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The House of Bourbon: Classic American Cocktails

After baseball, apple pie, and reality television, there’s nothing more American than bourbon whiskey. It’s true—this liquor traces its roots back to the eighteenth century in Bourbon County, Kentucky, and just like only sparkling wine from the Champagne region can be labeled “Champagne,” only whiskey from the United States can be called “bourbon.” While drinking bourbon neat or on the rocks may only be for those stout of heart and strong of stomach, bourbon’s sweetness and smokiness make it a perfect choice for mixing in cocktails. Whether you’re toasting the Kentucky Derby or just the arrival of the weekend, relax with one of these classic cocktails using our favorite homegrown spirit.

Mint Julep

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Put on a giant hat and break out your ladylike fan, because the mint julep is a classic Southern summer cocktail that’s refreshing and potent. I do declare that this recipe from the Food Network is just about perfect.

Photo credit: zapppowbang


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Legend has it that the first old-fashioned was crafted at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Like the one in this recipe from Bourbon Blog, it contains bitters, bourbon, sugar, and fruit, which adds a sweet twist to the smoky spirit.

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Perhaps no cocktail is more gentlemanly than the resolute Manhattan. It showcases the fine taste gradations of quality bourbon while augmenting the flavor with vermouth and just the smallest amount of bitters. A Manhattan, like this one from Epicurean, is as appropriate for a winter brunch as it is for a summer evening.

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John Collins

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Don’t make the mistake of calling this classic cocktail by its common name—the “whiskey sour.” A cousin of the gin-based Tom Collins, the John Collins contains bourbon, simple syrup, soda water, a spritz of lemon, and a maraschino cherry.

Photo credit: "Wikimedia Commons

Bourbon Sidecar

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A traditional sidecar is made with cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice and is served in a sugar-dusted martini glass. This variation on the original, from the New York TimesEric Asimov, replaces the cognac with bourbon for a sweeter twist.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Lynchburg Lemonade

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Since Jack Daniels is an American whiskey, it can properly be called bourbon, although some purists consider “Tennessee whiskey” to be a separate category of spirit. Regardless, this recipe for a vat of Lynchburg lemonade can be made with Jack Daniels or any other bourbon to satisfy a group of friends on a hot summer day.

Photo credit: Dana Moos

Brown Derby

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Bourbon + fruit juice and honey = a delicious breakfast or brunch cocktail. The brown derby is a tangy concoction of bourbon and grapefruit juice.

Photo credit: Jing a Ling

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