What Bourbon to Drink According to How You Drink

When it comes to drinking bourbon, there are no rules. Though many would like you to believe that whiskey should always be sipped neat with nary a drop of water, the truth is bourbon shines just about any way you spin it: on its own, with ice, in cocktails, accompanied by soda. What is up for some debate, though, is the particular bourbon that’s best to drink in certain contexts. No matter what you need out of a bourbon, there’s one that’s right for you. Here, which bourbon to drink for every type of drinker.

The Cocktailian: Four Roses Yellow Label, $20

Inexpensive bourbons don’t get much more versatile than this classic bottling from Four Roses, so if you’re a fan of cocktails, this is a surefire way to get a great result every time. With a light, citrusy and honeyed flavor, it works well in everything from a Manhattan to a Whiskey Sour, showing up with that classic bourbon flavor while leaving plenty of room for other ingredients to shine through as well.

The Straight Sipper: Jefferson’s Ocean, $90

It’s not often that you get a bourbon that’s more well-traveled than you are, but this special bottling from Jefferson’s probably is. By the time it’s bottled, the bourbon will have crossed the equator four times, visited five continents and made a pitstop at 30 ports along the way. That’s because it’s aged on a boat, an unusual process that gives the whiskey a briny, rich flavor that’s great for sipping on its own or over ice while you dream of your next vacation.

The Soda Mixer: Wild Turkey 101, $22

Whether you like mixing your bourbon with Coca-Cola, root beer or some other fizzy soda, this high-proof spirit from Wild Turkey has everything you need. It has that classic vanilla-flecked bourbon flavor that pairs well with sweet mixers and it’s strong enough to not get lost after a couple of sips. The best part is it has an incredibly reasonable price point, so you’ll be able to get some serious whiskey and soda bang for your buck.

Long a staple of college dorm rooms, it doesn’t take a degree to see why this is a great choice for lovers of the humble shot: The price. You’ll be pleased to know that for two sawbucks, you can take home nearly two liters of bourbon that tastes pretty darn great.

Bourbon enthusiasts are all exceedingly aware of the cultish followings some bottles have attracted, and love chasing after certain pricy, well-regarded bottles. Though Pappy Van Winkle is the most well-known of these, this annual release from Heaven Hill is also highly sought-after and, some might say, even more delicious. Clocking in at $250 per bottle, the hefty price tag is rewarded with exuberant flavors of baking spice, bitter chocolate and plenty of woody goodness—perfect for the high rollers among us.

The Power Player: Stagg Jr. Barrel Proof Bourbon, $85

If your main focus when choosing a bourbon is finding one that will let you know you’re alive each time you take a sip, this high proof bourbon is the way to go. At a rambunctious 134.4 proof (that’s 67.2 percent ABV), you might wonder what hit you when you take your first sip. Luckily, the heat will eventually die down a bit, leaving you with plenty of delightful burnt caramel, dried cherry and peppercorn flavor.

Made in Brooklyn, New York, this whiskey doesn’t fit the usual profile for a bourbon: It’s made from a mash bill consisting primarily of organic dark red endosperm corn, along with heirloom barley and rye, all of which is GMO-free. And this focus on the ingredients has a huge impact on its flavor, yielding many of the traditional rich, woody notes, but also plenty of nutty and fruity flavors that make each sip of this ruby-tinged spirit interesting for even the nerdiest bourbon lover.