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Bartenders Call Out The Best Bourbons For Mixing Into An Old Fashioned

Every cocktail bar seems to have its own take on the classic old fashioned cocktail. For fans of boozy cocktails, this definitely isn’t a bad thing. A well-made old fashioned with its sugar, water, Angostura bitters, and whiskey (usually rye or bourbon) with orange oils and a cherry garnish is simple, elegant, and perfectly warming on a cold winter night.

As with all cocktails, it’s all about the balance between the ingredients. Nobody wants an overly sweet old fashioned and if it’s too boozy, you might as well simply drink your favorite whiskey on the rocks.

While we love a spicy, peppery rye whiskey old fashioned, today we’re turning our attention to sweeter, corn-centric bourbon. To find the best bottles, we asked some notable bartenders and mixologists to tell us their favorite bourbons to mix into a wintry old fashioned. Keep scrolling to see all of their picks.

Basil Hayden

Basil Hayden Bourbon
Basil Hayden

Aaron Ramirez, lead bartender at The Restaurant at Mr. C Beverly Hills in Los Angeles

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $45

Why This Bourbon?

The best bourbon to mix into an old fashion is Basil Hayden. It has subtle flavors and a smooth finish. There’s a great balance between the bitters and a sugar cube. No flavor overpowers the drink.

Knob Creek 12

Knob Creek 12
Knob Creek

Christopher Rodriguez, lead bartender at Lucy Restaurant & Bar in Yountville, California

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $65

Why This Bourbon?

The best bourbon for an old fashion is anything 100-110 proof that has great spice and oaky characteristics. I would have to choose Knob Creek 12 because of its bold flavor that shines with the sugar that is used to make an old fashioned.

Stagg, Jr.

Stagg, Jr.
Buffalo Trace

Mark Phelan, beverage director at 16″ On Center in Chicago

ABV: 63.2%

Average Price: $150

Why This Bourbon?

Overproof bourbon is perfect for an old fashioned, and my favorite to date is Stagg Jr. Bottled each year at barrel-proof, it’s a true ripper to sip on its own. But in a well-made old fashioned, the rich complexity of the bourbon sings on the palate in a manner that approaches true bliss.

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve
Woodford Reserve

Marla White, lead bartender at Lona Cocina & Tequileria in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

ABV: 45.2%

Average Price: $40

Why This Bourbon?

Woodford Reserve is the best bourbon to mix into an old fashioned because they now make their own line of aromatic and orange bitters. Their master distillers have made it a one-stop-shop for bartenders when making an old fashioned. They can create a perfect pairing by using all in-house ingredients. Using a demerara syrup makes a fantastic classic cocktail but take it up a notch by mixing with a cinnamon simple syrup. It will bring out cocoa and spices of the Woodford Reserve Bourbon setting your old fashion apart from the rest.

Weller Full Proof

Weller Full Proof
Buffalo Trace

Federico Doldi, bartender at Gansevoort Meatpacking in New York City

ABV: 57%

Average Price: $500

Why This Bourbon?

Weller Full Proof is what fans of fruity and rich flavors are looking for: Vanilla, oak, cinnamon, caramel, and a full mouth of taste that lasts for long. The problem is that it’s not easy to find without paying after-market prices.

Old Forester 100

Old Forester 100
Old Forester

Lewis Caputa, lead bartender of Rosina inside The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $30

Why This Bourbon?

Old Forester 100 is my pick because I like an old fashioned that has a bold taste to it and Old Forester delivers this in spades with its chocolate notes. The high alcohol content also stands up well with the sweeter flavors.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed

Wild Turkey Rare Breed
Wild Turkey

Nicholas Bennett, beverage director at Porchlight in New York City

ABV: 54.1%

Average Price: $45

Why This Bourbon?

I really like Wild Turkey Rare Breed. I want a high proof spirit with a high-rye mash bill when I am using a bourbon for my old fashioned and Wild Turkey uses the same high-rye mash bill for all its products. I guess because of the low proof for a barrel-proof bourbon, or possibly because the packaging just doesn’t scream “pick me up!”, this bottle doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves.

Barrel Dovetail

Barrel Dovetail
Barrel

Robert Kidd, bar manager at Le Cavalier in Wilmington, Delaware

ABV: 61.45%

Average Price: $85

Why This Bourbon?

I have been using Barrel Dovetail for my old fashioneds lately. The barrel strength is higher proof but has an incredible depth of flavor. This flavor is rich with notes of maple and caramel. Just add a bar spoon of demerara syrup and bitters and stir. The stir will bring that proof down a bit. This will really take the burn out and replace it with an amazing rich spiced flavor.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded

Old Grand-Dad Bonded
Jim Beam

Lee Noble, lead mixologist at Art in the Age in Philadelphia

ABV: 50%

Average Price: $20

Why This Bourbon?

Old Grand-Dad Bottled in Bond in my pick. It’s a great value and at 100 proof and high rye content, it will still pack a punch even after being sweetened and diluted in the cocktail.

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel
Elijah Craig

Zach Wilks, bartender at Anthony’s Chophouse in Carmel, Indiana

ABV: 47%

Average Price: $150

Why This Bourbon?

Oh man, this is a tough one because there are so many great bourbons that bring so many different qualities to a properly made old fashioned. I’m going to have to say Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel made the best old fashioned I’ve had in a long time. It gets finished in a second custom toasted barrel that brings out really beautiful baking spice and brown sugar flavors. If you can get your hands on a bottle, I highly suggest making a proper old fashioned with it.

Rowan’s Creek

Rowan’s Creek
Rowan

Andrew Bone, manager at Devereaux in Chicago

ABV: 50.05%

Average Price: $45

Why This Bourbon?

Rowan’s Creek has a subtle note of cinnamon to it that stands out with the addition of Angostura Bitters. It gives me more of a winter spice profile. With old fashioneds you really need a good whiskey as it takes up such a large portion of the cocktail.

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace
Buffalo Trace

Andres Bedoya, bartender at The Apothecary 330 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

ABV: 45%

Average Price: $25

Why This Bourbon?

For an old fashioned, my go-to is Buffalo Trace. The brand is a staple in the bourbon community known for distilling consistently quality bourbons. It isn’t too sweet and once the fine flavors from bitters and demerara are added, Buffalo Trace perfectly blends those taste notes to produce a great old fashioned.

Woodford Reserve Double Oak

Woodford Reserve Double Oak
Woodford Reserve

John “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick, spiritual advisor at Warren American Whiskey Kitchen in Delray, Florida

ABV: 45.2%

Average Price: $50

Why This Bourbon?

Woodford Double Oaked has been my go-to for the best balanced old fashioned since the first time I tried it. It is robust and rich enough to complement the sweet element but not over the top expensive. It’s delicious and toasty. Perfection in a bottle.

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