AMOG Guide to Bourbon: Straight Bourbon & Drinks

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must move away from beer.

We’re not saying to completely stop drinking beer. We’re saying that there will be times and occasions to grow up in terms of alcohol consumption. After-all, we can’t be a twenty-something forever, no matter how hard we try.

Instead of throwing back some brew-skies, why not class yourself up with a harder beverage, and, there’s probably nothing classier than a glass of whiskey. But, more specifically, a glass of good ol’ American bourbon.

What is bourbon?

Bourbon is an American whiskey which must have it’s grain mixture contain at least 51% of corn, although many distillers use 65% to 75%. Bourbon must also be aged for a minimum of two years in new, white oak barrels that have been charred. No additional ingredients that may alter the flavor, sweetness or color can be added during bottling. It can also not be higher than 160 proof (80% alcohol volume). While bourbon can be produced almost anywhere, Kentucky is the only state allowed to put its name on the bottle.

These regulations were established by the U.S. government in the The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits.


While the history of bourbon may not be well documented, we do know that it originated in Kentucky.

As pioneers and immigrants moved into the old Fayette County, which was originally a part of Virginia, during the 18th Century, distilling began to occur. This area included much of Eastern Kentucky near the Ohio River and was a major port. This county was later renamed Bourbon in honor of the French Royal family.

Despite being broken up into smaller counties, people continued to label their products with “Old Bourbon,” which informed buyers where the product originally came from. Eventually, the name stuck, and bourbon became the name for any corn-based whiskey.

Rev. Elijah Craig is sometimes credited with creating the corn-based whiskey and aging it in charred casks. While there is little credibility in his story, he did start a distillery in 1789 and has been immortalized with his own bottle of premium bourbon.

Others believe that Jacob Spears was the first to label his product as “Bourbon whiskey”. The story of Spears still remains popular in Bourbon County and is hardly repeated elsewhere.

In reality, there was probably no single inventor of bourbon, but rather, a combination of American resources and European knowledge.


Besides originating in Kentucky, it’s believed that the iron-free water that has been filtered through the high concentrations of limestone, which is unique to the area, is a crucial step in the production of bourbon.

This explains why the most-well known bourbon distilleries are located in Kentucky.

These include Jim Beam Brands, Maker’s Mark Distillery, The Wild Turkey Distillery, Heaven Hill Distilleries, Four Roses Distillery and Woodford Reserve. In fact, you can go on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and visit those six distilleries.

Today, however, many of these brands are under the umbrella of a larger company. For example, Fortune Brands owns Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, Baker’s, Old Crow and Old Grand-Dad.

Other bourbon distilleries include Barton Distilling, Old Rip VanWinkle Distillery, Buffalotrace Distillery, Mclain and Kyne Distillery Limited, Labrot and Graham Distillery (Brown Forman), A. Smith Bowman Distillery, Inc, The Old Pogue Distillery and Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd.

How to Drink Bourbon

OK, now it’s time for the fun part. Drinking bourbon.

The best way to fully enjoy the tastes and textures of a bourbon is by drinking it straight, or neat. This means that there are no added ingredients. Just the bourbon poured into a snifter and sipped.

Of course, drinking it straight may be too harsh. Which is why it is acceptable to dilute it with just a small amount of water, which can open up more aromas. You can also drink it on the rocks, which simply means pouring the bourbon over ice.

Bourbon, however, is also a versatile drink that works well in many cocktails. Here are some classic mixed drinks that contain bourbon.


  • 1 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 oz. Dry Vermouth
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Blackberry-Flavored Brandy
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Add a twist of lemon peel on top.

Anchors Away

  • 1 oz. Bourbon
  • 2 tsp. Triple Sec
  • 2 tsp. Peach Brandy
  • 2 tsp. Maraschino Liqueur
  • 2 tbsp. Heavy Cream
  • Several Drops Maraschino Cherry Juice

Mix with cracked ice in shaker or blender, serve in chilled old-fashioned glass.

Bourbon Highball

Fill highball glass with 2 oz. Bourbon, ginger ale or carbonated water, and ice cubes. Add a twist of lemon peel, if desired, and stir.

Chapel Hill

  • 1 1/2 oz. Bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. Triple Sec
  • 1 tbsp. Lemon Juice

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Add twist of orange peel.

The Derby

  • Ice
  • 1 ounce bourbon whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier or orange curaçao
  • Lime wedge or mint leaf, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add bourbon, lime, sweet vermouth, and Grand Marnier and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge or mint leaf.

Kentucky Cocktail

  • 3/4 oz. Pineapple Juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. Bourbon

Shake with ice and strain into cocktail glass.

Mint Julep

  • 2 to 3 ounces bourbon, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, to taste, dissolved in 1 teaspoon water (or use 2 tsp. simple syrup)
  • 8 to 10 leaves fresh mint
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish
  • Crushed ice

Place the sugar and water at the bottom of a julep cup or tall glass and stir until sugar is dissolved (or speed the process by using simple syrup). Add the mint leaves and gently bruise with a wooden muddler or a wooden spoon. Take care not to overwork the mint, but swab the sides of the glass with the mint’s aromatic oils. Half-fill the glass with crushed ice and add the bourbon, stirring to combine. Fill the glass with crushed ice and stir until the outside of the glass frosts. Add more crushed ice if needed to fill, and generously adorn the drink with sprigs of fresh mint. Serve with a short straw, so the fragrance of the mint bouquet will greet the drinker with each sip.

Nashville Eggnog

  • 32 oz. Prpared Dairy Eggnog
  • 6 oz. Bourbon
  • 3 oz. Brandy
  • 3 oz. Jamaica Rum

Combine in large punch bowl and serve. Sprinkle nutmeg on top of each serving.

 Old Fashioned

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon superfine sugar (or 1 sugar cube)
  • 2-3 dashes of bitters

Place the sugar in an Old Fashioned glass and douse with the bitters; add a few drops of water, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the whiskey and give a few good stirs to further dissolve the sugar, then add a couple of large ice cubes. Stir a few times to chill; garnish, if you like, with a slice of orange and a cherry, though it’s perfectly fine to skip this step.

Whiskey Sour

  • 2 ounces whiskey
  • 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 egg white (optional—use if you’re feeling mildly adventurous, or need a drink with a little more gravitas)

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake for 10 seconds (if using the egg white, give it a little extra muscle and a little extra time). Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a cherry, a slice of orange, or everything or nothing at all.

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