice 
  • Orange peel for garnishing
  • Ice
  1. Add sugar or simple syrup and bitters into a lowball glass. If using sugar, stir until dissolved
  2. Add a large ice cube into the low ball glass and add bourbon and stir
  3. Garnish with orange peel or try candied orange peel to jazz it up, sit back and enjoy


manhattan cocktail

The Manhattan cocktail is a classic and is quick and simple to make with just three main ingredients.  You may be more familiar with a rye whiskey-based old fashioned, but a bourbon works just as well!

  • 50ml Bourbon of choice
  • 30ml Sweet Vermouth
  • 2 dashes of Bitters
  • Cherry for garnishing
  • Ice
  1. Fill a martini glass with ice to chill it before making the cocktail
  2. Add bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters to a cocktail shaker and shake for 20 seconds with ice
  3. Empty martini glass and strain mixture into it.
  4. Garnish with a cherry

Bourbon Sour

Bourbon sours cocktail

The great thing about a Sours cocktail is that you can adapt them and use almost any spirit, but bourbon works exceptionally well. This is a sweet cocktail with just a hint of sourness from the lemon.

  • 50ml Bourbon of choice
  • ½ teaspoon sugar or 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • 1 part Lemon Juice
  • ½ part Egg white
  • Cherry for garnishing
  • Ice
  1. Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake for about 30 seconds.
  2. Strain the mixture into a glass with ice
  3. Garnish with a cherry

Wrapping up

There you have it, several ways you can enjoy your bourbon. If you’re a purist and traditionally drink bourbon neat, why not liven it up next time and add in an ice cube or perhaps even a sprig of mint? 

Ashleigh Cain

Ashleigh is a key part of the editorial team at Whiskey Rocks. You'll often find her either writing educational articles or reviewing the latest artisan whiskeys. Her favorite drink? Ashleigh loves smokey scotches like Laphroaig, but you'll also often find her with an old fashioned in hand.

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