Bourbon is a drink that has developed a unique place in the History of American whiskey culture. Its production dates back to the early European colonists who settled in the State of Kentucky. They brought with them the knowledge of distillation and aging processes that gave bourbon its uniqueness.
Bourbon is the product of technical upgrades in the cultivation and distillation of corn. Its production is regulated with strict rules and laws that have to be followed to the letter. Some of the regulations are that the whiskey must be produced with at least 51% corn. The aging process must be done in new oak barrels that are charred on the inside. It can only be termed as Bourbon if it is produced in the United States.
For bourbon to be considered good, it must have no additives; that is, no colorings or flavors can be added to it. The bottling of bourbon must be at over 80 proof.
As bourbon continued to gain its popularity as America’s favorite whiskey, bartenders would whip up different cocktails with it. Mostly, whiskey cocktails could use just any type of brown alcohol such as rye whiskey, but a favorite for many enthusiasts is bourbon.
Cocktails such as the Old Fashioned Whiskey Sour, Manhattan and Mint Julep, and many others are a testament that bourbon is the best choice for every season and palette.
Types of bourbon cocktails
Let us have a look at the different types of famous bourbon cocktails you can enjoy;
1. The Old Fashioned
This is a drink that has been enjoyed since the mid 19th Century. It is a drink quite popular with bourbon enthusiasts. The recipe is easy to mix and you can play around with it to get your desired taste. The flavors you will get are fruity and bitter-sweet.
How to make an Old Fashioned cocktail
- Bourbon; 2 ounces
- Angostura bitters; 2-3 dashes
- Sugar; 1 cube
- An orange peel for garnishing
You can decide to spice the mix up with a splash of soda, and a maraschino cherry. Once you have the ingredients together, place the sugar cube in a glass, mix with the bitters and the orange slice. This is to enrich the taste of the drink. Mix these very well.
Next, fill the glass with ice and then pour in your bourbon and mix. At this point, you can add the soda if you wish to. There you have your Old Fashioned! Garnish with the orange peel and enjoy your drink.
2. The John Collins Bourbon Highball
This cocktail is a flavourful sharp drink that you can easily love. It shares some similarities with the whiskey sour so it is easy to prepare.
How to prepare this cocktail
- Bourbon; one and a half ounces
- Club soda; 2 ounces
- Lemon juice; 1 ounce
- Simple syrup; half an ounce
- Maraschino cherry for garnishing
- A slice of orange for garnishing
Once you have all the ingredients collected together, pour bourbon, lemon juice and soda, and some ice cubes. Mix the ingredients well by stirring completely. Now add the soda into the drink and garnish with the cherry and orange slice.
If mixing a John Collins in a bar, shake the ingredients vigorously just before you add in the soda. While you can use a commercial sour in place of the freshly squeezed lemon juice, bourbon connoisseurs advise the use of the latter to obtain a perfect John Collins.
3. The Manhattan Cocktail
The best bourbon to obtain a perfect Manhattan is the Knob Creek, due to the full-bodied flavor that it has.
How to prepare a Manhattan
- Knob Creek bourbon; 2 ounces
- Dry Vermouth; half an ounce
- Sweet Vermouth; half an ounce
- Aromatic bitters; a dash
- Maraschino cherry for garnishing
Mix all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker that is filled with ice cubes. Shake vigorously for some minutes and then strain into a glass. Garnish with the cherry.
For a perfect Manhattan, the ingredients have to be chosen carefully. The vermouth, both the dry and sweet, should be used in equal measure. Vermouth is said to have a short shelf life. It is important that if you are not using a fresh bottle, the drink should not have been stored for more than three months.
The best aromatic bitters to use to obtain this perfect cocktail is the Angostura. A point to note is that the bitters make a substantial effect on the making of the Perfect Manhattan.
Be careful not to use the artificially sweetened and dyed cherry.
4. The Mint Julep
This is a cocktail famous with the Kentucky Derby. The difference with this cocktail is the use of crushed ice. Using this crushed ice will ensure you have the type of mint julep enjoyed during the Derby. You can use a glass for this cocktail but it is recommended that you use a ‘ julep cup’.
- Mint sprigs; 4 or 5
- Bourbon; two and a half ounces
- Simple syrup; half an ounce (you can use 2 pieces of sugar cubes instead).
- A mint sprig for garnishing.
Pour the simple syrup into a julep cup and add in the mint leaves (If you use sugar, mix until the sugar is dissolved). Pour in the bourbon and fill the cup with crushed ice. Stir until it becomes frosty inside the cup. Garnish with the mint sprig and serve with a straw.
Important tips to consider for a perfect mint julep is making sure the ice is crushed. To crush the ice, you can put them in a bag “known as a Lewis bag” or use a towel, then smack it until the ice becomes granules.
Another vital tip is to mix the mint julep gently. This helps to open up the mint leaves veins to release the essential oils. The leaves should be shred into pieces so as not to get stuck in your teeth.
Stirring the cocktail is essential to bringing out a great taste. Ensure that the cup or glass is frosty as you keep storing it. The longer you stir, the better taste you get.
5. The Sidecar cocktail
This is a cocktail that was initial mixed with brandy, but over the years, bourbon has taken over. The drink needs to find a perfect balance between the sweet and the sour. Too much of the lemon or the alcohol may alter the flavor.
- Bourbon; 2 ounces
- Lemon juice; three-quarters of an ounce
- Cointreau orange liqueur; 1 ounce
- A lemon twist or orange twist for garnishing
Mix all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and add a few ice cubes. Shake very well and strain the mixture into a chilled glass. Garnish with the lemon or orange twist and enjoy your drink.
To add a twist to this cocktail, you can decide to rim the glass with sugar, to bring a cool contrast to the sourness of the drink.
There is an ocean of bourbon cocktails that you can mix up and enjoy, the above mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg.
As enjoying bourbon is a matter of personal preference, do not be afraid to test out different bourbons other than the ones mentioned in the recipes until you find your go-to bourbon for each cocktail you try out.
The take home, however, is that whatever bourbon you try, be sure you will enjoy the versatility of the drink.
I am sure this makes you want to host a couple of friends over for a drink or two, doesn’t it?
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