Bernie’s Favorite Classic Bourbon Recipes

 Julep (muddle)

The mint julep is based on an Arabic drink called a “Julab” made with water and rose pedals.  Hmmmm; a drink made from water and leaves.  Is it just me, or does that remind anyone else of tea perhaps?  It morphed in to the mint julep here in the U.S. with either rum or bourbon and mint leaves, The bourbon has been the most popular version since it’s popularity as being the official drink of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby since 1938.  Who won the Kentucky Derby that year?  Lawrin; with Eddie Arcaro aboard. 

 Aunt Bernadine’s Mint Julep


Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch, 86 proof bourbon

Fresh mint


In the bottom of any container (works with a glass, a pitcher, or an infusion jar) put about a ¼ inch of sugar at the bottom.  Pull 10 or more mint leaves off the stems (add more for larger container, you want a good inch of leaves)  and add a small amount of water and then muddle them in the bottom of the container with the sugar.  Fill the container with ice and place in the fridge for several hours.  Pull from fridge, and fill container with Evan Williams 1783 bourbon and then top off with water if needed.  (if larger than a glass, put 1.5 ounces in per every 12 ounces of the container.  Ex) If it’s a 24 ounce container, put in 3 ounces of bourbon.  26 ounces = 4 ½  ounces, and so on. 

Every year for the Derby my Aunt Bernadine would put me in charge of preparing the family mint julep to pass around during the post parade of the Kentucky Derby and throughout the race.  She taught me this recipe and I pass it on to you, and it’s really cool because it works for any size container.  It’s a tradition in my family, and I hope it becomes one in your family.


 SOUR (shake)

Ms. Annis’ Bourbon Sour

Fred Noe’s mom (Booker’s widow) made this recipe.  Refreshing twist on a classic from Jerry Thomas’ cocktail book from 1862. 

So simple, it’s just equal parts of:

Jim Beam Black

Orange Juice

Frozen concentrated lemonade


You can pre-batch them for a party, and instead of adding water, just pour the equal parts of Beam Black, frozen lemonade, orange juice, and water.  Just use the container of lemonade to as your measuring cup.  If you want to make them frozen in the summertime like Fred Noe did for me  Jason, Jared, and Dylan (our bourbon boys from Australia – AWESOME amassadors!) last year, put it in a blender and use ice as the water.  We serve these every year at the Bourbon Festival in Bardstown and they are a hit with everyone.  People don’t believe us, but yes, Fred and his wife Sandy, son Freddie, and friends all work together and pre-batch them for the Bourbon Gala.  We save a jug for our table when we go in to, cause they’re just that delicious!


LOW BALL (build)

Old Fashioned

Slice of Orange cut in a half moon


2-3 dashes of bitters

sugar – small lump or a cube

soda water

Larceny Small Batch, or Old Fitzgerald Bottled In Bond

In a low ball glass, add a cherry, half moon of orange slice with sugar in a low ball glass and add a splash of water.  Muddle the contents, and then add a shot of Bourbon, ice, and top off with soda water.  

The Old Fashioned is the first drink we know of that DEFINATELY used bourbon as the base spirit.  The drink was invented by a bartender at the prestigious gentleman’s club, the Pendennis Club, in Louisville, KY.  A member and distiller, Col. James Pepper, asked him to make a bourbon drink in the “old fashioned way”.  The bartender took that as in the style of a “smash” where you muddle fruit.  Col. Pepper liked it so much he ordered it wherever he traveled, and brought it to the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, and the rest is history. 

The drink was so popular that the low ball glass was referred to as and “old fashioned glass”.


HIGH BALLS (build)

Whiskey Professor – a.k.a BBG (originally called a Horses Neck)

Henry McKenna Bottled In Bond 10 year,  or Evan Williams Single Barrel 10 year

Ginger Ale ( or Ginger Beer if you like it more spicey)

Aromatic Bitters ( I like Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Bitters, or The Bitter Truth’s Jerry Thomas’)

Sprig of mint


In a highball glass, pour a shot of bourbon 2-3 dashes of aromatic bitters, top off with Ginger Ale.  Garnish with a spiral of lemon.  (The spiral of lemon is reminiscent of horse coming out of the stall – and for us in Kentucky, that’s something we know about).  I’ve changed it to the Whiskey Professor, because I can, and because it’s my favorite bourbon cocktail and I’m spreading it all over the world, so there!  We also call it the BBG for my buddy and mixologist Bobby G. (BBG get it?) and BBG are also the ingredients, Bourbon, Bitters, Ginger ale.  The first time you tell a bartender what BBG stands for, you’ll never have to tell them again, they’ll know.  A “Whiskey Professor” is a BBG, with a sprig of mint reminiscent of a mint julep, and my Kentucky roots.    

Press / or what was is also known as a Presbyterian


Ginger Ale

Soda Water

peel of lemon

In a highball glass fill with ice, pour a shot of bourbon and fill the rest of the glass with equal measures of ginger ale and soda water.  Take a slice of just the lemon peel, and zest it on top of the drink.

It’s said that when people had parties at their homes back in the 50’s and 60’s that bourbon and ginger ale looked pretty dark, and folks knew they were drinking a cocktail.  But if you added soda water, it might look that your Presbyterian neighbor was just drinking ginger ale since the soda lightened it up.  Truth or fiction? I don’t know, but it’s a damn good story. 

The Manhattan

The Manhattan was created for in 1870 Winston Churchill’s mom, Lady Randolph Churchill (Jennie Jerome) at the Manhattan Club in New York City during a fund raiser she hosted for Presidential Candidate Samuel L.Tilden.  The success of that party made that drink fashionable, and people started ordering it by referring the name of the club it originated.  They then shortened it to just the Manhattan.  It was American Whiskey, Itallian Vermouth, and Angostura Bitters.  It could have been a rye whiskey like Rittenhouse, a bourbon, or even a Canadian whiskey since it was so close, but the classic Manhattan is now made with bourbon, or rye whiskey.

Classic Manhattan – (Stir)

Elijah Craig 12 year old Small Batch / or Rittenhouse Straight Rye Bottled In Bond

Sweet vermouth


3 parts whiskey, 1 part sweet vermouth, and bitters to your taste.  Put ingredients in a Boston shaker glass first without ice, then add ice ¾ to the top of the glass.  Using a bartender spoon, stir the Manhattan, do not shake.  Stirring adds just enough water to the Manhattan, shaking would add too much.  Also becomes opaque when shook, and clear when stirred.   

BLT – Bourbon Lettuce and Tomato, or the Bourbon Mary, (build)

your favorite bourbon, but I’d suggest a Bottled In Bond like JW Dant, or JTS Brown, Heaven Hill, or Old Fitzgerald.

Bloody Mary mix (preferably home made, but your favorite mix will do)

Hickory Bacon salt

2 slices of thick sliced crisp bacon

Make a Bloody Mary as you usually would in your favorite way, but use Knob Creek Bourbon instead of vodka.  Take 2 slices of thick sliced flavorful gorgeous crisp bacon and make an “X” over the glass.  Take a bite of the bacon and sip on the Bloody Mary.  Lets face it, vodka adds no flavor what so ever to the Bloody Mary, but bourbon adds those great barrel notes after aging for that compliment the Bloody Mary.  The bacon, well if I have to explain that, you shouldn’t be drinking it! 


Knob Creek Mimosa

Fighting Cock 6 year old 103 proof / or Evan Williams Single Barrel for lighter version

Chilled sparkling apple cider


In a champagne flute add a shot of Bourbon and then top off with chilled sparkling apple cider.  If you want to get real fancy sprinkle ground cinnamon on top and  garnish with a thin slice of apple on the rim.

This drink is an absolute hit when I attend Kentucky Derby morning parties before we go to the race track.  Any occasion you would be drinking a regular mimosa, think of this as an alternative.  Woman especially love this drink, and is there anything sexier than a woman sipping on 9 year old, 100 proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and LOVING it?   


John Daly – An alcoholic Arnold Palmer

Unsweetened Ice Tea


Evan Williams Reserve Cherry flavored Bourbon


Bourbon Cream – Dessert

2 scoops of mint chocolate chip ice cream in a wine glass.  Drizzle a shot of Baker’s 7 year old/107 proof bourbon on top of it, or Larceny, or your favorite of course, and spoon out.  It’s like a mint julep dessert!


About bernie
-Whiskey Professor for Heaven Hill -2009 and 2012 Icons of Whiskey Award Winner - Whiskey Ambassador of the Year US and Global

2 Comments on Bernie’s Favorite Classic Bourbon Recipes

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