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Bartenders Tell Us Their Favorite Cocktails For National Bourbon Day

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Scotland has Scotch and France has Cognac. The U.S. has bourbon. It’s the one spirit that is truly American. It’s up there with bald eagles, jorts, and walking on the moon as one of the most American things ever. It’s pretty much the stars and stripes in a glass. And, since we have a lot of respect for our country, we have a lot of respect for its native spirit. So much respect that we created a holiday in its honor (National Bourbon Day). And, wouldn’t you know it, that day just so happens to be today.

So, we’ve established that we’ll all be drinking bourbon all day in celebration. We’re pretty sure you don’t even to hide a flask in your desk drawer. It’s Bourbon day, you can yell! Just pour a round for all your coworkers, stand atop your ergonomic, lumbar-support desk chair and chant USA! USA! USA! while chugging the rest of the bottle (Protip: Remember to pack all your things up in a box ahead of time. That way — you don’t have to make security just stand around while you’re grabbing staplers and plants. Really will make the process go faster).

And as you savor (or chug) your Bourbon, you could go the simple route and grab a bottle of Woodford Reserve, Booker’s, Blanton’s, or Old Grand Dad and sip on that sweet sweet goodness on ice. Or, you can listen to some of our favorite bartenders and try it mixed into a cocktail. Check out their favorites below because whether you’re lounging at a bar, relaxing on the porch, or watching constant replays of the Kentucky Derby, these are the bourbon drinks you should have in hand.

The Boulevardier – Sean Rawlinson, co-owner of Macchina in New York City

“The Boulevardier is basically the leaner and meaner, bastard brother of the Negroni, and a nice alternative to an Old-Fashioned or Manhattan. Like a Negroni, it’s made with Campari and sweet vermouth, with bourbon substituted for gin. I would have put this cocktail, which dates back to the late 1920s, on the watch list for extinction… but we hope to spark its revival here at Macchina. This is actually one of the few classic Italian cocktails that features bourbon. To me, this is the perfect compromise, as I like a good Negroni, but ultimately prefer a brown, American base spirit. It’s a drink that was essentially born in Italy, but sent to boarding school in the States.”

Whiskey Sour – Devin Chapnick, lead bartender at Poka Lola in Denver

“Bourbon is one of those spirits that requires restraint when it comes to creating a cocktail. The landscape of bourbon is easily overwhelmed, and what makes it so special is its subtleties. That’s why it works so well for Old Fashioneds. But with the right bourbon, and restraint, I feel the classic Whiskey Sour stands out as my favorite. Fresh juice and egg white can provide a stimulating environment for such delicate flavors that bourbon has to offer. By taking another step away from drinking straight spirit, the sour offers a different angle to appreciate the flavors you love anyway.”

Mint Julep – Kyle Davidson, beverage director at Elske in Chicago

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Enjoying a derby classic, The Mint Julep

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“My favorite bourbon cocktail is a mint julep, it is essentially an old fashioned that uses temperature and dilution instead of bitters to balance sweetness and is unmatched as a vehicle for making bourbon refreshing without taking away from its layered flavors. It’s not a gimmick that it comes in a metal cup, it really does help make the drink what it is, and I also enjoy the ritual of having a certain vessel for a certain drink that gets used only when making a mint julep. Like most drinks it’s been bastardized and actually made more complicated than it needs to be, as its just bourbon, sugar, and mint made very very cold over crushed ice, and a face full of mint for a garnish. “

Manhattan – John Bush, partner at Three Kings Restaurant Group in New York City

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