14 Bourbon Cocktail Recipes: From Sparkling Boulevardier To Pickle Juice Whiskey Sour

If you're looking for a cocktail that's smooth and sweet, look no further than a bourbon cocktail. Bourbon's history stretches back to the late 1700s, before rising in popularity in the 21st century. Although demand waned in the 1970s, it has since witnessed a rejuvenation, largely thanks to a renewed interest in craft products and cocktails. Bourbon is a distinctly American spirit and comes with a range of specifications. For one, it must be made with at least 51% corn (although most bourbons range from 60% to 86%), and has strict aging requirements — in fact, bourbon is legally required to be aged in new, charred oak barrels for a minimum of two years, although many high-shelf bourbons are aged for five to even 12 years.

Bourbon is typically stronger, and sweeter compared to other whiskey varieties, making it an ideal choice for cocktails that are sweet and fruity. This list includes some classics, as well as some variations from the Tasting Table team.

1. Classic French 95

This twist on a classic French 75 swaps gin for bourbon, leaving behind botanicals in favor of a more robust, smoky essence. This drink is balanced and sweet without veering into overly sweet territory.

It remains festive and light thanks to the addition of Champagne or Prosecco. Fresh lemon juice and simple syrup complete this effortlessly simple drink, leaving you with a bright and elegant cocktail ideally garnished with either a dried fruit slice or a lemon twist.

Recipe: Classic French 95

2. Classic Boulevardier

This take on a classic Negroni utilizes bourbon instead of gin for a bold, full-bodied drinking experience. Created in the late 1920s, this classic cocktail incorporates Campari, sweet vermouth, an orange for garnish, and of course, bourbon.

The sweetness of bourbon is balanced beautifully with the bitterness of Campari and is brightened with a touch of citrus. Traditionally served in a rocks glass and with a large ice cube, the Boulevardier is a perfect slow-sipping cocktail and is ideally served as an aperitif either before dinner or as a post-dinner dessert.

Recipe: Classic Boulevardier

3. Summertime Peach Whiskey Smash

Although the warming qualities of bourbon typically pair well with colder autumn or winter nights, it turns out that it makes for the ultimate summertime beverage, too. You'll want to use peaches that are softened and ripe for maximum sweetness in this peach whiskey smash, which comes together with muddled lemon, bourbon, Grand Marnier or triple sec, simple syrup, and a few sprigs of thyme.

This whiskey smash variation is citrusy and sweet. It conjures up all the memories of summer sunshine, but you'll want to be making it all year long.

Recipe: Summertime Peach Whiskey Smash

4. Strawberry Peppercorn Smash

The whiskey smash is truly the cocktail that keeps on giving, thanks to its endless varieties and flavor combinations. While a traditional smash comprises bourbon, mint, simple syrup, and lemon, this strawberry peppercorn cocktail is fruity and sweet but is balanced by a bit of a peppery kick.

Instead of traditional mint, it uses basil, which adds an herbal quality. This beverage is refreshing enough to enjoy poolside during the summertime but is complex enough to please any cocktail aficionado.

Recipe: Strawberry Peppercorn Smash

5. Winter Boulevardier

A traditional Boulevardier hits all the right notes: It's bold, it's rich and has a little bit of zest to it. But if you're looking to kick this classic up a notch and lean into the coziness of winter, try replacing the sweet, bitter Campari with Amaro Averna Siciliano, an Italian liqueur with a complex blend of wintry flavors such as spice, citrus, herbs, and botanicals.

But if that's not readily available, Fernet Branca or Jägermeister can be substituted. Garnish with a pine branch and dried orange slice for peak wintery visual effects.

Recipe: Winter Boulevardier

6. Classic Mint Julep

This boozy summer favorite manages to be the perfect mix of spirit-forward and refreshing. A mint-infused simple syrup adds a gentle sweetness to this cocktail, which only requires a few simple ingredients: water, sugar, mint, and the star of the show, bourbon.

While mint juleps are typically geared toward those looking for a stiff drink, you could, of course, lower the amount of bourbon, increase the simple syrup, or even mix with sparkling soda to decrease the strength of this drink. Any variation you try will be delicious.

Recipe: Classic Mint Julep

7. Classic Frothy Whiskey Sour

The whiskey sour is one of the oldest cocktails still in circulation, and it's not difficult to figure out why. Legend says that it was even used to protect 19th-century sailors from getting scurvy.

While we can't attest to that, we can say with certainty that the whiskey sour is worth giving a try. This simple classic is sweet, sour, and frothy —  all it requires is lemon, sugar, water, one egg, orange slices, a maraschino cherry, and bourbon, which adds layers of vanilla and caramel notes to the cocktail.

Recipe: Classic Frothy Whiskey Sour

8. Spiced Chai Old Fashioned

This fall-inspired Old Fashioned takes a familiar favorite and gives it a seasonal lift, with the addition of warm chai spices and nutty black walnut bitters. The chai flavors come from syrup, which is easily made by steeping water, sugar, and some tea bags.

A bourbon with notes of vanilla and caramel adds a layer of subtle sweetness. Be sure to garnish with star anise and a cinnamon stick to really embrace the fall season.

Recipe: Spiced Chai Old Fashioned

9. Classic Manhattan

Bourbon, dry vermouth, and Angostura bitters are all it takes to concoct this smooth-sipping and sophisticated beverage, plus an orange peel for garnish and a hint of citrus. First created in the late 1800s, Manhattans are spirit-forward while balanced by slight sweetness, bitterness, and complexity, and come together in just five minutes. 

It's perfect when served with appetizers or even as a nightcap. This iconic recipe is one you'll definitely want to have in your arsenal.

Recipe: Classic Manhattan

10. Sparkling Boulevardier

If you're looking to add a celebratory twist to the classic boulevardier, consider this sparkling variation. After stirring and straining Campari (a bitter and slightly spicy-forward liquor), sweet vermouth, bourbon, and ice, simply top with Champagne, leaving you with a bubbly, delightful cocktail that is both light and rich.

Don't forget to run an orange peel around the glass rim and then add to the drink as a garnish, adding a bright, citrusy aroma. Serve it in a coupe glass for ultimate elegance.

Recipe: Sparkling Boulevardier

11. Apple Cider Hot Toddy

This autumnal apple cider hot toddy brings together bourbon with warm apple cider, brown sugar, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, and lemons. It's a beverage with just the right amount of sweetness, tartness, and warmth.

This comforting cocktail is also ideal for serving guests, as the spiced apple cider can easily be made ahead of time, and can remain in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Although, it's so delicious, you probably won't want to share.

Recipe: Apple Cider Hot Toddy

12. Slow Cooker Mulled Cider

This spiced beverage comes together in four hours and is more than worth the wait. Cloves, allspice, juniper berries, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks are slowly infused into a blend of cider, brown sugar, lemon, and orange slices for a drink sure to fight off winter blues.

Bourbon kicks this recipe up a notch, making it the perfect treat for gatherings or just getting cozy at home. An added bonus is it allows for creativity — try experimenting with your favorite aromatics such as ginger or black peppercorns.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Mulled Cider

13. Smooth Old Fashioned

This recipe is a classic for a reason, but this version offers a slight twist. Rather than just utilizing the traditional Angostura bitters, it also incorporates a few drops of orange bitters as well, amping up the bitterness level while emphasizing the citrusy flavors of an Old Fashioned.

Other than the bitters, all you need for a well-balanced, robust Old Fashioned, is sugar (ideally a sugar cube), an orange peel, and your favorite bourbon. A large ice cube is also recommended, as it will melt the slowest without making the cocktail too watery.

Recipe: Smooth Old Fashioned

14. Pickle Juice Whiskey Sour

If you're a fan of dirty martinis, you'll definitely want to give this pickle juice whiskey sour a try. In this simple recipe, pickle juice is turned into syrup by boiling it with sugar.

Combine it with bourbon, lemon juice, and egg white, and shake until frothy, and don't forget cornichons for a garnish. You'll be left with a cocktail that has all the coveted frothiness and sweetness of a classic whiskey sour, that's balanced out with tang, brine, and saltiness.

Recipe: Pickle Juice Whiskey Sour