Beginner Bourbon Series: How to Drink Bourbon – The How-to for the Beginning Bourbon Drinker

Good afternoon Bourbon Lodgers. Welcome back for another entry in  the Beginner Bourbon Series. This week we want to share with you some tips we’ve found in our experiences and along the way to help create the most enjoyable bourbon drinking experience for newcomers and veterans alike. There is no wrong way to enjoy your bourbon in the lodge (well actually I can think of one, which I will share at the end).

How to Drink Bourbon?

It’s a simple question really, but this can be the most intimidating and often overlooked question when getting started for beginning bourbon drinkers. I would argue that some if not most beginning bourbon drinkers are turned off from bourbon by the taste before they even get a true, good, full flavored taste of it. Why is that? First off, sipping bourbon should be enjoyable to you. If it’s not, there is no incentive to do it. There are some well known ways to make your bourbon experience more personalized and about you, as well as enjoyable. Two people may drink bourbon in entirely different ways, but that doesn’t mean one is right and one is wrong. Drinking bourbon should be a personal experience, an experience that you enjoy.

The Three Ways…

There are basically three ways that you should enjoy your bourbon for maximum enjoyment. Bourbon should never be rushed, and these three ways to sip it maximize your enjoyment and flavor options in my opinion.


Neat is pretty simple really. Most people have either heard or seen someone drink or order bourbon in this format. Neat is bourbon in a glass with NO ice. Pure unadulterated bourbon enjoyment. While this way of drinking your bourbon gives you the most full bourbon flavor with little distraction or added intricacies, it is also sometimes the hardest way for  newcomers and some veterans. This method is a little bit in your face, but also gives you the purest taste and flavor experiences from your bourbon. While this method of drinking bourbon gives you the fullest bourbon taste profile, it is also the method that is going to give you the most burn or bite from the bourbon. It can be intimidating and too much for new bourbon drinkers sometimes, and if that is what’s happening to you as a beginning bourbon drinker it is okay. If drinking bourbon neat is too much for you at first, trust me there is no shame in drinking your bourbon in either of the next two ways.

Mixed or Cocktail

No lie here, the first way I was really able to enjoy bourbon was a cocktail a friend shared with me, the Old Fashioned. It is a simple yet delicious way to take the slight edge off of bourbon by adding a sugar cube, a few dashes of bitters, and club soda to the drink. It usually has a muddled cherry as well as an orange slice garnish. A properly crafted old fashioned is a thing of beauty, and if you find a watering hole that takes their time and makes them right make mental note, because you will want to come back. You still get an overwhelmingly “bourbony” taste, but not the overwhelming bite of neat bourbon if you are just starting out. There is no shame in ordering your bourbon in a cocktail or mixing it with your favorite mixer if that is how you enjoy your bourbon. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Sipping your bourbon isn’t about pleasing purist, it is about creating maximum enjoyment for yourself. If you mix with your favorite soda or order a cocktail to do that more power to you. I would still encourage you to occasionally try to sip bourbon neat or in our last state to try and taste some of the complexities of bourbon. It is such an amazing drink because of how deep and complex the flavors can be if you experience it straight from the bottle alone. We don’t want you to miss some of those treats even if you only do so occasionally.

Ice or Water

If you have a little trouble or are overwhelmed with drinking your bourbon neat, but don’t want to really throw a bunch of ingredients in a cocktail and curtail your bourbon tasting experience too far off base from what it might taste like out of the bottle, go for this last method. Cut your bourbon with a few drops or a splash or two of water, or an ice cube or two. The water can take the “bite” off of the bourbon, and open up some new flavor intricacies you might not otherwise be able to notice if you’re having trouble with the burn or enjoying your bourbon neat. The ice does the same thing, watering down your bourbon slowly over time while also cooling it. This is the method I usually use when I am just sipping for enjoyment. Tip: If you use several small ice cubes you will water down much more quickly and noticeably. If your bourbon is tasting too watered down, you may want to invest in an ice sphere maker. The reduced surface area of one or two larger ice cubes melts more slowly and therefore waters down your bourbon less. This will change the taste slightly compared to drinking “neat” bourbon, but the payoff is worth it because in the end I can usually taste more flavor intricacies because I am not fighting off the “burn” with neat bourbon.

How NOT to Drink Bourbon

In my opinion there is really only one wrong way to drink bourbon. That way is taking it in a shot. If you do this, more power to you, but I believe it is the wrong way to enjoy bourbon. Bourbon in my mind is a drink to be enjoyed, savored, and not rushed. I encourage bourbon to be sipped with friends and good conversations shared while drinking it. If you’re taking it in shots you don’t always get the benefit of that. Take the time to slow down, unwind, and truly enjoy your time with your bourbon. Just my two cents. You don’t want this time to be rushed.

As always comment below. If you drink your bourbon mixed or in a cocktail what is your favorite mixer/combo, or cocktail you enjoy? Also feel free to chime in on our poll and tell us which of the three ways you most often enjoy your bourbon. Keep following along as next week we dive into our first of our Beginner Bourbon that we feel must be an addition to your bourbon tool chest if you are just getting started. Cheers!

How do you enjoy your Bourbon?

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