3 Things You Should Never Do When It Comes to Bourbon

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Bourbon can be a contentious issue for drinkers. There are all kinds of “rules” when it comes to enjoying a glass, but few of these rules are actually helpful.

Instead of trying to figure out the sometimes intimidating world of bourbon on your own, these are the simple rules you need to know.


Okay, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, every whiskey lover would be thrilled to get his or her hands on a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. But, generally speaking, there’s no need to break the bank when looking for a drinkable bourbon. It’s even possible to find a really great bottle for under $30. You’re going to drink it, after all, so why not save your pennies for the inevitable drunchies?


Many bourbon purists—the most vocal ones, anyway—would have you believe that the sweet, slightly smoky elixir is only good for drinking neat. How dare you even add ice! And though this is, indeed, a foolproof way to enjoy bourbon, it’s not the only one. Don’t be afraid to add ice or a little bit of water to open the full potential of your beloved whiskey. Mixers are also encouraged. There are hundreds of bourbon cocktails out there for a reason.

Want to take it a step further? Work bourbon into your desserts too. Think holiday treats like a boozy, chocolatey bourbon ball or a delightfully cold and creamy Bourbon, Vanilla and Chocolate Milk Shake.


Perhaps the most important rule of all, thou shalt not judge another’s bourbon technique. It can be tempting to preach to someone about how that bourbon, aged for 10 years and christened with the teardrops of angels, shouldn’t be tainted by apple juice or Coke—or with anything, for that matter. But the reality is that people can and will drink bourbon however they please. Most bourbon distillers and experts also agree that bourbon makes a killer base spirit for all kinds of cocktails. So instead of making someone feel bad about the drinks they like, enjoy your neat glass of bourbon—quietly.

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  • yromj posted 2 months ago

    I agree with the sentiment of the article. In other words, I think "generally speaking" should be used in front of each of the three items above. For example, I generally agree about the $50 "rule" BUT there are bottles that warrant the occasional upspend IMHO such as some of the special editions etc.

    Another example of generally speaking is mixing. I prefer my bourbon neat except when it gets too "hot" (like Bookers), then I like to cut it with a little water or ice. I've also tried some bourbons with a little water to try and "open" the flavor up a bit. These are ways of adjusting the flavor of the juice to personal tastes, which to me is completely different than adding something like Coke.

    I also feel that people should be respectful of a "collection" and ask before they start mixing with things like Coke. I hate to admit it but I get nervous when I have a $50 bottle sitting on the bar and people start eyeing that and the Coke at the same time. I always have a bottle for mixing available as well as the nicer stuff.

    Just some thoughts.

  • jarrettlidellgmailcom128213760 posted 2 months ago

    Don't tell me not to tell me things!

  • Pfe115 posted 5 months ago

    I agree with personal freedom, and in that vein, yes, dammit, I'll buy a bourbon for more than 50 bucks if I feel like it. Four roses single barrel, barrel proof often costs 70+, and it's worth every penny.
    Scotch is fine and all but it's a terrible cost/value ratio compared to all the wonderful bourbons that are available. rum, I think, has a comparable cost/value ratio.

  • roy.g.porter.5c649 posted 6 months ago

    Why don't you follow your on rule #3?

  • Slipntsvermil posted 6 months ago

    I love my Bourbon with Vermouth, thank you for confirming that it's OK to mix bourbon.

  • gadflyonthewall posted 7 months ago

    Sigh of relief! I thought you were about to tell me not to mix it with vermouth and bitters!

  • biggary4545.f4109c3 posted 7 months ago

    I also do not believe you have to shell out over $50 for a good Bourbon. There are many Bourbon for less, that I find better. Basil Hayden'S is outstanding, so is Russell'S Reserve, Blanton's, Beam small batch 12 yr old, Weller's, Eagle Rare, Bulleit, Buffalo Trace, to name a few of my favorites, and many others. For me, half of the enjoyment of Bourbon comes in finding a good one that I haven't tasted yet. Just enjoy it. Some people like it in cocktails, but don't care for Scotch, vodka, gin, or any other spirit at all. Let them drink what they like...although at my house I will mix a less expensive bottle for them.

  • biggary4545.f4109c3 posted 7 months ago

    Fred Noe (of Jim Beam fame) says drink Bourbon any way you enjoy it. He says his wif drinks hers with a splash of ginger ale. I prefer neat or on the rocks, but it'S not for everbody.

  • lemikamgmailcom1056550092 posted 11 months ago

    Item 1: don't spend money on bourbon. Item 2: put everything in your bourbon, and put your bourbon in everything. Item 3: ignore items 1 and 2.

    Seriously now, great bourbon sometimes costs money, and you should at least TRY it neat to get a sense of what it actually tastes like. If you don't want to spend the money, don't. But some of my favorite, most rewarding bottles have been well north of 50 dollars, never mind Pappy. (I like how there's an exception to the money rule made for the poseur-fancy bourbon that you've probably heard of even if you don't know what you're talking about.) And if you don't like your bourbon neat - i.e. IF YOU DON'T LIKE BOURBON - then don't frigging drink it. Nobody's gonna judge you. Seriously, why would you buy a thing if the only way you enjoy it is by drowning it in other stuff? If you like bourbon cocktails, but don't like neat bourbon, bully for you - you don't need to spend more than 50 bucks for a bottle that'll get that job done. Heck, you don't need to spend 30. But let's not pretend like there's not enjoyment to be had drinking a quality bourbon neat out of a nosing glass. If that's not your thing, fine, but it IS a thing for other people.

    And by the way: "graduate to scotch"? Seriously bro, some of the best whiskies on the planet are bourbons. As if scotch is somehow for grownups and bourbon is somehow for children. There is as much if not more diversity, quality, and creativity in bourbon as there is in scotch. And if you take American whiskey as a whole, there's no contest. American whiskey does more different things with more different ingredients at just as high a level as any scotch-maker does. And oh, by the way, there are some pretty downright dreadful scotches out there.

  • docmena@att.net posted 12 months ago

    i agree. when you want a better whisky than $50 will buy you its time to graduate to scotch

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