When it comes to whiskey (especially bourbon), drinkers often reach for the pricier expressions for sipping neat or on the rocks and keep lower-end, bargain expressions for mixing. But this leaves out an important segment of the whiskey world — the affordable, high-quality bourbons that are just as good as slow sippers as they are as bases for your favorite cocktails. The do-it-all, Swiss Army Knives of the bourbon world. The kind of bourbons you want to keep on your home bar cart or stocked in your liquor cabinet at all times.
To find these mixable gems, we once again turned to the professionals who bide their time behind the bar. We asked a handful of well-known mixologists and barkeeps to tell us the best mixing bourbons on the market. Keep reading to see them all.
Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon
Gui Jaroschy, partner at Unfiltered Hospitality in Miami
Average Price: $35 for a 75ml bottle
I love Balcones Texas Pot Still Bourbon. Balcones is the perfect whisky for this Old Fashioned because it’s rich, spicy, and viscous on its own and has bold flavors of sweet cream, and sandalwood. The candied pecans blend perfectly with the other ingredients and shine through the drink. The praline syrup has a nice sweetness and buttery, nutty flavor, and Giffard’s Banane du Bresil adds caramelized tropical notes. The Angostura Cocoa Bitters add depth to the cocktail and complement the new charred oak and graham cracker nose of the Pot Still Bourbon.
It’s a perfectly balanced cocktail that showcases one of my favorite bourbons.
Complex flavors of candied apples, graham crackers, candied pecans, vanilla beans, buttery toffee, and rich oak make this a highly mixable whiskey.
Michter’s US-1 Bourbon
Cosimo Bruno, beverage curator at Daxton Hotel in Birmingham, Michigan
Average Price: $49.99 for a 750ml bottle
Michter’s bourbon is an incredible mixing bourbon because it is not overbearing but delivers enough of a nutty and oak finish to make a drink more complex.
This is a complex whisky. It features rich caramel with balanced vanilla hints helping this bourbon pair well with almost any mixer.
Della Norton, food and beverage manager of The Bellmoor Inn and Spa in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Average Price: $34.99 for a 750ml bottle
Maker’s Mark mixes well with other flavors because it does not have that overpowering start to it. It allows you to take in the flavors of the mixer before the bourbon (it almost stages the palate). Maker’s Mark in an old fashioned is my favorite.
This beloved bourbon is known for its flavors of clover honey, candied orange peels, butterscotch, vanilla beans, and light peppery spice.
Larceny Small Batch Bourbon
Lori Leber, bartender at The Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky
Average Price: $35 for a 750ml bottle
I would say Larceny Bourbon pairs well with whatever your choice of mixer is. It’s not overpowering but you can still get that smooth bourbon finish. As a bonus, it’s surprisingly well-priced at less than $40 in most places.
I like that Larceny is a wheated bourbon, making it surprisingly mellow and soft with hints of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Eagle Rare 10 Year
Cody Kennedy, bartender at Juniper Preserve in Bend, Oregon
Average Price: $99.99 for a 750ml bottle
It’s super hard to have a definite and set mixing bourbon. Each bourbon has a place in a mixed cocktail. They all have that one thing that makes them the best mixing bourbon in their individual applications. If I had to say one, though, I’d go with Eagle Rare 10. What drinks does it work well in? It works in everything from a peach sour to a Sazerac. But for the holidays, eggnogs, hot toddies, ciders.
I chose Eagle rare for three reasons. Those being that it’s generally balanced between its caramel and oak notes, its proof falls under the $100 mark making it approachable with other ingredients, and its price point isn’t through the roof, so I don’t feel bad about mixing it.
Angel’s Envy Bourbon
Donny Largotta, beverage director at Gansevoort Meatpacking in New York
Average Price: $54.99 for a 750ml bottle
The best mixing bourbon would have to be Angel’s Envy. I personally find it to work best in an old fashioned. Gives you a very nice and balanced cocktail. There’s a reason this is such a popular, value bourbon. It has everything bourbon cocktails need.
It has notes of vanilla, maple syrup, and toasted nuts which compliments any citrus that is added to an Old Fashioned, whether it be orange or lemon oils.
Robert Kidd, head bartender at Le Cavalier in Wilmington, Delaware
Average Price: $95 for a 750ml bottle
Barrell has an interesting product called Armida that has nice pear notes to it. The bourbon is also cask strength, so it really stands up to other flavors when mixed into a cocktail. The liquor is solid in a Sazerac with a touch of pear eau-du-vie and cardamom bitters.
This complex bourbon is highlighted by baking spices, dried fruits, molasses, honey, vanilla, and oaky wood.
Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
Nicholas Bennett, beverage director at Porchlight in New York
Average Price: $28.99 for a 750ml bottle
I am partial to Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon when mixing cocktails. I tend to lean towards a high rye bourbon for the complexity it brings to the flavor and a higher proof spirit for its durability when mixing cocktails. This bourbon has a healthy balance of both elements. It really makes a delightful old fashioned but, since we are close to Christmas, I have been using it in my egg nogs.
This popular bourbon starts with dried fruits and light baking spices and moves on to classic caramel, vanilla, and oak.
Elijah Craig Small Batch
Matt Burnett, bar manager at Bellwether House & Folklore Restaurant in Savannah, Georgia
Average Price: $39.99 for a 750ml bottle
Elijah Craig Small Batch – This is the quintessential reasonably priced bourbon. When I think of bourbon, I think of Elijah Craig. At 94 proof, it’s strong enough to hold its own in an Old Fashioned, but its balanced profile and a hint of sweetness also shine in something more adventurous like a New York Sour.
It’s oak, vanilla, caramel, and a hint of corn sweetness. It’s right down the middle in the best way.
Four Roses Straight Bourbon
Gabby Senne, bar supervisor at Sideways Lounge in Buellton, California
Average Price: $29.99 for a 750ml bottle
For mixing bourbon, I go back and forth between Four Roses Straight and Bulleit. If I had to only pick one, it would be Four Roses Yellow Label. I like it more if I’m making a less liquor-forward drink, for example, we use it in our California Lemonade because it goes very well with the citrus and blends well with bold flavors.
I also love it in whiskey sours.
This budget bourbon is still surprisingly flavorful with notes of honey, toffee, vanilla, dried fruits, and oaky wood.