Four Interesting Variations of Classic Bourbon Cocktails

If you’ve read any of my posts or emails, or even taken a moment to check out my recipes, you’ll pretty quickly pick up on the fact that I love an Old Fashioned. In fact, I’m having one right now as I write this. A standard, classic Old Fashioned. Nothing crazy, no fancy liqueurs or creative ingredients. But the reason I love playing around with the ingredients, is that creating variations of classic bourbon cocktails can refresh a timeless drink with a modern twist. Also, I do recognize that my recipe list is pretty top-heavy on the Old Fashioned. I’ve been slowly branching out and trying other bourbon-based drinks, and I do admit that a solid Manhattan or Bourbon Sour is a joy to behold. But even those could stand to be tweaked a little, don’t you think? So here are four interesting variations of classic bourbon cocktails:

Old Fashioned

  • Classic Ingredients: Bourbon, sugar, water, bitters, orange peel.
  • Variation – Spiced Cherry Old Fashioned: Add a spoonful of cherry preserves and a pinch of cinnamon to the classic recipe. Replace the orange peel with a cherry and an orange slice for garnish. This adds a fruity and spiced dimension to the traditional Old Fashioned.

    Comment: This is a must-try. Sounds like a great cool-weather alternative to the Old Fashioned. And then we’ll have the Smokin’ Peach for warmer weather. Old Fashioneds year-round!

Mint Julep

  • Classic Ingredients: Bourbon, fresh mint, sugar, water.
  • Variation – Blackberry Mint Julep: Muddle fresh blackberries along with the mint and sugar before adding bourbon and crushed ice. The blackberries add a tart and fruity flavor that complements the mint and bourbon beautifully.

    Comment: There’s absolutely nothing not to like about this. Fresh blackberries, mint, bourbon… another warm-weather refresher guaranteed to satisfy!


  • Classic Ingredients: Bourbon, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, cherry.
  • Variation – Smoky Maple Manhattan: Replace sweet vermouth with maple syrup and add a dash of liquid smoke along with the Angostura bitters. This variation introduces a smoky sweetness that makes the drink more complex and perfect for autumn evenings.

    Comment: Ohhh yes… Bourbon, maple syrup, bitters, and a dash of smoky goodness. This is almost a Maple Bourbon Old Fashioned, though. The vermouth is what makes a Manhattan a Manhattan. Oh well, still worth a try.

Bourbon Sour

  • Classic Ingredients: Bourbon, lemon juice, sugar, egg white (optional).
  • Variation – Honey Lavender Bourbon Sour: Substitute the sugar with honey syrup (honey diluted with a bit of warm water) and add a few drops of lavender extract or muddle fresh lavender if available. This version offers a floral and sweet twist, making the cocktail more aromatic and visually appealing with lavender garnish.

    Comment: another wonderful option for a late-summer/early-autumn refresher. Note you can always substitute a dash of Fee Brothers’ Fee Foam or other non-egg foamer if (like me) you’re wary of using raw egg whites.

Each of these variations takes a classic bourbon cocktail and adds an element that enhances the original flavors while introducing new ones. As I like to say, “you do you” – feel free to adjust the ingredients according to your taste preferences and enjoy experimenting with these delightful twists.

Bob Sawyer


Hi! I’m Bob!

If it’s got bourbon in it, I’m drinking it. And if it’s really good, I’m gonna figure out how to make it, and share it with you. Because I’m good like that.


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