Picking the best bourbon cocktail to serve at a backyard brouhaha for the 4th of July is a tough task. Bourbon is a very versatile whiskey that ebbs and flows between corn-sugar sweet, rye grain spicy, and woody, aged subtlety. There can be big notes of florals and orchard fruits or whispers of smoke and old leather. There’s a lot to work with, is what we’re saying.
The best bourbon cocktail is one that’ll please a crowd flavor-wise while getting them buzzed in the process. With that goal, bourbon can stand in for well-aged rum, fruity brandy, or hang on its own. To help you decide which bourbon cocktail you should consider highlighting this 4th of July, we thought we’d cobble together a list of our eight favorites. This rundown includes a few classics, a few ragers, and a few remixes — they’re all ready for a day of reveling from BBQ time until the last firework sputters in the night sky.
Bluegrass Mai Tai
A Mai Tai is a classic Tiki drink with a dark rum base. But if something uses dark rum, it can certainly use dark bourbon. Mai Tais are a blend of citrus-forward fruits, fatty almond, orange essence, and spicy booze. Find a high rye bourbon that also has a high ABV (think Wild Turkey 101) to help amp up the spiciness. Otherwise, you can build a Mai Tai with bourbon exactly as you would build one with rum.
Build in a cocktail shaker and pour into a pint glass as follows.
- 2 oz. high-proof bourbon
- .75 oz. Grand Marnier (or orange curaçao)
- .75 oz. fresh lime juice
- .75 oz. Orgeat
- Fill with ice and shake for ten seconds
- Pour into a chilled pint glass and top up with more ice
- Float a 0.5 oz. bourbon over the top
- Garnish with an orange wheel, cherry, and dusting of nutmeg