Many bartenders prefer bourbon as a base liquor in making cocktails because it has a different flavor profile that opens to hundreds of possibilities. Some prefer using classic bourbon brands like Old Forester and Old Bardstown Bottled In Bond to mix their cocktails.
But really, what is the best bourbon for mixing cocktails?
Top 15 Bourbons for Mixing
1. Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Expect aromas of caramel and vanilla that greet the nose. The Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has slightly sweet notes of ripe fruit on the palate, maple syrup, and bitter chocolate with a lingering spicy finish.
If you’re looking for a flavorful whiskey with a milder alcohol content than others to mix in cocktails, the Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey might be right for you.
2. Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon
This bourbon is characterized by high rye content and a complex character, having been perfectly aged and charred in American white oak barrels. Vanilla and a hint of caramel can be tasted with tones of oak and nutmeg in the middle. It has a long, dry, and satiny finish.
3. Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon
This bourbon has spicy rye undertones with the subtle sweetness of corn that makes the flavor profile unique. It’s aged and bottled at 80 proof. The Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon has a well-integrated flavor profile composed of oak, sweet brown sugar, and a hint of citrus fruit.
Whether you want to drink this bottle neat or on the rocks in an Old Fashioned cocktail, this whiskey might be a good bourbon for you. It’s a gentle drink with a spicy kick. This is also good for a Whiskey Sour cocktail or other cocktails.
4. Old Grand-Dad Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Distilled at the Jim Beam Plant in Kentucky, this whiskey tastes like caramel and vanilla with a strong peppery flavor. It has notes of dried fruit that might give an interesting flavor when mixed with cocktails.
We like pairing this with ham, salami, and other foods with smoky notes because they bring out the caramel-forward character of this bourbon.
5. Early Times Bottled in Bond
This bottled-in-bond bourbon is crafted with pure water and is fermented with a proprietary yeast strain. This true old-style Kentucky bourbon has caramel and citrus notes that greet the taste buds.
There’s also a hint of rye spice as you swirl the bourbon around, coating the inside of the mouth. The Early Times Bottled in Bond is one of the best bourbons with a short and dry finish.
6. Elijah Craig Small Batch
This award-winning small-batch bourbon has complex flavors composed of subtle smoke flavor with well-integrated vanilla, toast, and caramel notes. There is more flavor in fruits, which makes them rich.
We like this bottle of drink because of the impressive balance of flavor and heat. It has a quite sweet finish, with a drying note of toast.
7. Evan Williams Black Label
Evan Williams Black Label is 86 proof and named after Evan Williams, who first opened Kentucky’s first commercial distillery. It smells light with deep vanilla and mint. This single barrel whiskey has tasting notes of caramel, oak, and sugar.
If you are looking for the best bourbon for mixing in cocktails, the Evan Williams Black might be the best bourbon choice for a hot toddy or other cocktails because it is smooth and rich.
8. Four Roses Small Batch
The Four Roses Small Batch bourbon has tasting notes of apricot, berries, light oak, and a hint of vanilla, which all contribute to this bourbon’s unique flavor profile. It’s 90 proof and can be enjoyed neat or with a splash of a mixer of your choice. This Four Roses bourbon has won numerous awards.
9. Johnny Drum Private Stock
The scent of sour apple and oak will greet the nose. It is also sweet on the palate because of the caramel and vanilla notes. This bottle of bourbon has a well-balanced and complex flavor profile with a hint of smoky char, making it interesting to mix in your cocktails. It has a medium-length and elegant finish with spice notes.
10. Maker’s Mark
The Maker’s Mark is a hand-made bourbon that uses the old-style sour-mash method. It has tasting notes of barley malt, butterscotch, vanilla, and a hint of spice.
If you like a less spicy drink, it might be a great bourbon choice. This bottle of bourbon might be good for mixing in whiskey sours or any cocktail of your preference.
11. New Riff Bottled in Bond
With a mash bill of 65% corn, 30% rye, and 5% malted barley, this golden amber-colored liquor has notes of sweet caramel, vanilla powder, and hints of marshmallow and sweet oak. Subtle baking spices and brown sugar are what we can smell. It has hints of spice towards the finish with faint notes of sweet vanilla.
12. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon
With perfectly balanced flavors of toffee, caramel, cinnamon, chocolate, and a hint of spice and orange peel, this American whiskey has received numerous awards. It has a long finish with notes of toasty oak. Interestingly, it’s triple distilled, and it’s the bottle with the lowest proof upon entering the oak barrel, which was aged for at least six years.
13. Benchmark Old No. 8 Kentucky Straight Bourbon
The Benchmark Old No.8 Kentucky Straight Bourbon has aromas of caramel, corn, and vanilla pod earthiness. Also, it doesn’t have a bitter taste. We can taste toffee apples, some biscuit notes, and caramel.
We like this because it’s an affordable bourbon, and it’s our go-to bourbon to mix in a hot toddy or even cocktails like Old Fashioned or whiskey sours since the flavor profile is light.
14. Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon
The bourbon might be a bit older, but it has had the same formula since 1976. This bourbon has tasting notes of toast, vanilla, and a hint of dark chocolate and has been aged in oak barrels for four years.
It’s a classic whiskey containing no additives or coloring, making it easy to mix into cocktails. It also has a smooth finish.
15. Rebel Kentucky Straight Bourbon
This 80-proof whiskey was made from the original recipe using new charred white oak barrels for aging and purest Kentucky limestone-filtered water. This bourbon is made of wheat, corn, and malt.
It has tasting notes of honey, butter, traces of raisins, and a hint of plum and spiciness that make its flavor profile complex and creates an interesting taste when blended with cocktails. It has a long and warm finish.
What Makes Bourbons Great For Mixed Drinks?
Bourbon is the perfect liquor for mixed drinks because it has a distinctive flavor profile. Bourbon has a sweet flavor with a hint of spice that goes well with fruit juice, like apple or peach. It also tastes great with ginger beer, ginger ale, or even ginger snaps. That’s why bourbons are among the most popular liquors for mixed drinks.
What is the best bourbon to mix with Coke?
The best bourbon to mix with Coke is Wild Turkey, one of the go-to bourbons of bartenders. It has rich flavors that are enhanced when partnered with Coke. However, high-proof bourbons might also be the best bourbons to mix with Coke, like Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon.
What is a “Bourbon and Coke” called?
It’s simply called Bourbon and Coke, but you can mention the brand if you want to specify the bourbon that goes into your Bourbon and Coke.
Should bourbon be mixed with water?
Yes, it could be mixed with water because it makes the drink smoother and the flavors more pronounced. However, knowing how much water to add can improve your drinking experience. This is because different whiskeys have different alcohol contents. The amount of water used can vary as well .
While bourbons are good for sipping neat to experience their authentic flavors, some people love delicious bourbon cocktails because the best bourbons balance the sweet spot of cocktails.
Determining which might be the best bourbon for mixing cocktails depends on how its complex flavor profile blends well with the traditional cocktail flavors.
In the end, the top bourbons for mixing are the ones that suit your preference. The best bourbons might be a straight bourbon whiskey, an Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond, or any single barrel whiskey. It depends on what you like.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!