Bourbon – Recipe from David Embury’s ‘The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks’

Bourbon blends with other flavours, particularly non-aromatic flavours, better than rye, and cognac blends better than apple brandy. Also, lemon juice is usually preferable to lime juice in making whisky cocktails. In the following cocktails, unless otherwise specified, ‘whisky’ means either rye or bourbon, but preferably the latter. 


1 part Benedictine 

1 part Curacao 

2 parts Lemon Juice 

6 parts Bourbon

1 dash Angostura to each drink

Shake with cracked ice. 

Note that in the above recipe I have varied materially from the 1-2-8 formula. Whisky fights so strongly for supremacy of flavour in any drink that, in order to bring out the flavour of other ingredients to any appreciable degree, it may frequently be necessary to cut down on the amount of whiskey and increase the amount of the other liquors.

I tend to find Bourbon a little sweeter than Rye and Cognac, although I prefer the fruitiness that Applejack brings to that of Cognac, I’ve also found this year that Applejack tends to blend better with other spirits, its almost a little chameleonlike when mixed, picking up characteristics of the other spirits and amplifying them a little.

There are lots of exceptions to this however, and at a whisky class the other day we tasted Lot 46 rye from Canada next to some others and I was very surprised by its smoothness and sweetness, to the point of it becoming a little of a favourite.

Lemon goes better with whiskey than lime as its all citric acid, and as a short sharp flavour, as Lime has malic acid as well it has more length on the palate. Whiskey generally also has shorter length so the lemon pairs better.

This is a strange name for the drink, I would have thought a ‘Bourbon Cocktail’ would be more akin to the Old Fashioned family, for it to be a sour style drink is a bit of a anomaly in Embury’s taxonomy.

The drink is as you’d expect, the Benedictine doesn’t show so well, and the curacao gets a little lost in the lemon, producing a simple Bourbon sour at the end of the day, a bit of an anti-climax.