glass of bourbon and ice on wood with wooden background

How to Drink Bourbon: Your Expert Guide

A drink commonly associated with the southern half of the continental United States, Bourbon has become a point of pride in America’s history. Originating a few hundred years ago in the 18th century, Bourbon most likely originated in Kentucky thanks to the creativity and know-how of a few creative (and thirsty) Scottish immigrants.

Since its origin, bourbon has evolved and expanded to not just every corner of the country but the globe itself. For those wanting to dip their toes into the golden-brown waters of the bourbon world, this article will detail how to optimally enjoy American whiskey.

What Is Bourbon?

Bourbon is a drink that has incredible variety with a few distinctions it must follow to be considered bourbon. Firstly, it must be within the United States or a territory belonging to the United States. Second, it must be made from grain comprised of a mix that is mostly corn. Finally, it must be between 40% to 80% ABV (alcohol by volume.)

If liquors were appreciated for their looks exclusively, bourbon would be the belle of the bar. The drink has a dreamy golden-brown hue that is almost reflective when put under light. Bourbon usually goes down two paths in its flavor: sweet and smooth or spicy with an often sought-after bite.

While everyone in the United States is familiar with some of the lesser, bottom-shelf brands of bourbon, the drink is often considered a classy, refined drink for an older crowd.

What Is the Alcohol Content of Bourbon?

Bourbon has a wide range in potency, though it is limited by standard to never sit below 80-proof or 40% ABV. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Bourbon can not sit higher than 160-proof or 80% ABV. In between, you will find a wide range, primarily based on the company’s individual preference.

How to Serve Bourbon?

There are a few ways you can tackle bourbon, and all are entirely socially acceptable, though everyone has their opinion on the ideal method. For purists who enjoy a more expensive, sought-after brand of bourbon, straight-up will always be the most authentic method of taking in the complicated flavors of quality liquor.

If you are new to the drink, though, Bourbon can kick like a mule, and some ice thrown into the glass or even a splash of water can help contain the bold flavor. Bourbon is usually left in the bottle at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. However, if you plan to incorporate it into a cocktail, feel free to chill it in the freezer.

Grab a couple of Glencairn glasses to impress bourbon enthusiasts. These have become the go-to glass for testing and tasting higher-quality bourbon. If you are in a time crunch and need to use glasses available in your kitchen, try to find one with a notable taper on the top of the glass to get more of the aromas.

What Is a Serving Size of Bourbon?

The serving size of bourbon is 1.5 ounces, equivalent to one full shot glass. Remember that not all bourbons are created equal, and those on the upper end of 100-proof should be consumed moderately to avoid an unwanted hangover.

Can You Drink Bourbon Straight?

You can absolutely drink bourbon neat, and there are several excellent brands worth considering when you do. Outside of the bigger names in the industry that tend to dominate the public eye, plenty of worthwhile bourbons in your local liquor store are entirely worthy of an unfettered, individual tasting. That said, if you want something that's smoother and not as harsh, you can drink something like wine instead.

What Are the Best Mixers for Bourbon?

Bourbon is a friendly liquor that can happily integrate with several non-alcoholic beverages to calm its potent flavor. The most basic is water, which has always been a surprisingly good infusion with bourbon. More eccentrically, Coke, coffee, ginger ale, and even apple cider can make a fantastic marriage with a good bourbon.

What Other Liquors Go Well With Bourbon?

Bourbon can mix well with rum, amaretto, and, depending on the brands used, cognac. The sharp taste of bourbon works well with the sweeter flavors of the other liquors and can usually be paired to make some delicious cocktails. Bear in mind that no two brands taste the same, and experimentation can be risky without knowing both drinks.

What Are the Best Bourbon Recipes?

Bourbon is notoriously versatile in mixed beverages and has a wide range of cocktails it can be thrown into, from the Kentucky variant of the Moscow Mule to the endlessly classy Manhattan. The following are two more popular recipes you will find with bourbon.

Old Fashioned:

  • Mix a quarter ounce of simple syrup and a couple of shakes of Angostura bitters.
  • Pour two ounces of bourbon on top and add a few cubes of ice.
  • Stir for several seconds.
  • Enjoy!

Mint Julep

  • Pour half an ounce of simple syrup into a glass with six to eight mint leaves.
  • Muddle (or smash) mint leaves gently in the glass’s bottom.
  • Add two ounces of bourbon into the glass.
  • Fill to the brim with crushed ice.
  • Garnish with mint (optional)

These drinks are refreshing, and give an undeniable sense of class and refinement that is only slightly scandalous – but entirely delicious!

How to Prevent a Bourbon Hangover?

Bourbon can hit a person like a truck the following morning if they don’t prepare accordingly. The liquor is darker and comes with more risk of a morning migraine, though this can be minimized with an ample dinner before the drinking gets into full swing. Additionally, try to end the nice with a big glass of water or a drink with electrolytes.

Concise Summary of Bourbon

male bartender pouring bourbon from a glass bottle into a serving glass

Bourbon is an American whiskey that may be initially intimidating but is easy to get into for drinkers of any experience level. The liquor can be drunk neat, on the rocks, or with the addition of a gentle splash of water.

There is no shortage of brands to sample from, particularly in the United States, and the amount of cocktails available is hard to comprehend. For a sharp kick and a versatile liquor, Bourbon is an excellent choice for a fun night or a quiet, contemplative evening.

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