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6 Best Mixers for a Bourbon Cocktail

Mark Twain once said, “If I cannot drink bourbon in heaven, then I shall not go.” He was joking (maybe?), but his words hint at what a serious subject bourbon is for those who love it. Like cigars and fine wine, bourbon whiskey has a following of passionate and vocal aficionados who can’t wait to tell you all you don’t know about the drink.

That might explain why for some of us, building a bourbon sour cocktail or any other bourbon cocktail can be a little intimidating. With all this talk of tasting notes, honey barrels, and unicorn bottles, it’s understandable if the amateur mixologist finds themselves at a loss for where to begin, including what mixers to choose. 

Maybe you want to impress your friends with your prowess behind the bar at your next cocktail party. Or maybe you’re wondering how to liven up that glass of bourbon you usually enjoy neat. Either way, wonder no more! Let’s have a little lesson on the best bourbon mixers. 

But First, A Bourbon Primer

If you don’t know much or anything about bourbon and are wondering what is the best bourbon for Whiskey sour, a little information can help make sure you craft a perfect bourbon drink, for yourself and others. 

What is Bourbon? 

The simplest answer to this question is that bourbon is an American whiskey. But what sets bourbon apart from other whiskeys—what makes bourbon, bourbon—is a bit more specific. 

The common wisdom says that all bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons. For a whiskey to be called bourbon, the following conditions must be met: 

  • Mash is at least 51% corn – That sentence might look like gibberish, so let’s break it down. “Mash,” or “mash bill,” refers to the mix of grains like wheat, rye, and barley that go into the bourbon. With true bourbon, more than half of the mash must consist of corn.

  • Distilled and aged in new, charred oak barrels – Like many liquors, bourbon is aged and distilled in barrels. Some alcohol, like scotch and rum, can be aged in barrels that previously held other liquors. By law, however, bourbon must be aged in charred oak barrels that have never been used before.

  • Must be made in the United States – In Kentucky in the late 1700s, the first-ever barrel of bourbon was distilled, and voilĂ ! a star was born. In the hundreds of years since, bourbon has become an iconic example of American ingenuity as baseball or apple pie. To this day, real bourbon only comes from the United States—and most still come from Kentucky. The French might have champagne, but Americans have bourbon.1

  • What Does Bourbon Taste Like? 

    You’d think that for a liquor that is prohibited by law from containing any flavor additives, the taste of bourbon would be pretty standard from bottle to bottle. Plot twist: not so! It’s true that the major flavors of bourbon are oak, caramel, and vanilla. But depending on the mash bill, distillation, and aging process, bourbons can express a range of additional notes.

    Most bourbons can be classified according to three basic flavor sets:

  • Sweet bourbons – Depending on the mash bill and the amount of time it ages in the barrel, some bourbons will taste a little sweet. Mash with a higher percentage of corn often produces a sweeter bourbon whiskey. Aside from big vanilla and caramel notes, you might taste custard, butterscotch, honey, or even chocolate, among other flavors.

  • Host or spicy bourbons – Some bourbons have a spicy or peppery taste. Part of that heat comes from the alcohol content, but where and how a bourbon is aged can also play a part.

  • Floral bourbons – As a result of yeast used during fermentation, some bourbons might present a floral or herbal flavor.2

  • 6 Best Mixers for Bourbon Cocktails

    Bourbon’s general flavor profile makes it an excellent liquor for cocktails.3 But not all mixers are created equal. Choosing the wrong mixer can clash with or muddle the bourbon’s natural flavor, leaving you with a less-than-spectacular cocktail. So without further adieu, ready your cocktail shaker and let’s dive into the six best bourbon mixers you can buy.

    #1 Water

    When it comes to bourbon, it can be best not to overthink it. Sometimes, a splash or two of H2O is all that’s needed to make the perfect bourbon drink.

    Bourbon is a strong liquor. Most bourbons on the market carry an alcohol-by-volume (ABV) of 40%. This is the standard alcohol concentration for most liquors, but it can still be enough to turn off some drinkers or distract from some of the more subtle flavors. 

    Adding water can cut the alcohol taste, letting those warm bourbon flavors come through. Tailor it to your tastes by gradually adding water until you get the exact flavor you want.

    #2 Soda Water

    From vodka to rum, there are few liquors that don’t pair well with soda water—and bourbon is no exception. A classic bourbon cocktail recipe usually call for soda water, such as:

    • Whiskey Soda
    • John Collins 
    • Bourbon Rickey

    Soda water is perfect for diluting the bourbon so that it's more drinkable without influencing the flavor. Bourbon and soda are a classic go-to for a bourbon lover, but if you’re feeling creative, you can experiment by adding lime, pineapple, or orange bitters.

    #3 Cola 

    Coca-Cola is a popular and time-tested option for what to mix with bourbon. From the country club to the nightclub, you shouldn’t underestimate cola’s appeal. Who doesn’t love a good bourbon-and-cola?

    The sweet taste of cola is what makes it such a stunning bourbon mixer. It helps cut down on the overt taste of alcohol, making the bourbon itself more drinkable for those with gentler palates. And cola’s sweet, spicy notes of vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon are the perfect complement to the oaky, caramel flavors of bourbon. 

    Toss some ice cubes in a glass, pour some bourbon over it, and hit it with your favorite cola for a truly tasty tonic. 

    #4 Ginger 

    Few mixers can enliven a cocktail quite like ginger can—which is why it remains such a popular go-to. Its fresh, zippy taste adds just the right amount of pizazz to your bourbon cocktail. And you can get it in a variety of forms, like:

    • Ginger beer
    • Ginger ale
    • Ginger bitters
    • Ginger syrup

    You don’t have to be a maestro behind the bar to make a delicious cocktail with ginger. Simply mix your favorite bourbon with ginger beer, ale, or bitters, and you’ve got a classic Irish whiskey ginger. 

    For an especially refreshing drink, mix the bourbon with a few ounces of freshly squeezed lime juice and lemon peel or orange peel. Top the glass with ginger beer and add a mint sprig. Before you know it, you’re sipping on a Kentucky Mule and wondering how anything in life could be so good.

    #5 Coffee 

    A stiff drink at the end of a long workday can help take the edge off of your nine-to-five. Unfortunately, it can also make you sleepy. A coffee-based cocktail can be a great way to ease into your evening without any unexpected journeys to the Land of Nod. 

    If you’re wondering what mixes well with bourbon that won’t zap your energy, coffee might just be the answer. The smoky sweetness of bourbon is a perfect match for coffee’s bitter cocoa flavors. For best results, choose a higher-proof bourbon for a bold and exciting taste. 

    Whether you’re drinking French press or cold brew, a little bourbon with your coffee can really energize your night.

    #6 Apple Cider 

    You probably weren’t expecting apple cider to pop up on this list. But it turns out that iconic concoction is an exciting and unexpected way to spice up a glass of bourbon. 

    The sweet tartness of apple cider makes it a compelling addition to any bourbon. It can enhance a bourbon’s light, spicy notes and add just the right amount of sweetness. Throw in a little lemon juice, or some sweet Vermouth, and even some fresh ginger, and you’ve got yourself a tasty libation with seasonal flair. If you add in more lemon juice to make bourbon sidecar

    In fact, apple cider can be a fun way to add a little zest to many classic liquors. Rum and cider, in particular, are an unlikely match made in cocktail heaven. In cooler weather, warmed cider is an especially delicious choice. For a spiked punch-like drink, you can add: 

    • Fresh cinnamon sticks
    • Ginger bitters or syrup
    • Fresh fruit like sliced oranges or apples 

    When the winter holidays roll around, you can switch out the cider for eggnog for a perfect wintry beverage.

    Get a Perfect Bourbon Cocktail from DRNXMYTH

    Answering the question “What do you mix with bourbon” can be overwhelming to the uninitiated. But as you can see, that class American liquor lends itself to a variety of mixers. From simple additions like water or cola to bar staples like ginger and soda, bourbon plays well with others. 

    But sometimes, it’s nice to sit back and enjoy a drink you didn’t mix yourself. That’s where DRNXMYTH comes in. Our line of pre-made bourbon drinks is a guaranteed way to enjoy a fresh bourbon cocktail in a bottle. We have a range of flavors that are sure to please any palate. And the best part is, you don’t have to fret about choosing the right mixers or ingredients. Just pop the bottle open and enjoy.

    From our classic Whiskey Sour and Bourbon Sour to our delectable Bourbon Berry Smash, DRNXMYTH’s pre-made handcrafted cocktails will tickle your taste buds and get any party started. Give us a try today! 


    Sources: 

    1. TheSpruceEats.com. Bourbon Whiskey History: Timeline and Important Events. https://www.thespruceeats.com/bourbon-history-timeline-760176
    2. Flaviar.com. How to Drink Bourbon: Bourbon Guide for Beginners. https://flaviar.com/blog/a-beginners-guide-to-bourbons-many-flavors/
    3. TheSpruceEats.com. A Beginner’s Guide to Bourbon Whiskey. https://www.thespruceeats.com/a-beginners-guide-to-understanding-bourbon-760384#:~:text=Bourbon's%20general%20flavor%20profile%20can,straight%20or%20on%20the%20rocks.