Although the original recipe for an Old Fashioned calls for a spicy rye whiskey as the base, many drinkers now mix the cocktail with a measure of bourbon. While either way is technically correct, often a high-rye bourbon—or an overproof one—bests overly-saccharine, vanilla-heavy bourbons. If you’re looking for the best bourbon to mix in your Old Fashioned, these golden drams are a great place to start. From bottled-in-bond bourbon, to more classic Kentucky Straight Bourbon, here are the five best bourbons to use in your Old Fashioned.
Bottled at 100 proof, this high-rye bourbon brings a peppery spiciness and brazenly boozy lift to any Old Fashioned. Sweet, sour and woodsy, with a bold hit of allspice, this flavorful bourbon will give your cocktail depth and character. To make your cocktail extra rich and aromatic, add a few extra hefty dashes of Angostura or orange bitters.
If you like your Old Fashioned uber-spicy, with loads of ginger and black pepper heat on the palate, this is the whiskey for you. Made with a high-rye mashbill, Bulleit Bourbon has all the pepper of a traditional rye, with the mellow, caramel corn and vanilla flavors of a bourbon. Beyond its piquant flavors, the spirit also lends its creamy, mouth coating viscosity, and oaky heft to the drink. Best of all, it can be found on just about every back bar.
Essentially the original Jim Beam and then some, this bonded-bourbon is big, bold and boozy. With a viscous heft, notes of caramel corn, sarsaparilla, charred oak and white pepper, this spirit gives your Old Fashioned serious cajones. If you haven’t had an Old Fashioned with Jim Beam Bonded, do yourself a solid and buy a bottle on your way home from work.
Even though the Yellow Label bottling is the entry level bourbon in the Four Roses line-up, it happens to be the brand’s most drinkable spirit. An ideal bourbon for mixing, this ethereal dram will make an Old Fashioned that’s light, mellow, floral and almost fruity (garnish your cocktail with an edible flower or a swath of citrus to give these flavors an added boost). Dangerously quaffable, this whiskey could become one of your new go-tos for mixing.
This luxuriously smooth Kentucky bourbon creates an Old Fashioned that’s elegant, rich and velvety on the palate. With a woodsy, honeyed flavor, loaded with vanilla, allspice and toasted almond, this spirit is the most classically bourbon-esque on the palate. Like other Kentucky Straight Bourbons on this list, Knob Creek is bottled at a whopping 100 proof, which gives stirred cocktails backbone and bite. When making your Old Fashioned, make sure to use a traditional gomme syrup, which will play up the bourbon’s inherent viscosity, and give the drink a dramatic heft that lingers long after you sip it.