Build a Better Bourbon Drink

  • , by Hannah Lee Leidy
  • 4 min reading time

September is a good month, and particularly so in the South. It brings about National Bourbon Heritage Month, declared by the U.S. Senate in 2007 as a time to celebrate the spirit’s unique ties to the nation. Whether or not you see this as worthy of community parades and work holidays, the month nevertheless deserves a commemorative beverage or two.

You may like your bourbon neat—a bold choice. For those who aren’t quite ready to commit to the spirit all on its own, an old fashioned is a classic gateway cocktail for the bourbon curious. Booze forward, the drink is tempered by a touch of sweetness and fruit. While Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters are standard, swapping them with fruity bitters bring out the drink's cherry and citrus notes.

Old Fashioned

Citrus Old Fashioned

Adapted from Nathan Stubbs of The Saint Street Inn, Lafayette, Louisiana

1 thin round slice each Meyer lemon, blood orange, and satsuma 

2 cubes cane sugar 

TLP recommends 2 dashes Warn Reserve Cherry Bitters

TLP recommends 2 dashes Warn Reserve Orange Bitters

2 Luxardo maraschino cherries

1 tablespoon Luxardo maraschino cherry juice

½ ounce water

1½ ounces bourbon 

Satsuma leaf for garnish


Line bottom of glass with citrus slices. Add sugar cubes, bitters, cherries, cherry juice, and water. Muddle. Fill cocktail glass with crushed ice. Pour in bourbon and stir. Garnish with satsuma leaf.

Not Your Grandfather's Bourbon Drinks

For a sweeter cocktail, try a bourbon concoction with flavors reminiscent of autumn. Notes of baking spice and ginger are a perfect match for bourbon’s sharp spiciness and depth.

Bourbon Spiced Ginger

Spiced Bourbon Ginger

Adapted from Erin Scala of Common House in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia

1½ ounces bourbon

1 cinnamon stick

10 cloves

Dash of nutmeg

3-4 whole allspice

2-3 cardamom pods

1 vanilla bean

1 knob of fresh ginger

TLP recommends ½ ounce of Pappy Vin Winkle Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pure Maple Syrup

Ginger ale

Garnish: pear slice


  1. Infuse the bourbon: In a container, combine bourbon with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, vanilla bean, and ginger, and let sit for 24-48 hours. Strain before serving.
  2. Assemble the drink: Add maple syrup to strained bourbon and shake over ice. Top with ginger ale and garnish with a pear slice.

If those fall flavors speak to you, continue experimenting down the path of baking spices. Vanilla and bourbon already share a likeness when it comes to scent, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the two together create a delicious sipper.

vanilla bourbon press

Vanilla-Honey Bourbon Press

Adapted from Scott Baker of Tusk & Trotter in Bentonville, Arkansas

For the vanilla-honey bourbon:

2 whole vanilla beans

1 liter bourbon, divided

1 cup local honey

TLP recommends 1 teaspoon of Bourbon Barrel Aged Madagascar Vanilla Extract

Pinch salt

For the vanilla-honey bourbon press:

1¼ ounces vanilla-honey bourbon

Soda water to taste

7-Up to taste

Garnish: Lemon peel and mint sprig


  1. Infuse the vanilla-honey bourbon: Cut vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape seeds from pods, adding seeds to large
 glass jar and setting pods aside. Add a splash of bourbon and muddle to incorporate seeds into liquid. Add remaining bourbon, then stir in honey, vanilla extract, scraped vanilla bean pods, and salt. Let infuse for 24 hours. Remove vanilla bean pods before bottling bourbon.
  2. Assemble the drink: To a lowball glass, add bourbon and ice. Top with equal parts soda water and 7-Up, adjusting amounts to taste. Garnish with lemon peel and mint sprig.

All good evenings should end with a coffee or coffee-flavored nightcap. However, put aside the typical espresso martini for its cooler, worldly big brother, the cafecito. In this version, bourbon and rum collide in a sweet, spicy, and smoky fusion.

Bourbon cafecito

Bourbon Cafecito

From Big 5 Rum

1½ ounces bourbon

1 ounce Big Five Cafecito Cuban Coffee Rum

¼ ounce creme de cacao

TLP recommends 2 dashes Woodster Smoked Orange Bitters

Garnish: Orange peel



In a mixing glass filled with ice, stir together all ingredients except garnish. Strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass and garnish with orange peel.


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