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15 Best Bourbons For a Whiskey Sour in 2024

Best Bourbons For a Whiskey Sour

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Whiskey Sours started being the refreshing drink of sailors in the 18th century and became one of the most famous cocktails today. Many enthusiasts get to celebrate this drink during World Whisky Day and National Whiskey Sour Day.

However, finding the perfect base for this cocktail may be confusing. To help you have an informed decision, we compiled our experts’ recommendations of the best bourbon for Whiskey Sour.

Top 15  Bourbons For Whiskey Sour Recipes

1. Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Best Bourbon For Whiskey Sour, Basil Hayden’s

Basil Hayden’s is a part of the small-batch collections, produced, distilled, and bottled at the Jim Beam’s distillery. This bourbon, introduced in 1992, has a minimum alcohol content of 80 proof compared to its siblings (Knob Creek, Baker’s, and Booker’s). 

It is a mellow sipping whiskey with the right blend of smoke, vanilla, oak, and cinnamon. The high content rye added a strong base for Whiskey Sour with a rush of baking spices and peppery notes.

2. Eagle Rare Bourbon

Eagle Rare Bourbon

Eagle Rare is a bourbon brand produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery, one of the world’s oldest whiskey-producing companies. Created by Master Distiller Charles Beam and bottled at 45% ABV, Eagle Rare has an incredible smoothness perfect for any mixed drinks. 

It has strong coffee, oak, herbs, and leather flavors that balance the tangy lemon and simple syrup in the Whiskey Sour cocktail with enough bite.

Read: Eagle Rare & Buffalo Trace Bourbons Compared

3. Elijah Craig Small Batch

Elijah Craig Small Batch

Elijah Craig is a name taken in honor of a Baptist preacher and one of the first users of new charred oak for barrel-aging bourbons. It has well-rounded flavors of brown sugar, baking spice, whipped cream, and meringue pie that offer a unique and delectable twist to Whiskey Sours.

With 47% ABV, Elijah Craig is an affordable base that stands against the dry egg white, tangy lemon, and sweet syrup.

4. Four Roses Bourbon

Four Roses Bourbon

In 2002, the Kirin Brewery Company discontinued the production of blended spirit products and focused on reintroducing Four Roses Bourbon in the American market. With a combination of two mash bills, this American whiskey has gentle floral flavors without overwhelming the vanilla, honey, spice, and pear notes. 

With a reasonable price and 52% ABV, Four Roses bourbon leaves a little kick when used in Whiskey Sours, especially during hot summer days. Check out the best bourbons for your summer cocktails here

5. George Remus Straight Bourbon Whiskey

George Remus

Named after the rebellious King of Bootleggers, this bourbon is the perfect companion during cold days because of its signature spice.

The bourbon’s character resembled George Remus in many ways as he owned a huge liquor supply during the darkest time for whiskey makers, the Prohibition Era [1].

This bourbon contains a high percentage of rye and 47% ABV, crafting an extra bite in the Whiskey Sour cocktail’s citrusy flavors. 

Read: King of Kentucky Bourbon Price Guide

6. Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon 

Jim Beam

Jim Beam bourbon is one of the best whiskeys to use for those new to making Whiskey Sours. It is easy to drink with only 80-proof alcohol content, and it has no coloring and additives. 

Many enthusiasts started with this bourbon as it has an excellent flavor profile and affordable price. It is perfect for Whiskey Sour and any cocktail drink with a well-balanced taste of gentle honey, caramel, and woody bitterness. 

7. Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon

Old Elk Blended

Old Elk Bourbon uses an insanely high amount of malted barley of 34% on its mash bill. The 44% ABV and heavy malt flavors enhance the sweet and zesty flavors of the bourbon, which are perfect for dessert cocktails. 

We recommend using egg white with this bourbon for a frothy and creamy Whiskey Sour experience.

8. Old Forester 

Old Forester

Reasonably priced below $30, Old Forester has a distinct flavor profile of caramelized sugar, chocolate, and sweet cream. The peppery notes are more noticeable on the tongue than on the nose, and it finishes with a rich taste of oak and flavored tobacco. 

Bottled at 100 proof, Old Forester has a strong alcohol content. It is enough to tame every Whisky Sour recipe, crafting a sweet and oaky cocktail with a powerful kick. 

9. Old Grand-Dad Bonded 

Old Grand-Dad Bonded

This product is the perfect bourbon base for those who don’t prefer too much sweetness on their Whiskey Sours. Old Grand-Dad, bottled at 50% ABV with a high rye content of 27%, has an intense cinnamon spice flavor and notes of dark fruits on its palate. 

Its lingering heat and spiciness counterbalance the bright flavors of citrus juice in a Bourbon Sour.

10. Redemption High Rye Bourbon

Redemption High Rye

Redemption High Rye Bourbon treads a fine line between the dominant American whiskey styles. With a mash bill of 60% corn and 36% rye, this bourbon has a strong flavor of nuts, spices, and earthy willow bark.

The spirit’s  46% ABV and intense flavors cut through the sugar, bitters, and orange zest of Whiskey Sour.

11. Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon Whiskey

Russell’s Reserve 10 Year

Russell’s Reserve has the right texture that does not overwhelm the lemon, sugar, and other flavors of Whiskey Sours. It has a high age of 10 years and low alcohol content of 90 proof, readily available within its price range. 

This product is the best choice for people looking for traditionally made bourbon with a careful balance of flavors in the taste buds. We think it’s one of the best bourbons for Father’s Day, too. 

12. Traverse City Cherry Bourbon 

Traverse City Cherry

There are many bourbons with other fruit flavors available in the market, but Traverse City Cherry Bourbon will perfectly shake your Whiskey Sour. The rich cherry sweetness of the fruit and rich earthy notes of the whiskey is a delightful combination in a single bottle. 

This flavored bourbon amplifies the sweetness of Whiskey Sour while providing a little heat with 35% ABV. 

Here’s our list of the most recommended cherry bourbons.

13. Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Bourbon

Treaty Oak Ghost Hill

Treaty Oak Ghost Hill is a product of the fourth operating distillery in Texas, established in 2006. The distillery sourced most grains from local farmers, while the charred oak barrels are from Louisville, Kentucky. 

It is a little expensive, but it offers an elegant twist to Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Sour. This bourbon has enough heat with 47.5% ABV and a mouthfeel of sweet caramel notes.

14. Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight

Wild Turkey Longbranch

Released in April 2018 by Campari Group, this American whiskey is a collaboration between Master Distiller Eddie Russel and Creative Director Matthew McConaughey [2]. The process involves refining the bourbon with oak and Texas mesquite charcoal. 

This method deepens the complexity of the spirit, creating a robust and round whiskey with butter, toffee, honey, and great spice notes. Wild Turkey Longbranch has 86-proof alcohol and a soft sweetness that goes well in Whiskey Sours.

15. Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Woodford Reserve

At 45% ABV, Woodford Reserve bourbon has a strong essence and natural sweetness that perfectly fits the sour treatment. This multi-award-winning bourbon gained massive growth when it became the first-ever official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby in 1999.

This bourbon has a medium body due to triple distillations and aging in charred oak barrels, but it has enough punch to mix drinks. It complements other cocktail recipes and finishes with light honey, vanilla, and burnt wood notes.

What Is A Bourbon Whiskey Sour?

Unlike the Scotch Sours, Whiskey Sour is a cocktail with three key ingredients: whiskey, lemon, and sugar. But these days, many enthusiasts prepare a combination of sugar and water (simple syrup) ahead of time for a smoother result. 

The first written record of Whiskey Sour dates back to 1870 in a Wisconsin newspaper [3]. However, some historians believe that the cocktail existed a century before that. 

Why Bourbon Makes It Taste Better

Bourbon in neat

Most beginners prefer bourbon whiskey because it is easier to drink than the intense spicy flavors of rye whiskey. It counterbalances the sour treatment and amplifies the sweetness of Whiskey Sour in a delightfully refreshing drink. 

Bourbon has 51% corn on its mash bill and uses new American charred oak barrels for aging. This process leaves a naturally sweet taste in bourbon, making it a perfect mixer for cocktail drinks like Whiskey Sour. 

Related Posts:

Choosing The Best Bourbon

Choosing The Best Bourbon

Classic Whiskey Sour

The Classic Whiskey Sour uses any bourbon with 80-proof alcohol. It is the minimum alcohol content for bourbon, which adds vanilla and oaky flavors to the cocktail.

Basil Hayden’s and Jim Beam, with their 80-proof alcohol, are two of the best whiskeys for Whiskey Sours. Both delicately balance the sweet and sour flavors while giving you a taste of the traditional version of the cocktail. 

Powerful Whiskey Sour

Powerful Whiskey Sour

This version is perfect for seasoned enthusiasts looking for more spice and alcohol in their Whiskey Sours. Powerful Whiskey Sour uses a bourbon with 100-proof or over, making a powerful cocktail with rich flavors. 

We recommend Four Roses, Old Forester, and Old Grand-dad Bonded for this variety which surely leaves an undeniable kick in any cocktail. Here’s another list of our favorite whiskeys for Whiskey Sour

How To Make A Whiskey (Bourbon) Sour

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • Frothy egg white (Optional)
  • Orange wheel
  • Maraschino cherry

Instructions:

Add bourbon, simple syrup, lemon juice, and egg white (if included) to a cocktail shaker. Do a dry shake first, then add the ice. Start shaking the mix again until well-chilled. Strain it into a cocktail glass. And lastly, garnish with orange wheel and cherry. Serve. 

Serving: 1

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does bourbon whiskey sour taste like?

The Whiskey Sour cocktail has a balanced taste of sweet, sour, and a little spice from the spirit used. You have to use an equal amount of sugar and lemon juice to achieve a solid blend of the cocktail. 

What’s a good but cheap bourbon best for a whiskey sour?

Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a good but cheap mixer for an elegant Whiskey Sour. It has a price range of $15 to $18 and is an excellent choice for every beginner. 

What is the best bourbon for Whisky Sour?

The best bourbon for a Whisky Sour depends on individual taste preferences, but many bourbon enthusiasts recommend a bourbon with a balanced flavor profile.

Brands like Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, or Four Roses Small Batch are often praised for their smoothness and versatility in cocktails.

Ultimately, choosing a bourbon that aligns with your preferred flavor profile will enhance the overall experience of your Whisky Sour.

Do you have to use bourbon for a Whiskey Sour?

While bourbon is the traditional choice for a Whiskey Sour, you have some flexibility in choosing the base spirit.

Rye whiskey is a popular alternative that brings a spicier and more robust flavor to the cocktail. Some variations even use other whiskey types or even Scotch.

The choice of spirit allows for customization based on personal taste preferences.

Is bourbon or rye whiskey better for a Whiskey Sour?

The decision between bourbon and rye whiskey for a Whiskey Sour comes down to personal preference.

Bourbon tends to provide a sweeter and smoother profile, while rye whiskey offers a spicier and more robust flavor.

Both are excellent choices, and the better option depends on the drinker’s taste preferences.

Is Jim Beam good for a Whisky Sour?

Jim Beam is a well-known bourbon brand and can be a suitable choice for a Whisky Sour.

Its smooth and approachable flavor profile makes it versatile for cocktails, including the Whisky Sour.

However, personal preferences vary, and some may prefer other bourbons with different flavor profiles.

Is Jack Daniel’s a bourbon?

No, Jack Daniel’s is not a bourbon; it is a Tennessee whiskey.

While similar to bourbon, Tennessee whiskey undergoes an additional filtration process known as the Lincoln County Process, where the whiskey is filtered through sugar maple charcoal before aging in barrels.

This process imparts a distinctive flavor to the whiskey. To be considered bourbon, a whiskey must meet specific criteria, including being produced in the United States, containing at least 51% corn in the mash bill, and being aged in new charred oak barrels.

Jack Daniel’s, with its unique production process, falls under the category of Tennessee whiskey rather than bourbon.
Can you use Jack Daniels in a Whisky Sour?

Yes, you can use Jack Daniel’s in a Whisky Sour.

Jack Daniel’s is a popular Tennessee whiskey known for its smooth and slightly sweet profile.

While traditional Whisky Sours often use bourbon or rye whiskey, using Jack Daniel’s can add a unique twist to the cocktail, introducing the distinctive flavors associated with Tennessee whiskey.

Why is bourbon or rye used in a Whisky Sour?

Bourbon and rye are commonly used in a Whisky Sour due to their robust and complex flavor profiles.

Bourbon, with its sweet and smooth characteristics, provides a mellow base for the cocktail, enhancing the overall balance.

Rye whiskey, on the other hand, contributes a spicier and more assertive flavor, adding depth and complexity to the drink.

The choice between bourbon and rye depends on personal taste preferences and desired flavor nuances.

Is Whiskey Sour Scotch or bourbon?

A traditional Whisky Sour typically uses American whiskey, either bourbon or rye.

Scotch whisky, being a distinct type of whisky produced in Scotland, is not commonly used in a classic Whisky Sour.

The choice between bourbon and rye in a Whisky Sour depends on the drinker’s preference for sweetness and smoothness (bourbon) or spiciness and complexity (rye).

Why is Whiskey Sour made with bourbon?

Bourbon is often chosen for a Whisky Sour due to its smooth, sweet, and approachable flavor profile.

The inherent sweetness of bourbon complements the tartness of the lemon juice and the sweetness of the simple syrup in the cocktail, resulting in a well-balanced and enjoyable drink.

The choice of bourbon brings a richness and mellowness to the Whisky Sour, contributing to its popularity.

What kind of whiskey should you use for a Whiskey Sour?

The choice of whiskey for a Whiskey Sour depends on personal taste preferences. Bourbon and rye are the most commonly used types of whiskey for this cocktail.

Bourbon adds sweetness and smoothness, while rye brings spiciness and complexity. Experimenting with different whiskey styles allows you to tailor the Whiskey Sour to your preferred flavor profile.

Popular bourbon choices include Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, or Woodford Reserve, while rye options include Bulleit Rye or Rittenhouse Rye.

Ultimately, the best whiskey for a Whiskey Sour is the one that suits your taste preferences.

Final Thoughts: Best Bourbon For Whiskey Sour

Choosing the right bourbon for classic cocktails like Whiskey Sours depends on someone’s taste buds. Lower proof bourbons give the right balance to other ingredients like freshly squeezed citrus juice and sugar. However, higher-proof bourbons impart more spice and alcohol to the cocktail.

Aside from finding the right bourbon, you can add a new twist when drinking Whiskey Sours. Mixing red wine and Angostura bitters will help balance the flavors, while the frothy egg white will impart a creamy texture and aesthetic appearance to the cocktail.

References:

  1. Rich bootlegger George Remus killed his wife — and got away with murder

  2. Matthew McConaughey Teams With Bourbon Hall Of Famer To Launch New Wild Turkey® Longbranch

  3. The Classic Whiskey Sour Recipe

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