All about bourbon

Drinks expert and bar owner Luke Comer explains all you need to know about bourbon. This much-loved American whiskey has had a surge in popularity, with plenty of distinguished bottles on the market.


Want to know more about spirits and how to use them? Check out our drinks hub and why not try our favourite bourbon cocktail recipes? If you're looking to stock your drinks cabinet, read up on the best bourbon whiskies taste tested.

What makes a bourbon?

Bourbon has to be made in the USA (95 per cent of bourbon is produced in the state of Kentucky), use at least 51 per cent corn (maize) in its mash bill (recipe), and must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. There's no minimum age requirement for a bourbon, however a 'straight' bourbon must be aged for a minimum or two years in virgin, charred oak casks. Any whiskey which has been aged for less than four years must state its age on the label.

How should bourbon be served?

In my opinion, there is no right or wrong way to serve bourbon. Great bourbons are versatile, and lend themselves to all ways of drinking. If you want to understand the liquid better, sampling it neat, or with just a splash of water, will give you the truest reflection.

Why is bourbon good for cocktails?

Bourbon can be mixed with a number of different flavours. There are some amazing innovations happening in the bourbon industry, which lend themselves to exciting mixed drinks.

Whisky cocktail in glass with cherry

What cocktails would you recommend for spring?

As we escape from the colder months, it’s a good opportunity to enjoy lighter drinks, like hi-balls or juleps. A julep made with fresh mint and lots of ice is superb, and showcases bourbon in an interesting way.

Can you recommend a bourbon cocktail to serve with food?

Bucks are great – cocktails made with bourbon, fruit, lemon and ginger beer. Strawberries work well, as does pineapple. After dinner, I like coffee and neat whiskey. I like our FEW Spirits Cold Cut bourbon, which goes from cask to bottling strength with cold brew coffee. It’s incredible, and ticks both boxes!

Boulevardier recipe

A classic – much like a negroni, but made with bourbon in place of gin. It’s often a more harmonious blend than the gin version.


See more bourbon inspiration...

How to make a whiskey sour & mocktail
Bourbon cocktail recipes
Bourbon & honey-glazed brisket with soured cream & chive mash
Sticky bourbon BBQ wings with blue cheese dip
Banana, pecan & bourbon self-saucing pud
Bourbon, black cherry & bacon brownies

Miriam Nice is a published author and illustrator. She has written more than 350 recipes for BBC Good Food @miriamjsnice.


Luke is UK drinks marketing manager at Samson & Surrey, representing FEW Spirits, Widow Jane and Brenne. He also owns Mother Mercy in Newcastle. @FEWspirits @mothermercybar

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