Classic Bourbon Cocktail Recipes… With a Creative Twist

If there’s one thing that bugs me most about bourbon influencers (not just those who try to shame people Twitter or Instagram, but also the pretentious Jacks and Jills that frequent local liquor stores and gate-keep bourbon novices) is their belief that bourbon should only be enjoyed in a glass, served neat. Not only do they discredit the value of water and its role in opening the natural flavors of whiskey, but they are simply denying individuals the right to like what they like and drink what they want.

Personally, I love bourbon in all its many forms. Neat? A million times yes. With a drop of water? Absolutely. An ice-cube or two? You betcha. In a cocktail? I’ll never turn it down. Basically, if the main ingredient is bourbon, I’ll drink it. That’s the beauty of this bourbon– it can be enjoyed in a myriad of ways, which allows it to appeal to just about everyone’s personal preferences.

At Gamecock Bourbon, we kick gate-keepers to the curb and encourage you, as an individual, to find your own preference, serve bourbon in the way that you like it best, and enjoy the experience of drinking whiskey the way that you want to. While we give suggestions, share our preferences, and talk about our likes and dislikes, we never want you to trust our word alone; instead, we want you to take note and then test our theories out for yourself. Bourbon is a personal experience, your personal experience. We can guide you, but at the end of the day, developing your own preferences are the most important piece of the puzzle.

To help you discover what you like, we have put together a nice little easy-to-follow recipe guide that covers how to make 3 Classic Bourbon Cocktails. Most of these you’ve had before, so with each, we added a nice little twist to spice things up.


The Old Fashioned: A Nod to Simplicity and Tradition

The Old Fashioned is a true embodiment of its name, with roots that trace back to the early 19th century. As one of America’s oldest known cocktails, it’s believed to have first been created in Louisville, Kentucky (right in the heart of bourbon country). The original recipe focused on simplicity. It was nothing more than a mix of bourbon, sugar, water, and bitters, that were served over ice. The modern Old Fashioned keeps these simplistic timeless roots, but is now garnished with a twist of orange peel and a maraschino cherry. It is the perfect mix of sweet and savory that never gets old.


    • 2 ounces of bourbon
    • 1/4 ounce simple syrup
    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
    • Orange peel and a cherry, for garnish

Creative Twist

The Peach Sweet-Tea Old FashionednFor a creative twist that will impress your dinner guests, (especially in the hottest months of summer) try the Peach Sweet-Tea Old Fashioned. Substitute the traditional sugar (which is usually served as “simple syrup”) with sweet tea oleo saccharum and peach bitters before garnishing it with an orange peel (or lemon peel to really lean into the iced-tea mentality). This mix will remind you of the best of both worlds– classic Kentucky taverns, and warm Carolina evenings on the porch swing.

The Mint Julep: The Summertime Southern Classic

What conjures an image of lazy summer afternoons in the south like a Mint Julep? This Kentucky classic has become a staple within the realm of Southern culture and by all indications, it is here to stay. While it is now known for being a “bourbon cocktail”, the Mint Julep was originally made with brandy or rum. Thankfully, for all of us who consider this to be the quintessential summertime drink, bourbon juleps eventually surpassed all other variations and became the preferred spirit for this tried and true cocktail classic.

It is important to note the Mint Julep’s historic connection to the Kentucky Derby. In 1938 Churchill Downs (the home of the “Run for the Roses”) officially started serving Mint Juleps in souvenir glasses, cementing it as the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby.


    • 2 1/2 ounces of bourbon
    • 1/2 ounce simple syrup or 1 to 2 sugar cubes
    • 8 mint leaves (plus 2 sprigs for garnish) Note: Be sure to “Slap” the mint in your had to reveal the flavor
    • Crushed ice

Creative Twist

The Blackberry Basil Mint Julep For a modern twist on this derby classic, add blackberries and basil to the mix. The standard recipe still applies, making this an easy way to include a delightful variation for friends and family. The concoction will wow your guest with an inviting fruit-forward flavor that balances well against the mint and basil.n

The Manhattan: New York City Meets Kentucky’s Best

I’ll start this entry with full disclosure: I’m not a fan of the Manhattan, simply because of a hatred for vermouth; however, it is included in this article because I’m one of very few people who dislikes it. In truth, the Manhattan is as iconic as any, with many preferring it to even the Old Fashioned.

It is not clear how the Manhattan was conceived (sadly there’s no one we can credit with its origin), but bourbon scholars and historians have reason to believe that it is a product of the late 19th century (it was first mentioned in writing in 1891). Rumors, which have not been verified, indicate that it may have been created by an employee at the Manhattan Club in New York City, which would make sense, considering the name, but this nothing more than speculation.

An additional rumor– one that adds a little more charm and historical relevance– suggests that the Manhattan was devised as a way to honor American Heiress and Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, who once threw a party at the famed Manhattan Club. Whether the two stories are connected or not remains to be seen. Either way, enthusiasts agree that this concoction exudes nothing but class, making it a preference of the more sophisticated among bourbon drinkers.


    • 2 ounces of bourbon or rye whiskey
    • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
    • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
    • Ice
    • Orange peel or cocktail cherry for garnish (optional)

Creative Twist

The Maple Bacon Manhattan Knowing that I despise vermouth so much, I was on the lookout for a twist that helped balance its heavy handed flavor. Fortunately, I found that by adding bacon and a touch of maple syrup, the Manhattan becomes more approachable and even delicious, due to the satisfying contrast of salty and sweet.


Overall, bourbon cocktails have played an interesting role throughout the history of mixology. A spirit that has been synonymous with farming, hard-work, and blue-collar living, has managed to spread in popularity across all demographics and social statuses thanks in part to these inviting cocktails (and the many not listed here). While classics like the Old Fashioned, Mint Juleps, and the Manhattan may not be solely responsible for the modern bourbon revival (marketing strategies like single barrel selections and rare releases have heavily contributed to that) they certainly have managed to win over many drinkers by enticing them with their classic and unwavering appeal.

Whether you choose to stick close to the traditional recipes of these classic cocktails, or go wild with the endless possibilities of creative twists, there is something for everyone to enjoy. It is our hope that you will give these mixes a try and even create some of your own.


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