We always recommend stocking your home bar slowly. Going out to buy one of everything is likely to lead to an empty wallet and an improvised drink with a few too many liqueurs all poured in one murky cocktail. Start simple, we say. Buy bourbon: one of these under-$20 bottles, perhaps, or whatever's your favorite. (If you don't have Angostura bitters, we recommend making sure you have a bottle on hand...but you probably already have some, right?) Consider your liquor store run complete.
Then, when you're picking up dinner supplies, grab what's needed at the grocery store to make one of these simple whiskey drinks. These cocktails call for no liqueurs, no vermouth, no muss, no fuss.
Have you ever tried broiling grapefruit with a little brown sugar on top? It stays fruit-tart inside, with a touch of sweetness, but the top gets caramelized and rich. This drink mimics that flavor, with bourbon's warm toastiness slipping in comfortably next to fresh pink grapefruit juice. It's as simple as can be, and truly delicious.
A good bourbon really shines in this classic drink. You start by dousing sugar with your handy Angostura bitters, then pour in the whiskey and stir it up with ice. This cocktail stood the test of time for a reason: there are few more perfect things to do with a decent bottle of whiskey.
Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail
Thick, tangy pomegranate molasses is wonderful as a glaze for meats and roasted vegetables, and we love it in salad dressings, too. Here, it comes together with pomegranate juice and rich bourbon for a luscious drink that's perfect for fall, with a gentle acidity that'll whet your appetite.
If you like mint juleps but don't have fancy julep cups or the desire to crush ice, this is a simple variation you should try. All you need is fresh mint, sugar, water, and booze, so if you have a balcony mint plant, you're probably ready to start drinking...now.
Turkey and Sage Cocktail
Plotting a Halloween party? This is your signature drink. The caramel and vanilla notes of bourbon are wonderful with pumpkin, but the canned squash just isn't going to add the flavor you want. Instead, use pumpkin butter (either homemade or bought in a jar.) If you don't use a whole jar, you can always enjoy it on toast or spooned over yogurt.
Here, the sweet and earthy squash is right at home with whiskey, tied together with a touch of woodsy sage and a spritz of lemon.
A refreshing spin on a spot of tea, dreamed up by the crew at The Spotted Pig in New York City. It starts with PG Tips tea brewed strong, mixed with orange marmalade, fresh lemon, and a slug of bourbon. The result is refreshing with a bitter edge, just the thing for marmalade lovers. Don't have PG Tips? Any unflavored black tea will do just fine.
Balsamic Strawberry Smash
This drink gets bold flavor from macerated, briefly-simmered strawberries and tangy balsamic vinegar. Bourbon and balsamic may seem like an odd pair, but barrel-aging processes they undergo ties them together and the fruit brings out their inherent sweetness.
Kumquat Whiskey Sour
We love using kumquats in cocktails: they add a touch of intriguing bitterness and a bright tartness that's different from plain-old lime or lemon. This drink pairs the fruit with with the rich warmth of whiskey for a result that's perfectly balanced and a little dangerous—it's so delicious, you're going to want more than one.
Blueberries + Bourbon
Looking for something on the lighter side? Lemon and a little fizzy seltzer brighten this combo of bourbon and smashed blueberries.
Maple Bourbon Eggnog
We don't hesitate to whip out the eggnog a little early, especially when it's this delicious. This frothy version is sweetened with rich maple syrup and gets a garnish of crisp bacon. Serve it at brunch alongside some French toast.