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How To Order Bourbon Like A Pro (2024 Updated)

How To Order Bourbon Like A Pro

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Any drink, especially bourbon, would taste better when shared with friends. Whether you’re chilling at the beach or bar, good times are indeed guaranteed. 

If you don’t want to look like a novice while ordering, you need to know the basics before going to the bar. Keep scrolling to know how to order bourbon like a pro.

5 Easy Ways To Order A Bourbon

5 Easy Ways To Order A Bourbon

1. Decide Within Your Budget Range

In choosing bourbon, aside from the type, you also want to consider your budget range. You can find this spirit for as low as $18 per bottle. The good news is that there’s Kentucky bourbon available at every price point. 

Sometimes, brands have special liquor deals for bourbons that you can watch out for great discounts.

2. Choose a Specific Brand


If you’re fond of drinking bourbon, chances are you already know what suits your palate, and you have favorite brands. There might be only one brand you like to drink, but you might like to consider switching brands sometimes. 

Among the brands you can find in most bars or liquor stores are Jim Beam, Elijah Craig, Bulleit Bourbon, Wild Turkey, and Maker’s Mark.

3. Ask The Bartender (If Unsure)

Talk to the bartender at the bar and ask for a recommendation. It would help to tell the bartender what you like and what you don’t like so he can recommend a brand or something that suits your palate best. 

Do you want something a little sweet or with spice? Do you want your drink to have soda? For example, if you want a refreshing cocktail, the bartender can recommend a Mint Julep.

Read: Single Barrel & Small Batch Bourbon Compared

4. Ask For A Sample Or Flight

A sample of bourbon

A flight is where drinkers sample three to four types of samples. This is to compare and contrast the spirits from flavor to color. You can ask the bartender at the bar if they have a flight on the best bourbon in the selection. 

Trying a sip of the selection can help you find the best drink that suits your preference.

5. Decide How You Want It Served

On The Rocks

bourbon on the rocks

A drink ordered on the rocks simply means a spirit served over ice [1]. Many people prefer ordering bourbon with ice because it dilutes the taste and makes it smoother. If you want a strong flavor and a little bit of water, you can order a glass of bourbon with a single ice cube.

With A Splash of Water

bourbon with water

Mixing bourbon with a splash of water helps bring out its flavors while also keeping it from being too strong. However, the choice of water is important because it can significantly improve your drinking experience. 

You can opt for mineral water, distilled water, or filtered water. It would also help to use a higher-proof bourbon to negate dilution.


Many mixers go well with bourbons like a shot of coffee, ginger ale, sweet vermouth, soda, bitters, and juice, making it more delicious. You can ask to mix soda, like coke, to make your drink sweet. 

You can also try an Old Fashioned, composed of bourbon mixed with bitters, sugar, lemon, and water. You can also go for the drink of the Kentucky Derby, Mint Julep, containing bourbon, sugar, fresh mint, and water.


bourbon in neat glass

Neat bourbon means it’s served to you at room temperature without adding ice and any mixers. If you’re a purist and like to savor the intense flavor of bourbon, don’t wonder anymore about how to order bourbon. 

Having a straight bourbon is the best option for you. For example, you can say, “I’ll have a neat Jim Beam.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it better to order a bourbon neat?

Yes, it’s better to order a bourbon neat if you want a sip in its purest form with its rich flavors. The flavors are stronger if you prefer it this way. However, it depends on what you are in the mood for or what brand you like.

How do I order an Old Fashioned bourbon?

To order an Old Fashioned bourbon, look for the cocktail on the menu or say the brand you want and adjustments you like to make in the drink. You can say, “I’ll have a Maker’s Mark, Old Fashioned with a squeeze of fresh lime.

What is the proper way to order bourbon?

Ordering bourbon can be a matter of personal preference, but a common and respectful way to order bourbon is to specify the brand and expression if you have a preference.

For example, you might say, “I’d like a glass of Buffalo Trace bourbon neat” or “I’ll have a Maker’s Mark on the rocks.”

If you’re unsure, asking the bartender for a recommendation based on your taste preferences is also a courteous approach.

What is the most popular way to drink bourbon?

The most popular way to drink bourbon varies among individuals, but some classic and widely enjoyed methods include:

Neat: Served in a glass without any ice or mixers to appreciate the full flavor.

On the rocks: Poured over ice to slightly chill and dilute the bourbon.

Bourbon and water: A simple mix of bourbon and water to open up the flavors.

Bourbon cocktails: Popular cocktails include the Old Fashioned, Mint Julep, or the classic Bourbon Sour.

How should bourbon be served?

Bourbon can be served in various ways based on personal preference. Neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails are all acceptable.

Choosing the serving method depends on your desired drinking experience and the flavors you wish to emphasize.

How do you order top shelf bourbon at a bar?

When ordering top shelf bourbon at a bar, you can specify your preference by stating the brand and expression you’d like.

For example, you could say, “I’ll have a glass of your top-shelf Knob Creek Single Barrel” or “May I try your premium Pappy Van Winkle?” Being specific ensures you receive a high-quality and often more expensive bourbon.

How do you drink bourbon for beginners?

For beginners, it’s recommended to start with a more approachable bourbon served in a simple manner.

Neat or on the rocks are good options to experience the pure flavors of the bourbon.

Experimenting with different brands and expressions gradually allows beginners to develop their palate and preferences.

Additionally, trying classic bourbon cocktails like a Bourbon Sour or a Mint Julep can be an enjoyable introduction to the world of bourbon.

How do people drink bourbon straight?

Drinking bourbon straight means consuming it without any additional mixers or dilution. To enjoy bourbon straight, follow these steps:

Choose the right glass: Opt for a tulip-shaped glass or a whiskey tumbler to concentrate the aromas.

Pour a moderate amount: Typically, a standard pour is around 1.5 to 2 ounces.

Observe the color: Take a moment to appreciate the bourbon’s color by holding it up to the light.

Swirl the glass: Gently swirl the bourbon to release its aromas.

Smell the bourbon: Inhale the aromas by bringing the glass to your nose.

Sip slowly: Take small sips, allowing the flavors to unfold on your palate. Note the taste, mouthfeel, and finish.

Avoid ice or mixers: Drinking bourbon straight is about savoring the spirit’s natural flavors without dilution.

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.

Is bourbon good with Coke?

While purists might prefer to enjoy bourbon straight to appreciate its complex flavors, mixing bourbon with Coke is a common practice and can be enjoyable for those who like a sweeter and effervescent beverage.

The sweetness of Coke can complement the caramel and vanilla notes in bourbon, creating a simple and refreshing cocktail known as a “bourbon and Coke” or “Jack and Coke.”

Do you sip or shoot bourbon?

Sipping is the more common and preferred method for enjoying bourbon, allowing you to savor the complexities of the spirit.

Shooting bourbon, or taking it as a quick shot, is less common for high-quality bourbons as it may not allow you to fully appreciate the flavors.

Sipping allows you to experience the nuances, aroma, and smoothness of the bourbon.

How do you order bourbon neat at a bar?

When ordering bourbon neat at a bar, simply specify the brand or type of bourbon you prefer followed by “neat.”

For example, you can say, “I’d like a glass of Woodford Reserve neat” or “Can I have Buffalo Trace neat, please?” This indicates to the bartender that you want the bourbon served in a glass without any ice or mixers, allowing you to enjoy it in its pure form.

So, How To Order Bourbon?

Knowing how to order a bourbon, an American whiskey charred in oak barrels, in a bar is important to ensure that you’ll enjoy your drink. Ordering this type of alcohol boils down to how you prefer it, whether it’s straight or as a cocktail. 

If you want a cocktail made with grapefruit, lime, and honey, instead of simple syrup, say, “I’ll have a Wild Turkey Whiskey Sour 101.” You can also try a straight Jim Beam in a glass.

If you have no idea about bourbon, you can ask the bartender for recommendations.


  1. Rocks
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