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Best Bourbons for Baking: Full Guide (2024 Updated)

Best Bourbons for Baking

Last Updated on February 25, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Bourbon can add richness and depth of flavor to cakes, pies, and other baked goods that are simply unmatched. But not all bourbons are created equal, with some better suited for baking than others.

So what’s the best bourbon for baking? Check out our list.

Top 5 Bourbons to Bake With (Almost Anything) 

5. 80-Proof Jim Beam

80-Proof Jim Beam

Jim Beam is made from a blend of corn, rye, and barley with a sweet taste with hints of vanilla, honey, butterscotch, oak, and caramel. When used in baking, the 80-proof Jim Beam bourbon adds a unique flavor to cakes, cookies, and other desserts. 

4. 90-Proof Knob Creek Smoked Maple

90-Proof Knob Creek Smoked Maple

Knob Creek Smoked Maple is a unique bourbon with rich and deep smoked maple flavor and notes of vanilla and caramel. The 90-proof bourbon helps to add depth and complexity to your baking, from cookies and cakes to pies and cobblers. 

3. 100-Proof Knob Creek

100-Proof Knob Creek

Are you looking for a little extra kick in your baking? Knob Creek 100-proof bourbon has a bold, intense flavor that can stand up in baked goods. Notes of oak and vanilla make it particularly well-suited for recipes like bourbon pecan pie or chocolate bourbon cake.

Whether making a traditional vanilla cake or something a little more adventurous, 100-proof Knob Creek will take your baking to the next level. 

2. 90-Proof Maker’s Mark

90-Proof Maker’s Mark

If you’re looking for a unique twist on your favorite recipes, try using 90-proof Maker’s Mark for baking. Since this bourbon uses wheat instead of rye [1], it has a distinct sweetness and spice that can enhance the taste of your food. 

Maker’s Mark bourbon is also great for sweet baked goods because it has a rich flavor that adds a unique depth of taste to any baked goods. 

1. 80-Proof Old Grand-Dad

80-Proof Old Grand-Dad

80-Proof Old Grand-Dad can be the ticket to adding a unique way to add extra flavor to your baking. This bold bourbon has tasting notes of oak, vanilla, and caramel, making it a perfect addition to cakes, cookies, and other sweet treats. It will give your baked goods a delicious depth of flavor. 

5 Bourbons Best For Baking Pecan Pies

1. Old Grand-Dad 114

Old Grand-Dad 114

There’s nothing like the smell of fresh-baked pies wafting through the kitchen. And when those pies are made with Old Grand-Dad 114, they’re sure to be extra special. 

This bourbon has a rich, flavorful taste that is perfect for baking. The notes of vanilla and caramel will complement the flavors of the pecan pies. 

2. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bourbon is one of the best bourbons for baking pecan pies. The tasting notes include vanilla, caramel, and oak flavors, making them a perfect complement to any baking recipe. 

Also, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has a deep, rich flavor that enhances the taste of pecans and brings out the sweetness of the filling. 

3. Wild Turkey 101

Wild Turkey 101

Wild Turkey 101 is a great choice for pecan pies because it adds a depth of flavor that enhances the sweetness of pecan pie.

The tasting notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak are just right for complementing the sweetness of the pie filling. Also, the high-proof liquor won’t get lost in the recipe. 

Read: Popular Whiskeys On Joe Rogan’s Podcast

4. Rittenhouse 100

Rittenhouse 100

Rittenhouse 100 is a straight rye whiskey often praised for its baking capabilities. Its tasting notes include hints of vanilla, nutmeg, cocoa, citrus, caramel, and oak, making it the perfect addition to any pecan pie recipe. 

When it comes to baking, Rittenhouse 100 delivers on flavor and texture. It adds a richness and depth of flavor that takes pecan pies to the next level.

Read: Our Favorite Liquors For Hot Choco

5. Old Overholt 

Old Overholt

Old Overholt is a high-proof rye whiskey that adds a delicious depth of flavor to baked goods.

When used in pecan pies, it brings out the nuttiness of the pecans and helps balance the sweetness of the filling. The high proof means it won’t bake off, so your pie will be packed with flavor. 

Read: Penelope Bourbon Review & Guide

Popular Bourbon Dessert Recipes 

Popular Bourbon Dessert Recipes 

Double Dark Chocolate Bourbon Brownies 

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hr and 39 minutes


  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 oz chopped dark chocolate
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 


Mix the sifted dry ingredients in a small bowl, then set aside. Combine dark chocolate and butter in a saucepan and melt over low heat until smooth. 

Remove the mixture from heat, then mix in the dark brown sugar, eggs, bourbon, and vanilla.

Combine the dry and wet ingredients and pour the batter into the baking pan. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, then let it cool. 

Serving: 32 pieces

Read: Popular Bourbons For Vanilla Extract

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake, best bourbon for baking

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours and 55 mins


  • 1 cup pecans (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup graham cracks (crumbs)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 egg yolk and two eggs beaten
  • 1 ½ cups pumpkin puree
  • ½ tsp cinnamon 
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cream cheese
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp bourbon whiskey
  • ⅛ cup sour cream 


In a large bowl, combine pecans, flour, graham crackers, butter, and egg yolk, press onto the bottom of the springform pan, and bake for 10 minutes. Mix the pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and ginger, then set aside. 

Beat the cream cheese, maple syrup, sour cream, pumpkin mixture, and bourbon with an electric mixer, then pour it on the prebaked crust. Bake for 70 minutes, then set aside. Combine sour cream, bourbon, and sugar in a bowl, then spread over the cooled cheesecake. 

Bake for another 10 minutes, rest for 15 minutes, then refrigerate for 3 hours before serving. 

Serving: 9 slices

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does bourbon do in baking?

Bourbon does a great job of complementing and enhancing the flavor of baked goods.

The flavor profile of the bourbon also gives a creative twist, mows out the food’s intense flavor, and leaves a spiced finish. But what’s the best bourbon for cooking?

Does bourbon cake have alcohol in it?

Yes, bourbon cake has alcohol in it because it contains alcohol in its ingredients. Contrary to the belief that alcohol evaporates when baking or cooking, some amount of alcohol remains depending on the baking time and pan size [2]. 

What kind of bourbon do you use in baking?

When choosing bourbon for baking, it’s often best to opt for a mid-range bourbon that strikes a balance between flavor and affordability. Brands like Evan Williams Black Label, Wild Turkey 101, or Maker’s Mark work well, imparting rich, caramel and vanilla notes to baked goods without overwhelming the subtle flavors.

What kind of bourbon is best for cooking?

For cooking, it’s advisable to use a moderately priced bourbon that retains its distinct flavors when heated. Brands like Buffalo Trace, Four Roses Yellow Label, or Woodford Reserve provide a good balance of sweetness and complexity, enhancing the taste of sauces, marinades, and glazes without being overly expensive.

Is Jim Beam bourbon good for baking?

Yes, Jim Beam is a versatile bourbon that can be used for baking. Its sweet and slightly woody flavor profile can complement various baked goods, adding a depth of flavor to desserts like bourbon pecan pie or bourbon-infused chocolates. It’s a popular choice for baking due to its affordability and widespread availability.

What is the best bourbon to make a sauce with?

The best bourbon for making a sauce depends on the flavor profile you desire. For a sweet and robust sauce, bourbons with a higher corn content like Maker’s Mark or Evan Williams Black Label work well. If you prefer a spicier kick, bourbons with a higher rye content like Knob Creek or Bulleit might be more suitable. Experimenting with different bourbons allows you to tailor the sauce to your taste preferences.

Is Jack Daniel’s a bourbon?

No, Jack Daniel’s is not a bourbon; it is a Tennessee whiskey. While both bourbon and Tennessee whiskey share similarities, the key distinction lies in their production processes. Tennessee whiskey, like Jack Daniel’s, undergoes an additional charcoal filtering step known as the Lincoln County Process. This process involves filtering the whiskey through sugar maple charcoal before aging, giving Tennessee whiskey a slightly different flavor profile compared to bourbon.

What are the two types of bourbon?

Bourbon is broadly categorized into two types based on its aging process: straight and blended. Straight bourbon must be aged for at least four years in new charred oak barrels, while blended bourbon combines straight bourbon with other spirits or neutral grain spirits. The distinction helps consumers identify the aging characteristics and production methods of different bourbons.

Is bourbon smoother than Scotch?

The perception of smoothness in whiskey is subjective, and it varies among individuals. Bourbon and Scotch are distinct types of whiskey with different flavor profiles. Bourbon, often sweeter and less smoky than Scotch, may be perceived as smoother by those who appreciate its caramel and vanilla notes. Scotch, on the other hand, might be considered smoother by those who enjoy its complex, peaty, and malted characteristics.

Why is bourbon better than whiskey?

The comparison between bourbon and whiskey is a nuanced one as bourbon is a type of whiskey. Some may prefer bourbon over other types of whiskey due to its distinctive sweetness, typically derived from a higher corn content in the mash bill. The aging process in new charred oak barrels also imparts unique flavors. However, the choice between bourbon and other whiskies ultimately depends on personal taste preferences.

What is a substitute for bourbon in baking?

When baking and a recipe calls for bourbon, you can substitute it with several alternatives. Non-alcoholic vanilla extract is a popular choice, offering a similar depth of flavor without the alcohol content. Alternatively, you can use apple juice or cider for a fruity twist, or even water with a small amount of almond or vanilla extract to maintain the essence without the bourbon’s alcoholic characteristics.

Can I use bourbon instead of brandy in baking?

Yes, you can use bourbon as a substitute for brandy in baking. Both spirits bring a rich, warm flavor to baked goods, and their interchangeability often depends on personal preference and the desired flavor profile of the recipe. Bourbon can provide a slightly sweeter and more robust flavor compared to brandy, so adjusting the quantity based on taste preferences is recommended when making the substitution.

Final Verdict: Best Bourbon For Baking

80-Proof Old Grand-Dad is the best bourbon for baking because it adds a unique flavor to baked goods that other liquor can’t replicate with any other alcohol. The best bourbon for baking should be high-proof and has a strong flavor profile that will not get lost easily. 

When baking with bourbon, there are a few things to remember. Choose a bourbon that has a high proof, rich and flavorful taste. But you want to be careful not to overdo it because a bit of bourbon goes a long way in baking. 


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