Bourbon has long been celebrated as the unofficial American spirit and has centuries of fascinating stories behind it. But bourbon is a lot more versatile than being served neat or on the rocks. It’s the star of many complex cocktail favorites, including classics like the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, and even the Mint Julep.
While those cocktails are always exciting, there’s some other creative takes on bourbon absolutely worth a try.
At CliQue Bar & Lounge at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, this drink is made with Basil Hayden’s Bourbon, Amontillado Sherry, Vermouth Bianco, Fernet, IPA syrup, Orange Bitters, Angostura Bitters. “Kid Dynamite is a bourbon savory bomb. We incorporate a dry sherry and IPA syrup with several different bitters and dry vermouth to appease all the Manhattan and old fashioned drinkers with this twist,” said master intoxicologist Eric Hobbie for CliQue Bar & Lounge.
Japanese Whisky Old Fashioned
At Vol. 39 in Chicago, this is a Japanese Whisky-inspired Old Fashioned made with Suntory Hibiki Harmony Whisky, Legent Bourbon, Passionfruit Liqueur, Cinnamon Demerara Syrup, Angostura Bitters and Peychaud’s Bitters. “The result is a spirit-forward sipper that tropical and floral. Legent is a newly released bourbon that blends straight bourbon with bourbons finished in red wine and sherry casks for a complex and layered finish,” said head bartender Dylan Knox.
Palio di Siena
At Officina in Washington DC, the Palio di Siena is made with Old Forester Bonded Bourbon, Cynar, Fernet Branca, Demerara, and mint. “This is an Italian twist on a Mint Julep. Palio di Siena are the most famous Italian horse races in Tuscany. To add to the herbal and bitter notes we add classic Italian Amari, Cynar and Fernet Branca. Bonded Bourbon add a little extra intensity and kick. We serve it over cobbled ice in a Julep Cup with a mint garnish,” said beverage director John Filkins.
Hi-Octane Cherry Coke
At Michael Symon’s Mabel’s BBQ in Las Vegas, the Hi-Octane Cherry Coke is made with Old Crow, Berentzen Cherry Liqueur, amaretto, amaretto-soaked cherry and Coca Cola to top. “The High Octane Cherry Coke was designed to capture the feeling of a classic 1950s backyard summer barbecue. The original Mabel’s in Cleveland has this great mid-century aesthetic, with this great mint green bar inspired by a mid-century Coleman cooler, and I wanted to capture that in a drink. Since both Mabel’s (Vegas and Cleveland) are so bourbon heavy, I also wanted a good entry-level drink for those who wanted to get into bourbon but who haven’t acquired the taste yet,” said beverage director David Earle.
At Le Coq Rico in New York City, this drink is made with bourbon, Cabernet Sauvignon, crème de mure, Peychaud’s bitters and muddled rosemary. “Bourbon and wine both have a unique spot in our hearts, however for some kind of obscure reason they are considered as part of two different worlds. It is not common to find them together in the same drink. For all of you who might think bourbon and wine aren’t meant for each other, try The Nest. It’s the perfect blend between the caramel and vanilla flavors of Jim Beam bourbon, and the softness of cabernet sauvignon red wine (from Sand Point, at Lodi, CA),” said beverage manager Eric Laugier.
Coppin’s Summer Manhattan
At Coppin’s at the Hotel Covington in Covington, Kentucky, this Manhattan is a play on a classic cocktail called The Chauncey. “Our variation combines bourbon, bourbon barrel aged gin, Kentucky Brandy, vermouth, and orange bitters, giving a unique and bright twist to the traditional Manhattan,” said Robert Cate, food and beverage manager at Coppin’s.
The John Wayne
At JIMMY at The James in New York City, this drink is made with Duke Bourbon, smoked simple syrup, angostura bitters, and orange. “The John Wayne cocktail is a twist on an Old Fashioned and is inspired by the legendary actor. We use Duke Bourbon as a nod to his nickname, “Duke,” and pair it with a smoked simple syrup to give it that campfire meets Classic Western John Wayne feel,” said co-owner and mixologist Johnny Swet.
At the The Outsider rooftop in Milwaukee, this riff on the classic Julep is made with Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, Maker’s Mark Bourbon, pecan orgeat syrup, Mathilde Creme De Peche, Bitter Truth Peach Bitters and fresh mint. “Perfect for hot summer days, this cocktail is Bourbon-forward with flavors of peach, coconut, spice and a cooling minty note. Mathilde’s Crème De Peche provides a bright, sweet and fruity top note to pair with the rich and spicy Bourbons, while the pecan orgeat brings a nutty roundness to what can otherwise be a thin, stiff drink,” said general manager Tim Prendergast.
At Lionfish at Pendry San Diego, this drink is made with Bulleit Bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Maraschino, Cinnamon, Angostura. “Lionfish’s twist on the classic Old Fashioned uses a fantastic light amaro and a hint of cherry liqueur for its sweeter components instead of the traditional sugar like most variations of this cocktail. A bit of cinnamon and zest of orange help to round out the flavors and bring a unique spin to an old school favorite,” says mixologist Micah Scott.
This cocktail at Zero Restaurant + Bar in Charleston, South Carolina is made with EH Taylor Bourbon, Giffard Pamplemousse, Punt E Mes, Cynar. “The Colonel Mustard got its name from the bourbon used and the board game Clue; the bourbon is Eh Taylor bourbon, which is a preference by most men especially here in the south. The cocktail is led by its bourbon flavor as it is straight booze, while the remaining ingredients put the flavor profile of the drink more on the bitter side of the scale than sweet or fruity,” said Cody Held, Beverage Manager.
No Fig Deal
Available at Bardo in Charlotte, North Carolina, this cocktail is made with Old Forester Signature Bourbon, balsamic glazed fig, honey, and bitters. “An Old Fashioned is the kind of cocktail that when you love it, you tend to fall back on ordering it again and again, so I like to keep a variation on the menu at bardo at all times – it helps those who are comfortable sticking with their usual bourbon-forward Old Fashioned to take a small step outside of their comfort zone. I love figs and the kind of deep sweet they bring to cocktails, so I thought the pairing balsamic glazed fig would work well with the Old Forester bourbon in this cocktail, and also give a few guests their first experience at vinegar used in cocktails. It’s really No Fig Deal!” said Amanda Britton, beverage director.