We Asked Bartenders To Tell Us The Best Mixing Bourbons

We understand that to some of you, the idea of mixing a well-made bourbon into a cocktail is borderline blasphemy. The thought of not slowly sipping on that long-aged, hand-crafted spirit is just too much to handle. There’s a case to be made for that, but we also love bourbon-based cocktails. And we’d rather not have ours made with bottom-of-the-shelf well swill.

Will Benedetto, director of bars for IGC Hospitality in New York City looks no further than one of the most awarded, highly acclaimed distilleries in America while mixing up his bourbon cocktails.

“If an alien came down from space and asked me ‘what does bourbon taste like?’ I’d hand them a heavy pour of Woodford Reserve and then ask them why they built all those pyramids,” he says. “Woodford is just the most classic bourbon for a cocktail.”

Darron Foy, head bartender at The Flatiron Room in New York City prefers another notable brand.

“At the moment I’m loving Eagle Rare, but I still sometimes cringe if I have to mix it,” he says. “If you decide not to sip it, there are a lot of robust flavors for a bourbon — not as sweet as some.”

With a whole lot of juice to choose from, we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to bourbons for mixing.

Evan Williams Black Label

Will Witherow, beverage director at Live Oak in Alexandria, Virginia

I love to mix with Evan Williams Black Label. This whiskey is affordable and very versatile. It has a nice oak and caramel flavor which is great in a cocktail as well as on its own. Evan Williams Black Label is what we use in our house Old Fashioned at Live Oak and it’s our best seller.

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Will Benedetto, director of bars for IGC Hospitality in New York City

It’s charming. You splash it into ginger ale and play cards with your parents or put on a seersucker suit and respectfully request it from the bar at the swankiest of galas. I genuinely can’t think of a cocktail be it my own or a classic that Woodford wouldn’t perform admirably in.

Hillrock Solera Aged

Darron Foy, head bartender at The Flatiron Room in New York City

For mixing, I would use Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon or something with more bite like Booker’s. Again, I like to ensure I can taste the alcohol while it marries with the other ingredients of the cocktail.

Maker’s Mark

Matt Catchpole, general manager at Terra in Columbia, South Carolina

If you’re picking a bourbon to mix with, it has to be something you wouldn’t mind drinking neat. I think Maker’s Mark is the perfect all-purpose mixing bourbon. Great whiskey for the price point.

Buffalo Trace

Wade McElroy, director of food and beverage development at Fieldhouse Jones in Nashville

Depending on the style of cocktail I’m making, I often go with bonded bourbons. For all-purpose mixing, I think Buffalo Trace is the standard.

Old Forester 1870

Erin Ward, corporate beverage director of Alicart Restaurant Group in New York City

I love bourbon-based cocktails. If I’m making one, I want the flavors of the whiskey to be center stage. That’s why I go with Old Forester 1870. It is not too expensive and is a very well balanced bourbon.

Angel’s Envy Port Wine Finish

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Sorry it’s a bit late again for this weeks second review, but without further ado, let’s get into something that most of you have probably heard of, in honor of @angelsenvy and their new Sherry release (no this isn’t it but I wish I could get my hands on a bottle haha) is the Port finished Angels Envy. I’ve always been a fan of Angels Envy and haven’t had an expression of theirs I didn’t love. The port finish adds some fantastic fruity notes to this bourbon. On the nose however, it’s almost straight vanilla and brown sugar, very sweet nose but not entirely the same on the palate. On the palate I get brown sugar and blueberries (the blueberries part pointed out to me by @mitten63 and he’s right), the finish is more of that brown sugar with a bit of nice Kentucky heat. All in all a delicious bourbon that is always something I know I can find and trust. But, as always this is an opportunity for a conversation, so let me know what you think. And as always, cheers 🥃 #whiskey #bourbon #bourbonwhiskey #kentucky #kentuckybourbon #kentuckybourbonwhiskey #kentuckywhiskey #american #americanbourbon #americanwhiskey #americanbourbonwhiskey #straightbourbon #straightbourbonwhiskey #kentuckystraightbourbonwhiskey #whiskeyporn #bourbonporn #bourbonreview #whiskeyreview #angelsenvy #angelsenvybourbon #angelsenvyportfinish #angelsenvyportcask #angelsenvydistillery #thewolfofwhiskey #the_wolf_of_whiskey

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Sarah Turbett, bar manager at Oak Steakhouse in Nashville

Angel’s Envy Bourbon has to be one of the most versatile products on the market. Finished in port wine casks, this bourbon is incredibly balanced and smooth, with notes of vanilla, ripe fruit, and toast on the palate. Angel’s Envy is a staple at my bar where I use it as the base for my signature Manhattan, and also my home where it plays well with just about anything I have available.

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

Gary Wallach, director of food & beverage for Arlo SoHo in New York City

At Arlo, Woodford Reserve is a go-to Bourbon (specifically Double Oaked). The history of this brand comes out in every bottle, and not many have the ability to hit the flavor wheel so well. Plenty of barrel on the whiskey, yet the honeysuckle, black pepper, almond, and rye notes come soaring through the cocktail. Powerful in anything shaken or stirred.

Elijah Craig Small Batch

Jef Tate, head bartender at Janitor’s Closet in Chicago

In a sea of reasonably-priced mixing bourbons, you can’t go wrong with Elijah Craig Small batch. It has a great profile that still stands out in a cocktail.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded

Dean Brown, Bar Director at Kissaki in New York City

Old Grand-Dad Bonded is the first thing I grab for any classic shaken cocktails like a Gold Rush. I like higher proof spirits in shaken drinks, as they dilute more and make otherwise harsh flavors long and mellow.

Belle Meade Bourbon

Seth Weinberg, head bartender at Bourbon Steak in Nashville

I like using Belle Meade Bourbon to mix cocktails with. Belle Meade has a high rye content, a fair amount of age, and at 45.2% all these factors make it a great Bourbon to hold up well in cocktails.

Angel’s Envy Sherry Finish

Eric Godfrey, bartender at Industry Kitchen in New York City

I love Angel’s Envy Sherry Finish because it’s a well-rounded, superb bourbon with hints of sweetness and subtle acidity from the port barrels it was rested in. The distillery itself is fantastic.

J.T.S. Brown

Kyle Ritchie, bar manager, Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Oregon

We love pretty much anything bonded, but we’re going to have to stick with JTS brown. It’s a higher rye mash bill adds that bit of spice that helps it shine through when it’s mixed and being a bonded bourbon it holds up to dilution without losing too much body.

Michter’s Small Batch

Zachary Gross, Beverage Director of Sen Sakana in New York City

For mixing into classic cocktails, I’ve been enjoying Michter’s Small Batch Bourbon. It makes a killer old fashioned which is a testament to any good Bourbon.

Belle Meade Sherry

Mike Wolf, author of Garden to Glass: Grow Your Drinks from the Ground Up

When it comes to mixing, Belle Meade Sherry Bourbon is hard to beat for the robust flavor profile yet smooth finish. It mixes well into your favorite cocktails but is also a perfect sipping whiskey.