25 Best Bourbon Cocktails Ranked

When it comes to a good cocktail, bourbon does it right. The spirit has deep, distinct flavors which can really take your drink to the next level. We love bourbon-based cocktails not only for the taste, but also for the diversity; Flaviar says these flavors can be both sweet and smooth, ranging from maple to caramel to chocolate, depending on which bourbon you choose. While many might associate bourbon with strong, bitter drinks, there are in fact plenty of other options out there that are light, bubbly, and even refreshing, highlighting those sweet notes.

With the many different types of bourbon cocktails to enjoy, it can be overwhelming to know where to get started or which one will match your preferences best — the good news is, it doesn't have to be. We compiled an list of the 25 best bourbon cocktails to help you make a decision the next time you order that first, second, or third round.

25. Bourbon Margarita

The margarita is a cocktail menu staple that never fails. It pairs perfectly with chips and guacamole (or chile con queso, if melted cheese is more your thing) and is as refreshing as a beach breeze no matter what time of the year you drink it. When it comes to margaritas, most people go straight for the tequila or mezcal — and that makes sense of course, why fix something that isn't broken? But DailyAppetite says bourbon should be tried at least once when mixing a margarita, especially for those who prefer the brown spirit over the tried and true tequila.

The recipe, which is also called a Kentucky margarita, only really requires three ingredients, so it's pretty easy to make. Your favorite bourbon, freshly squeezed lime juice, and agave syrup are all it takes to craft this lesser-known, bourbon-based cocktail. Garnish of both mint and lime wedge, and salt around the rim if you choose. 

24. Whiskey Smash

Many turn to the mint julep for that classic bourbon cocktail to pair with a big hat while watching the Kentucky Derby, and we get it. The cool drink is all about being refreshing, and if you're in the south in springtime, you want nothing more than something that quenches your thirst ... while also giving you a buzz.

However, Liqour.com says that we shouldn't forget the mint julep's long-lost relative: the whiskey smash. This cocktail has been around since 1887 but didn't become truly popular until the late '80s when "King Cocktail" Dale DeGroff from New York City's famous Rainbow Room began serving it to customers. We see why this cocktail was (and still is) a favored choice by many. The recipe doesn't call for a lot — just bourbon, lemon, simple syrup, and mint — but the key to this drink is properly muddling the lemon and adding mint leaves to the shaker for a real flavor kick.

23. Kentucky Coffee

There are a lot of stellar after-dinner drinks out there: a small glass of sherry, port, or brandy will surely do after a big meal. But when you're looking for something with a little extra zip, many turn to a caffeinated concoction. (You know the ones, coffee made with amaretto or Bailey's.) The reason many diners love these spiked coffee drinks is because they're generally sweet, but also provide that burst of energy needed after a large meal (and all the wine paired with it).

And while we're big fans of the ultra-sweet Irish Cream, we can't help but agree with Leite's Culinaria that the Kentucky Coffee is also a must have. The smoother cousin to the well-known Irish coffee, this recipe is easy to make with strong coffee, cream, bourbon, and sugar. It's the perfect after-dinner sip for those who want something sweet, but not too sugary.

22. Bourbon Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is a favorite refreshment in the southern states. According to MasterClass, it's a delicious drink with an earthy — and sugary — flavor just about everyone enjoys. It's easily customizable too! Made by brewing black tea with lots of sugar and then placing the drink in the refrigerator to chill, the recipe can vary by location and within families. But when it comes to sweet tea one thing always stays the same: how incredibly refreshing it is on a hot day.

Naturally, you can take this classic Southern sip up a notch by adding some booze to the mix. This Worthey Life calls bourbon sweet tea the adult version of the refreshing drink, and suggests using sour mash bourbon because it is generally sweeter than other varieties and has pleasant notes of maple and vanilla that pair well with the black tea. Don't forget the sugar (or simple syrup, if you're not preparing a batch of sweet tea to spike) and lemon wedge!

21. Whiskey Sour

The whiskey sour is a pretty well-known cocktail, and a go-to for many out at a local bar or at home mixing drinks. The name gives away how the cocktail tastes, which is usually fairly tart, ideal for those who aren't looking for a drink bursting with sweetness. Making this drink is pretty simple as it only calls for bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and is garnished with an orange peel and cherry. Easy peasy.

A Couple Cooks says you can switch things up by using maple syrup instead of the more traditional simple syrup if you want. Not only is this probably more convenient (most people have maple syrup on hand at home, rather than simple syrup), but the ingredient is subtle with a natural sweetness, allowing all the other flavors to shine through.

20. Bourbon Eggnog

Eggnog is no doubt a favorite holiday beverage. This drink is extra creamy, which adds all the cozy feels, while the grated nutmeg helps make things taste (and look) more festive. While you can simply drink eggnog on its own (especially if you're hosting a party with kids) eggnog if often spiked with alcohol for when the adults want to get a good buzz during the season.

Sure, rum and brandy are always great choices to use with your eggnog, as both will make for a smooth sip, but let's rule out bourbon. My Kitchen Love says bourbon eggnog makes for an excellent cocktail for any holiday soirée, because it adds spice and warmth to every glass, and we couldn't agree more. Cozy up with this drink next to a fire, serve it in a giant punch bowl at your winter party, or even put it in a thermos to cap off your next outdoor winter adventure.

19. Kentucky Mule

If you are a drinker (and maybe even if you're not), you probably know what a Moscow mule is. Even if you don't know exactly what goes into the cocktail, you've likely heard the name or at least seen its notorious copper mug. A Moscow mule is made with ginger beer and lime, providing an overall taste that is refreshing and ideal for just about anyone at anytime. However, Moscow mules are normally made with vodka, which is fine if it weren't for the sake of our list. We are all about our bourbon cocktails here, and that's where the Kentucky mule comes in.

Whiskey company Bulleit says using bourbon in a mule offers a fun twist on the popular classic. To make this drink, all you need is bourbon, lime juice, ginger ale or ginger beer, and a lime wedge for garnish.

18. Ginger Rabbit

We're big fans of ginger and love adding it to all sorts of recipes: whether it be in our crispy fried chicken or crunchy wontons. And when it comes to cocktails, we've always been keen on using it to whip up some simply, but impressive vodka martinis. But then we discovered the Ginger Rabbit, and realized how much we had been missing. The cocktail is sweet and tasty, and after one sip you'll see why we consider it to be one of the best bourbon cocktails around.

Liquor.com credits Damian Windsor with creating the unique drink, which is made by combining bourbon and Angostura bitters with ginger muddled with lemon. While all of these ingredients are delicious when mixed together, what will really take your Ginger Rabbit to the next level is a homemade simple syrup. Featuring black tea and anise, the sugary addition adds a lovely spice note to the mix. Windsor's recipe also calls for crème yvette, a fruity, violet-flavored liqueur. 

17. Blackberry Bourbon Smash

Who doesn't enjoy a good mojito while sitting by the pool or on a porch and soaking up the sun on a warm day? There's something so delightfully refreshing about this refreshing, minty drink that we can't help but order another ... and then another. While we enjoy the standard rum-based mojito very much, we're always a fan of changing things up and adding berries when we're into a fruitier vibe.

But rum isn't the only option when you're looking for a drink with similar fresh, fruity flavors. Kitchen Swagger says the blackberry bourbon smash is perfect for those who love a solid mojito, but are craving bourbon (or simply have it on hand and don't want to run to the store). You don't need to stress too much about the ingredients: all you need is lime, mint, bourbon, blackberries, and soda water to enjoy the perfect summertime sip with your favorite barrel-aged distilled liquor.

Looking for something a little more cozy? Our bourbon blackberry cocktail features charred cinnamon and blackberry preserves for a deeper, sweeter flavor.

16. Bourbon Sidecar

The classic Sidecar cocktail has been around for a quite some time. Invented in Paris back in the 1920s, according to The Taste Edit, it continues to be a winner today due to it's great flavor and sophisticated vibe. This cocktail offers the right amount of citrus for a delightful sour kick, thanks to the lemon juice and orange liqueur. As for the liquor, you'll typically find it's made with either brandy or cognac.

While we can't knock a classic, we can get pumped for a twist on something we already love. A Bourbon Sidecar calls for just about everything the original Sidecar needs, but rather than using brandy or cognac, Food.com says it's all about the bourbon (hence the name). Here, you'll mix all the ingredients and ice all in a shaker then strain into a glass. Finish off by adding an orange twist for the garnish and you're ready for one tasty, simple sip. 

15. Gold Rush

There are some drinks for the summer (hello, bourbon sweet tea) and other drinks for the colder months (apple cider hot toddy, how you doing?). And then there are the ol' staples that can be had just about any time of the year (we'll get to those later on in this list). The Gold Rush cocktail falls somewhere right in between: It can be enjoyed during any season but, is not really a classic drink. Instead, it's more like a modern concoction you'll likely want to try.

Serious Eats says this cocktail was invented in the 2000s at NYC's Milk & Honey by a bartender named T.J. Siegal. It combines bourbon, honey, and lemon juice, which helps keep this simple cocktail light and tasty. Mix these ingredients with ice in a shaker then strain into a glass over ice for a perfect tipple any season that takes little to no time to make.

14. Amaretto Whiskey Sour

When it comes to sour cocktails, there are plenty of them to choose from, including the Sidecar and Whiskey Sour, which we discussed above. The cocktails are usually fairly easy to make with just three main ingredients, says Differs Guide, which include a spirt, citrus, and sweetener. The blend makes for a taste that is well-balanced and ... well, sour. Baking Beauty says the cocktail is the perfect drink for a party, as it's easy to make at home and offers a pleasantly nutty flavor.

Making an Amaretto Sour with bourbon might be lesser-known than the others sour drinks, but should not be passed up. For this recipe, use amaretto, simple syrup, lemon juice, and your favorite bourbon. Bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler explained to Liquor.com that bourbon is an even match for the amaretto, adding another level of complexity to the sometimes overly sweet drink.

13. Bourbon Nor'easter

When we hear the term "nor'easter" we usually think of high winds and bad weather that can be anything but fun. (That is unless you are able to stay safely indoors and drink some bourbon.) But it doesn't have to be stormy outside to enjoy a bourbon nor'easter. You can enjoy this solid cocktail just about anytime, indoors and out, and after you try it (if you haven't already), the term "nor'easter" will seem a little less scary.

Similar to the bourbon mule we mentioned above, you can whip up a bourbon nor'easter at home by mixing bourbon, lime, and ginger beer, and maple syrup. According to Everyday Dishes you can also use ginger ale if you don't have ginger beer on hand, though you  might want to add freshly minced ginger to kick up the flavor.

12. New York Sour

And just like that, we bring it back to sour cocktails. The New York Sour is one to be loved, and definitely one of the best bourbon drinks out there, as it's the perfect mix of liquor and wine, making for one potent sip that goes down nice and smooth. Plus, it's impressive to look at with its two-toned color, and if you make it on your own, you're bound to feel like a professional. 

Combine bourbon, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup together, then shake with ice. Using the spoon method, carefully pour red wine over the top of the drink to make that perfect red float. Seal the deal with lemon zest if you have it on hand. Food & Wine says you can also add an egg white to the mix for a thicker consistency. Simply add it directly in the shaker with the other ingredients for a frothy drink.

11. Paper Plane

If you haven't already heard of the Paper Plane cocktail, you'll want to listen up as it is a cocktail bourbon fans won't want to miss. The Paper Plane is a relatively new drink shares, Punch, emerging in 2008 from bartender Sam Ross for The Violet Hour in Chicago. The cocktail (with a name inspired by the hit M.I.A. song "Paper Planes") was originally made with Campari, but then soon was changed to Aperol to help ease the bitterness.

You can easily make this drink at home with just a few ingredients, including Aperol, bourbon, fresh lemon juice, and an amaro. Mix all the ingredients with ice in a shaker and strain into a coupe glass, recommends Bon Appétit.

10. Kentucky Mulled Cider

Mulled cider is an all-around winner in our minds. Not only does it taste incredible with all its spiced, fruity flavors, but it smells just as amazing while you're making it, helping your kitchen feel as inviting as ever. It's a great fall or winter drink to enjoy both on its own or with alcohol when you're looking to kick it up, which is why we're so keen on it.

Kentucky mulled cider takes all the things we already love about this warming drink and enhances it by adding bourbon to the mix. All you have to do is combine bourbon, hot apple cider, and your favorite spices. If you're feeling festive, Maine Spirits says to garnish with a cinnamon stick and lemon slice. This is a drink that will surely keep you feeling super cozy during the chilliest seasons.

Living somewhere warm but dreaming of falling leaves and autumn sweaters? Try our boozy cider slushi.

9. Black Demure

Here's the thing: we can't get enough of blackberries. We love snacking on them on their own, but also baking them into a warm Southern blackberry cobbler served with vanilla ice cream. Of course, we also love blackberries in cocktails (remember the blackberry bourbon smash from above), which is why the Black Demure is a go-to when craving that succulent, juicy flavor.

Cocktail Party says the Black Demure was created by New York City bartender Franky Marshall. The drink combines blackberry, bourbon, and citrus all in one satisfying sip. But unlink other drinks, this cocktail doesn't call for your everyday blackberries from the grocery store. Instead, it uses a blackberry liqueur for a more customizable level of sweetness — simply by using more or less of the ingredient when mixing the drink, and be sure to taste your liqueur beforehand as the flavor will vary slightly from brand to brand.

Bourbon is combined in a shaker with the liqueur, triple sec, lemon juice, and simple syrup then poured over ice. We think this drink is a no-brainer when it comes to being one of the best bourbon cocktails to try. 

8. Hot Toddy

When we think of a hot toddy, we are reminded of cold nights, snowstorms, and everything else that winter brings, all while staying cozy inside by a fire, enjoying a warm cup of boozy goodness. The history behind the drink is up for debate, says Vinepair, with some swearing an Irish doctor invented it, prescribing his patients to drink a similar concoction, and others believing it was created by the British (who were likely inspired by an Indian recipe), who had a habit of mixing hot water and Scotch at the time. 

While the history might be unclear, our appreciation for a good hot toddy is not. If you're looking to make a cozy hot toddy tonight, we got you. Keep things easy by adding bourbon, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon sticks, and cloves to a mug of hot water. Just don't forget the lemon for a garnish. This spiked drink will be sure to keep you warm all winter long.

7. Whiskey Highball

Sometimes you just want a drink that highlights the spirit without a lot of extra additions to get in the way of the natural flavor. Whiskey can be smoky or malty, with notes of vanilla, maple, and caramel. Who wouldn't want to enjoy the many different flavors it has to offer? But if sipping your whiskey neat or on the rocks is too potent, you may want to add a mixer that allows the flavors to come through without being too overwhelming.

A whiskey highball will do just that. This is one of the simplest cocktails to make as it only contains whiskey and club soda. The Spruce Eats says you don't really even have to stir it, as the carbonation will mix the drink on its own. Still too strong? You can swap the club soda for ginger ale (aka the whiskey ginger) which will mellow the flavor even further and add a nice spiced note. Now, this is an easy-to-make drink we can really get behind.

6. Revolver

The Revolver may have not been around for a long time, but it's still very much a go-to for many who are in the know when it comes to bourbon cocktails. Created in San Francisco back in 2004 by bartender Jon Santer, Punch says this modification of the classic Manhattan cocktail took some experimenting to get just right. Loaded with bottles of Bulleit Bourbon (which at the time was an almost unknown brand), Santer was searching for the perfect concoction to feature the spirit. Now, the Revolver has morphed into one splendid cocktail we're happy to have. 

Creative Culinary says this cocktail offers a whole lot of flavor, thanks to the spiced orange bitters, coffee liqueur, and overall sweetness of the bourbon. To make this recipe, simply stir all the ingredients with ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish the drink with an orange twist, and if you're feeling bold, you can make the orange twist flamed for some added smoky flavor.

5. Boulevardier

You may or may not be familiar with the Boulevardier cocktail, but chances are you know it's close cousin the Negroni. If you're all about the popular gin cocktail we don't blame you: the right amount of bitter, sweet, and sour, the Negroni is one great drink. And if you like the flavors of this cocktail, you'll likely also enjoy the Boulevardier.

Simply Recipes describes the Boulevardier as spicier than a Negroni, making this drink a must for the fall and winter weather. American writer Erskinne Gwynne is said to have created a literary magazine called The Boulevardier in the 1920s, which was named for the writer by Harry McElhone of Harry's New York Bar in Paris (via T Magazine). Made with bourbon, sweet vermouth, Campari, and ice, and finished with an orange or lemon peel as the garnish, this cocktail is enjoyed by many in Paris, New York, and beyond. 

4. John Collins

Sure, we all know the Tom Collins, a light and bubbly drink made with gin, lemon juice, sugar, and club soda. It's refreshing and easy to drink, so its no wonder the simple cocktail has been a favorite of so many for years and years. But some may have never heard of the John Collins, and yet, we really think everyone should. This drink is by far one of the best bourbon cocktails around and with one sip you'll see why. 

According to Kentucky Bourbon brand Basil Hayden, this spin on the traditional Tom Collins uses bourbon instead of gin. For this cocktail, you'll add the bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup over ice. From there, you'll stir the drink and then add the club soda. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry if you like, and voila! Your new favorite easy-going bourbon drink. You're welcome.

3. Mint Julep

As we stated earlier, a mint julep is a must during the Kentucky Derby, but also anytime you're in the mood for something super refreshing to sip on. Wine Enthusiast says this drink dates all the way back to Persia's Sasanian Empire and later became known as a health elixir to help with upset stomachs. In the 18th century, the mint julep came to the U.S. and was usually made with warm brandy or rum. It wasn't until after the American Revolution that bourbon became the spirit of choice, after both rum and brandy became too expensive.

We're thankful for the switch, as we think bourbon is perfect for the frosty drink. Consisting of muddled mint, simple syrup, and bourbon served with crushed ice, we can't think of a better way to spend a warm, lazy Sunday. If you're craving even more flavor, Love & Lemons suggests you infused the simple syrup with mint.

2. Manhattan

A Manhattan is one of the most well-known whiskey drinks around. While Spirit Of York Distillery Co says you can use either rye or bourbon, we tend to choose the latter as it offers a smooth, caramel note. The cocktail is believed to have emerged in the 1880s, but the exact history is unknown, with stories of it being invented for Winston Churchill's mother or by "a man named Black." In the end, it doesn't really matter where or how this drink came about. All that matters is how good it is, which is why it's held on for all these years.

While this cocktail might seem intimidating to craft correctly, it only requires three main ingredients: bourbon, sweet vermouth, and aromatic bitters. (Some recipes call for a sweetener as well, like Curaçao.) Inspired Taste says be sure to remember to serve this cocktail neat so the ice doesn't dilute the flavor. 

1. Old Fashioned

We can't talk about the best bourbon cocktails without including our absolute favorite: the old fashioned. It's bitter but still on the sweeter side, with just a touch of citrus, making for one smooth sip. According to Whiskey Rebellion Trail, some believe that the drink first came about in Louisville, Kentucky back in 1880, invented by a bartender named James E. Pepper. Pepper was said to have first made the drink at the Pendennis Club and later brought it to the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. While the exact history is a bit foggy, Louisville, Kentucky dubbed this cocktail their own and has an annual two-week festival that centers around it in the summer.

Epicurious says higher-proof rye or bourbon is the key to making an old fashioned the best it can be, while you can choose to use either simple syrup or muddled sugar depending on your preferences. Either way, it's not a hard cocktail to perfect. Mix the syrup, bitters, and bourbon over ice and stir, before adding your orange peel. Feel free to add a cherry garnish.