5 Must-Have Cocktail Mixers for Bourbon Cocktails

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Now let’s take a look at the beautiful mixers and ingredients that will have you on your way to making the tastiest libations! We will cover five succinct categories, rather than present a bible of cocktail mixers. Read on to learn more!

Well done, my bourbon-slinging, cocktail-swilling friends. If you have made it here, hopefully it was by way of learning which bourbons are best-suited to stock your home bar and the bar tools to forge it into many a delicious drink. Now let’s take a look at the beautiful cocktail mixers and ingredients that will have you on your way to making the tastiest libations.

Endless Options of Cocktail Mixers

Like just about anything available in the well fed belly of modern-day consumerism, the options are endless. Thus, this post will cover five succinct categories, rather than being a bible of cocktail mixers. Consequently, your time will be saved and your mind freed from being overwhelmed by a vast plethora of options.

Cocktail Mixers - Simple Syrup
Cocktail Mixers – Simple Syrup

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is called simple because it is just that: simple. It is a mixture of equal parts sugar and water. This can be created in small amounts, where the sugar is stirred into the water until dissolved, or over medium heat when batching larger quantities.

When it comes to weight management, dental health and general well-being, yeah -sugar is the devil. In that case, let the sinning begin, especially since bourbon is one of the four pinnacles of the “indulgence” industries. (The other three are thoroughbred racing, tobacco and pretty women. All of which, by the way, are found in Kentucky. So I will go ahead and take credit when the state decides to launch a rad visitors bureau campaign with this).

Even for the holier of us rollers, who still like a nice drink, fear not a little sweetener. Simple syrup strikes a beautiful balance next to the high-proof power of bourbon whiskey. It is the first step to making an approachable version of a bold spirit.

In my many years of adventures in mixology, simple syrup has become my favorite cocktail mixer to work with due to its versatility. Elements can be changed, such as the type of sugar or liquid used, or added to, creating complex and interesting flavor profiles. I’ve had the sincere pleasure of creating and sipping cocktails made with a saffron syrup, honey-orange-cardamom syrup, blueberry and black pepper syrup, and even a syrup made with rice water.

Cocktail Bitters
Cocktail Mixers – Bitters

Cocktail Bitters

A little goes a long way with this small but mighty ingredient. (Yes, yes, I totally did just use two very overdone idioms, but it’s currently a Sunday afternoon partially spent digesting a massive burrito. I needed a fall back.) There are pros and cons to keeping bitters around your home bar. The pro is that a bottle will last a pretty long time. You won’t need to be restocking anytime soon. The con is that a bottle will last a pretty long time. If you don’t care for the flavor, you’re kind of stuck with it for a while. That being said, I wouldn’t overstock your bar with this ingredient, but try to pick a couple of your favorites from classic varieties, versatile flavors and a few wild card options. These are broken down more in the next post, focusing exclusively on bitters for bourbon cocktails.

Cocktail Mixers - Citrus Juice
Cocktail Mixers – Citrus Juice
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When I say “juice” what I really mean is citrus fruit. It wouldn’t make sense to continuously stock a dozen juice options that would theoretically work for at-home bourbon mixology. This is especially true as this ingredient tends to have the quickest expiration date. The juice that is primarily used is lemon juice, followed by lime and orange. Mixology is much like cooking in that fresh, made-from-scratch ingredients always yield a superior final product. This is why opting for fresh-squeezed lemon juice far surpasses anything from a bottle. As a habit, I keep a couple of citrus fruits as a constant on my grocery list, so they are always on hand when a cocktail craving calls.

Alcohol Mixers - Liqueurs
Alcohol Mixers – Liqueurs
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Alcohol Mixers

Sweet vermouth comes to mind first, as it is a key ingredient in a Manhattan. Amaros have also become increasingly popular serving as a substitute for sweet vermouth and cocktail bitters, or simply for something new. Liqueurs, also called cordials, are spirits with sweeteners and flavors added. Unless you regularly drink something that calls for these specialty ingredients, purchase with caution. It is easy to buy a beautiful bottle of some exotic sounding liqueur like “Belladonna de Florafauna” or whatever, but it will lose its luster as it collects dust on your shelves, unopened, over the years.

Cocktail Mixers - Ginger Ale
Cocktail Mixers – Ginger Ale
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Ginger Ale

Yes, ginger ale gets its own category because it is hands-down the number-one, no-fail, go-two cocktail mixer for the best two-ingredient drink ever: bourbon and ginger. Ginger ale is your best friend for when you do end up with a bottle of bourbon that you don’t care for all that much. Doctor it up with some of this stuff, and I promise you will get to the bottom of that bottle.

Ready To Roll

With these simple and accessible additions to your home bar, in addition to a few handy bar tools, you are ready to roll into mixing up several amazing cocktails from the classics to the craziest. Keep following these posts for recipe foundations and custom creations you will soon be doing on your own.

Now that you have learned about cocktail mixers, would you like to learn more about taking your bourbon cocktail game to the next level? Then check out some more of the articles in Aften’s Home Bourbon Bartending Guide!

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Aften Locken - Bourbon Pro

Aften Locken is a bourbon nerd and a cocktail geek, mixing the two together in ways that will make partakers say “wow” and stay thirsty for more. She has worked in the beverage alcohol industry for six years as a bourbon educator, presenter, tour guide and experience designer. Her mixology endeavors include the design and execution of showcased cocktails for the 6th Floor Millionaire’s Row at the Kentucky Derby, premium bar management for VIP attendees of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, regular cocktail class series for bourbon enthusiast groups and promotional videos for premium brands. In the bourbon realm, she creates and executes premium bourbon experiences and education offered through Bourbonpro.com.

Would you like to learn more about distilleries and bourbon? Are you planning a trip to Kentucky Distilleries? Maybe you would like to live the bourbon life vicariously through us?? If any of these are true, then check out BourbonObsessed.com today!

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Aften Locken
Aften Locken
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