12 Best Mixers For Your Bourbon, According To Experts

Bourbon is remarkable, both as a prestigious spirit and as a flavor-packed American variety of whiskey. Many words have been dedicated to the best ways to enjoy bourbon in its purest form (or even, dare we say it, with a drop of water), but that's just the tip of the ice cube. Mixers can expand the bourbon experience, with flavors to contrast, complement, and cut through bourbon's generous characteristics of caramel, vanilla, spice, fruit, or herbaceousness. Some mixers, however, work better with bourbon than others.

To help us navigate the world of bourbon mixers, we've consulted industry professionals with strong opinions and expertise on this versatile spirit. Johnny Park is in the heart of New Zealand hospitality, as venue manager of Auckland bar, The Parasol and Swing Company. We've also asked Connor Grisedale, hospitality account manager for New Zealand-based distributor Tickey-Boo Liquor, where he guides his customers to get the most out of top bourbon brands like Michter's, Willett, and Kentucky Owl. Grisedale perfectly sums up the challenges in finding the perfect mixer. "Bourbon is such a funny one. You find everyone has an opinion on how it should be drunk or the best way to drink it." – That's where his and Park's expertise comes into play.

I myself have years of experience managing and working in bars, along with a career in spirits sales and marketing. With the help of these industry experts, I've set out to curate this list of the best mixers for your bourbon. Let's explore. 

Ginger beer or ginger ale

The first great thing about ginger beer and ginger ale is that they're easy to find, whether you're in a grocery store or on the fun side of the bar. The second great thing is that the ginger flavor and spice in these mixers are excellent partners with bourbon. There is a notable difference between ginger beer and ginger ale. The former is a fermented ginger beverage with more of a kick, while ginger ale is milder and sweeter, gaining its ginger flavor from extract or syrup.

Park offers some useful advice for joining the forces of bourbon and ginger beer. "Find a solid spicy ginger beer to really complement your favorite bourbon (I really like the spice, orange, and vanilla notes in Bundaberg) add citrus juice and a mint sprig to turn it into a simple cocktail called a Kentucky mule." A Kentucky Mule swaps vodka for bourbon as a variation on the classic drink that's all too easy to make.

When it comes to ginger ale, Park also has some practical advice. "The slightly softer cousin of ginger beer and one of my favorite simple bourbon serves. Ginger ale really lifts the vanilla notes commonly present in bourbon. If you find it a little too sweet, a slice of lemon to garnish can really round out the mix."

Soda water

Soda water may seem like a boring mixer to add to bourbon, given that it doesn't contribute any new flavors to the glass and serves to dilute drinks. With whiskey, however, a little dilution goes a long way. It's common practice to add a dash of water to straight bourbon to open it up and reveal some of the notes that the strength of the spirit may hide. Taking that concept one step further with soda water can stretch a shot of bourbon out into a satisfying long drink.

As Grisedale describes, soda water serves to add just enough dilution to the drink that the strength of the bourbon is calmed, allowing its other flavors to come to the fore. "I personally love tasting all the little flavors and details you find in every different brand of bourbon," he says. "Has the barrel been heavily charred? Is the corn percentage higher than usual? Is it sweeter on the palate or spicier? Adding soda water to my bourbon only lengthens the drink — so I can still pick up on the flavors the distiller intended."

Park explains that soda water also has dietary appeal. "Finding a recent resurgence with the trend of low sugar/calorie drinks, a whisky highball is a great lighter alternative that allows the bourbon to shine," he says. "Serve tall with a lot of ice to keep it refreshingly chilled. Add a mint sprig, lemon, or orange peel to really complement the flavors."

Cold brew coffee

Whiskey and coffee ... honestly, it's hard to get this one wrong. The rich, roasted flavor of coffee and its underlying bitterness make it a perfect counterpart to bourbon in a drink. To be called bourbon in the U.S., the spirit must rest for at least two years in new charred oak barrels. This charring gives bourbon its own toasty, sometimes slightly smokey flavor, and is one of the parts of the process that makes it such a good buddy for coffee.

So why cold brew? Well, when you brew coffee cold, it can retain more of its volatile flavors and aromas and offer a more subtle, delicate, and nuanced coffee experience. To be clear, there's no gatekeeping here and you can certainly make a delicious coffee-bourbon mixed drink with other types of coffee. Cold brew just offers a little something extra to a mixed drink. By itself, cold brew can even offer similar fruity, floral, and cocoa notes to bourbon, making it a rewarding pairing of commonalities.


There's a reason why a Jack and Coke (that's Jack Daniels) is such a ubiquitous tipple, especially among those who enjoy bourbon. While this combination isn't the most bougie companion to bourbon, it's a true classic that's here to stay. As Connor Grisedale describes bourbon and Coke: "The back-bone to most great nights I have had over the years!"

"Coke obviously changes the flavor of a drink massively, yet with bourbon or whisky, it has the power to still make Coke the inferior talking point of the drink," Grisedale continues. "Boozy and smashable is a dangerous combination, but it will never stop me from ordering it!"

The flavor of Coke and other colas can vary, but some of the main flavors that typically describe cola are vanilla and cinnamon. These are both flavors that can express themselves in bourbon, and it's clear how they contribute to a satisfying pairing. Other flavors such as citrus oils, spices, and notably, kola nut, are also prominent in colas and match up well with similar qualities in bourbon. If you're unsure what kola nut tastes like, imagine cola-flavored candy, and you've got it.

Apple juice

Apple and bourbon are a formidable pairing. This is likely because they share similar abilities to become friends with the same flavor matches. Caramel, cinnamon, or vanilla are all flavors that dance as beautifully with bourbon as with apples. This congruence makes apple juice one of the best mixers for your bourbon.

Grisedale echoes this sentiment, describing apple juice and bourbon as: "A delicious pairing. Some prefer their apple juice warm, but I think it is perfect cold. I find apple juice (especially when freshly squeezed) highlights the natural sweetness in the bourbon. It's also a great ingredient when mixing bourbon cocktails."

Park also agrees that fresh apple juice is the way to go, but has some suggestions about the type of apples you use. "Fresh is always best here, but if not go for a quality juice from the chilled section in your local supermarket. Apple juice, especially from green apples really pops with high rye bourbon, though red apple juice goes just as well especially for an autumnal sipper as the days are getting colder. The team at Rocketman in Auckland have got this serve down to an art form."

Dark beer

Hear us out on this one. Tipping a serving of bourbon into a beer to make a drink known as a boilermaker may seem a little over-the-top, and it kind of is, but in the best way. Dark beer specifically, has many of the same flavor matches going for it as cold-brew coffee does, with the rich chocolate, toast, char, and coffee flavors it gets from its roasted grains. This echoes the charred oak flavor that intrinsically underlies bourbon.

Just as bourbon can simultaneously present rich oak-derived flavors while offering fruity or floral notes, hops offer dark beers the same range in the span of flavors. Depending on the strain of hops brewers use and how they use them in the brew, this ingredient can contribute lighter notes that dance atop the brew's more robust flavors to create balance. Paired with a bourbon that has comparable attributes can be a seamless and rewarding experience, enriching the best qualities of both the beer and the bourbon.

To refine the drinking experience, you can consider pouring the bourbon over ice and topping it up with a rich dark beer such as a milk stout. If this sounds like too much work, you can always cut a few corners and dump the bourbon into a glass of beer, we're not here to judge.

Cream Soda

Cream soda is another classic carbonated mixer that makes a perfect partner in the glass with bourbon. The predominant characteristic of cream soda is vanilla, which is part of what makes it effective at replicating the flavor of an ice cream float. Along with vanilla, you may also pick up hints of butterscotch, caramel, or slight sassafrass.

The time that bourbon spends in new barrels imbues the spirit with vanilla flavor by absorbing vanillin (vanilla's characteristic flavor compound) from the oak. This essence of vanilla also complements another common flavor in bourbon, caramel. These all align with their flavor counterparts in cream soda for a seamless match-up.

Cream soda is also extremely sweet, so the warmth that bourbon can bring (as a spirit that has to be bottled at no lower than 80 proof, or 40% ABV) creates a welcome balance. Mixing cream soda with bourbon is uncomplicated. Just use plenty of ice and pour a ratio of between 1:1 and 1:4 bourbon to mixer.


There are pretty much no limitations to what you can do with tea, and luckily for bourbon, this means the opportunity to experiment. Tea can be hot or cold, sweet or bitter, rich or subtle. For most of these permutations, there's a way to integrate bourbon to mix a delicious beverage. Let's zoom into a simple yet inventive approach.

Johnny Park of the Parasol and Swing Company recommends you try the hot tea method, effectively spiking your cup of tea with bourbon, but adding a little extra flair by opting for peach tea. "A little bit left field but absolutely delicious, this can either be store-bought or created at home by brewing English breakfast tea and infusing it with peach, a lemon slice, and a dash of sugar. Enjoy warm hot toddy-esque on a cool winter's night to keep the chills at bay or serve chilled for a refreshing alternative.".

Plain store-bought iced tea also works wonderfully as a quick and simple mixer. Just pour your bourbon over ice and top up with sweat tea for a refreshing and balanced cold drink. Iced tea has sweetness and sometimes fruit flavor that balances the bitter flavor of black tea, which plays well against bourbon's intrinsic balance of sweetness and richness.

Orange juice

It's hard to fit more summer in your glass than with freshly squeezed orange juice. Even better is a glass of orange juice with a cheeky shot of bourbon in the mix. Orange juice is refreshing, sweet, and delightfully moreish. It's common practice to cut sparkling wine with orange juice to make a mimosa, but bourbon may give the OG-OJ mixer a run for its money.

Bourbon and citrus are old friends and the opulence and sweetness of orange juice help to let bourbon's richer notes of oak and spice come to the fore. Anyone who enjoys Martha Stewart's spin on a whiskey sour will know the magic of combining bourbon with orange, and for those after a simple bourbon mixer, there's some good news. A shot of bourbon over ice, topped up with orange juice is about as simple as it gets, but also as delicious. You can consider garnishing with a slice of fresh orange, so those light and volatile aromatic oils can contribute to the experience.


Bourbon can present some pleasant citrus notes, and a mixer that elevates these while complementing the spirit's other qualities can be tasty indeed. Both Grisedale and Park suggest lemonade, but first, some context. In New Zealand, lemonade refers to both uncarbonated store-bought lemonade brands and carbonated lemony soft drinks such as Sprite. Luckily, both interpretations suit bourbon well, and you can't really go wrong.

Grisedale recommends: "[Uncarbonated] lemonade if you are just in the mood to sip, and Sprite if you really want to quench your thirst! The citrus from the lemons (and limes if with Sprite) cuts through the bourbon and enhances the spices from the wood in which the bourbon has rested. It really does make a sweet, spicy, citrusy party in your mouth."

Regarding carbonated lemonade mixers, Park describes them as classic, refreshing, and tangy in this pairing, echoing Grisdedale's sentiment about citrus cutting through and elevating the bourbon. "1:4 ratio (bourbon:mixer) ensures you get the best of both worlds," Park says. "I enjoy a classic big brand lemonade here but a traditional cloudy lemonade also works just as well.


This next mixer is one to remember come the festive season. Eggnog is traditionally made boozy with a different spirit, namely brandy, but that's not to say that bourbon can't snuggle up with eggnog in a warm cup or cold glass of eggnog. Part of what makes eggnog so scrumptious and comforting is the cooking spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, which as it happens, also complement the spice notes in bourbon nicely. The texture of eggnog is thick and creamy, so the bite of alcohol in bourbon can help to bring balance to the mix, cutting through its viscosity with the inherent richness of the spirit. 

Choosing a high-rye bourbon means even more spice flavor, so these make the best choices for this mixer. The eggnog can even help to make some of bourbon's lighter notes of vanilla stand out, forming another delicious bridge of complementary flavors. Warm eggnog and bourbon make a perfect fireplace accompaniment, while a bourbon eggnog mix over ice offers a more refreshing take. 

Root beer

Root beer is as interesting as it is delicious. Uniquely characterized by sassafrass root, it has a flavor that's difficult to pin down. It's simultaneously herbaceous and spicy, with touches of vanilla, making it a prime target for a bourbon-mixed drink. As with so many other amazing mixers on this list, root beer's sweetness, vanilla, and spice combination is a perfect reflection of those same qualities found in bourbon.

Bourbon and root beer also share a comparable intensity, meaning they interact cordially in the glass without overpowering each other. When shopping for root beer to mix with bourbon, you can find classic commercial brands, such as A&W, although many craft soda manufacturers have also turned their attention to making balanced yet flavorsome root beer. Ultimately, it's a matter of personal preference and your choice to opt for a lighter, sweeter commercial product or a richer, craft-made root beer, should be dictated by your preference. Grisedale says it best: "Spirts are best drunk ... however the hell you want to drink them!"


This list of the best mixers for your bourbon came together as a combined selection of the top choices from myself and the experience of our gracious experts, Johnny Park and Connor Grisedale. The mixers in this list are presented in no particular order.

The mixers that made the list were easily available and would make an appealing drink for most people. Those that were too obscure or involved specific acquired tastes are perhaps better suited to a different list. In addition to the suggestions from all contributors, research has also been done to find and learn about combinations that cover a broad range of preferences around flavor profiles, dietary requirements, and accessibility to products.