Maybe you're looking for that bourbon experience, without the after effects, or maybe you’ve been wondering how to use that bottle of non-alcoholic whiskey you got over the holidays. Maybe you've tried a non-alcoholic bourbon or whiskey, and you've enjoyed the flavor but missed the burn and bite of the hard stuff, so you're looking for a cocktail to amp it up. If you love the taste of a cocktail, but you'd like to serve yourself and your guests more than just alcohol, non-alcoholic spirits are for you. Perhaps, you prefer a burn-free and complex flavor for sipping while you socialize before dinner, or you want to invent a new twist on your favorite cocktails for your next gathering.
How to do it, though? Are the ratios the same for a non-alcoholic old-fashioned as they are in a traditional one? (Almost, but it depends on the bottle.) Are there better non-alcoholic bourbons for different drinks? What about a drink that’s light on booze, but still has some – can I use my non-alcoholic bourbon with Campari and get a lighter boulevardier? Is there a non-alcoholic bitter orange mixer I could use instead? (Yes!) Here, we hope to answer all your mixing questions and then some, so you can use your non-alcoholic bourbon with confidence.
How to Mix Bourbon and Whiskey-Flavored Spirits
Bourbon is known for its smokiness, undertones of oak and vanilla, sharp warmth, and a spicy sweetness that hits hard on the rocks and pairs well with a wide variety of flavors, from lemon juice to maple syrup. Non-alcoholic bourbon can do much the same thing, especially with the impossibly crafted non-alcoholic spirits available today.
Bourbon and whiskey, while different in their distillation process and base ingredients are often used similarly in cocktails. The slight sweetness of a bourbon, born of its higher percentage of sweet corn in the original mash, makes it particularly interesting in whiskey cocktails. In this post, we will go over the flavor notes of each non-alcoholic whiskey and bourbon on our list, so you can decide which one to pair with bitters and simple syrup and which one to mix with lime juice and ginger beer for a Kentucky mule.
Bourbon can be challenging to mix in cocktails; the unique flavors of charred oak, herbal notes, vanilla, and caramel don't always play nice with your standard cocktail mixers, like a tonic or cranberry juice. Many bourbon and whiskey lovers wouldn't think to mix because they love the bite over ice or neat, and if you're looking for that, give Gnista a try. But not all non-alcoholic alternatives have the same spice, and to be honest, that bourbon burn is the hardest part of the original to replicate.
Non-alcoholic whiskey alternatives actually work better in mixed drinks and cocktails than they do on the rocks, because of the increased complexity and layers of flavor in a cocktail. Some varieties, like Monday and Ritual, have such a strong inflection of chili peppers that they're better in cocktails than they are for sipping, while others, like Gnista and Kentucky 74, are meant to be sipped or mixed. Others, like Ritual and Lyre's, are spot-on for taste but just work better in a mix than straight up. What's great about our non-alcoholic bourbon is that they are rich in flavor, so they each hold up well with alcoholic or non-alcoholic spirits in a cocktail.
In any well-balanced cocktail, you need to modulate the spirit with a bitter element and a sweet element. With any bourbon or bourbon-flavored spirit, you can choose to go with an aromatic type cocktail, where spirits, bitters, or vermouth complement the whiskey base. Alternatively, you can make a sour, adding a citrus juice and a syrup. Whiskey loves a lemon or an orange as much as it loves bitters, but pay attention to what the flavors of these bourbons are asking for: a smokier bourbon may play better with stronger flavors to balance it out.
Should Non-Alcoholic Bourbon be mixed similarly to Alcoholic Bourbon?
Traditional mixes for most cocktails are in a 3-2-1 ratio: 3 parts spirit, 2 parts bitter, 1 part sweet. Some of our non-alcoholic bourbons follow the same ratio, but because the burn is less, you have the chance to play with more additional flavors. Most cocktails taste better over ice, but be careful when working with whiskey alternatives that you aren't shaking your cocktails with ice, because you run the risk of dilution.
Many non-alcoholic bourbons, like Spiritless's Kentucky 74, the Spirit of Bourbon, and Lyre's, can be swapped in most bourbon and whiskey cocktails without missing a beat. In a mint julep, old-fashioned, boulevardier, or a whiskey sour, you won't miss the Spirit of Bourbon's higher-proof cousin. With the mouthfeel and texture close to an alcoholic bourbon, Kentucky 74 performs well in both simple and complex cocktails.
Other options, like Monday's and Ritual, have generous flavors, including a chili-level heat which necessitate ice and a stir into a cocktail. As with alcoholic bourbons and whiskeys, expect that each bottle of non-alcoholic bourbon you try will be different.
If you want some great recipes for non-alcoholic bourbon cocktails, head on over to our favorite non-alcoholic whiskey recipes. If you want a better understanding of how to mix which bourbons and what to consider as you develop your non-alcoholic cocktail, read on!
What to mix with Non-Alcoholic Bourbons
Due to the unique flavor profiles of each of the non-alcoholic bourbon options below, they should be used in specific ways and mixed for specific bourbon cocktails. Some are spicier than others, some are fuller or lighter in the mouthfeel; some work better over ice than others. Included with the various characteristics of each bourbon, you'll find the bitter and sweet flavors to serve with it.
Spiritless - Kentucky 74 is meant to be drunk in all the same cocktails you already love. It is crafted to substitute well in flavor and feel for alcoholic bourbon. With simple syrup or a sugar cube and aromatic bitters, which replicate Angostura well, Kentucky 74 makes an old fashioned that approximates the real thing so well you won't miss the alcohol. It can handle strong flavors like maple syrup and lemon juice, and it is delicious with honey and grapefruit in a brown derby, which is a milder cocktail.
Free Spirits - The Spirit of Bourbon: this warm, rich, oaky, non-alcoholic bourbon is fairly acidic with undertones of caramel. It's not smoky at all, so it tastes clean and comforting in a hot toddy or a Gaelic punch. The lightness of this spirit pairs well with aromatic bitters and vermouth for a Manhattan cocktail. Or if you want a sour, add orange zest for a Rob Roy. The bite of this option lets it stand up well against the maple syrup of a New York Sour, but it also goes well in a lemonade or an apple cider.
Gnista: this option is smoky and sweet, oaky and spicy, chocolatey and warm. You can go with chili bitters and a honey ginger syrup for a cocktail that tastes like a grown-up gingerbread house, or you can use it simply, as you would in an old fashioned or a whiskey smash. If you drink it on the rocks, put it over ice and sip slowly to enjoy the complex, dark flavor. It's not meant to be the real thing, but a close approximation of the experience.
Lyre's American Malt has notes of honey, vanilla, toasted nuts, sweet spice, cedar, and oak. It has a light mouthfeel and a mellow finish. This non-alcoholic bourbon is definitely for mixing; the flavor match is dead on, which is showcased in classics like a boulevardier; you can keep it on-brand with spirits like Lyre's Bitter Orange and Lyre's Sweet Vermouth! The relatively thin texture of Lyre's benefits especially from the egg white in a whiskey sour, and the flavor profile make it excellent for an Irish coffee that you can actually drink all day. Lyre's American Malt is excellent in a sidecar, where the Triple sec gives some of the heavier mouthfeel of the real thing. Make sure to pour it over ice.
Monday Whiskey goes well in a Kentucky mule. Like many of our offerings, it is better mixed than straight, because the flavor profile is quite fiery, but the flavor profile is rich enough for a hot toddy and stands up very well against strong citrus and strong bitters. Monday is a great choice, if you want something that will handle the alcoholic bitters and spirits you may already have in your cabinet.
Ritual has a great, fatty mouthfeel. This non-alcoholic whiskey has oaky, smoky, caramel tones, but it is a bit too spicy for sipping on its own, so pair it. Like Kentucky 74 and Lyre's, Ritual has the essence of bourbon that allows it to thrive in cocktails. It's strong enough to stand up well in a Sazerac, with the right balance to handle the absinthe. With lemon juice and simple syrup, it's a great foundation for a non-alcoholic whiskey sour. For this classic take on bourbon, play with your favorites from our selection of bitters and our selection of shrubs and syrups to recreate your favorite. Ritual is also a great option to stir into a lemonade, and it evokes familiar notes of fall and spice a hot cider.
Some Bourbon-adjacent options:
Kentucky 74 Spiced: this cinnamon twist on bourbon is bright and fun. Who can forget their first experience of cinnamon whiskey? It was probably in a shot glass, and it probably burned, a lot, on the way down. Kentucky 74 Spiced has some burn, but you can also sip on this over ice — if you're courageous enough. In a cocktail, the vanilla, cinnamon, and notes of cardamom, nutmeg, and gingerbread make it a great twist on an old fashioned or an orange crush. Create a new cocktail with the same spices you reach for at the holidays, like a dash of Apple Blossom Cocktail bitters or Mexican Chocolate Cocktail bitters.
The Pathfinder: this is a versatile spirit with notes of amaro. It is made with a wide variety of herbals and has more of the citrus and spice taste of a whiskey, with less charred oak and cedar. The flavor profile evokes both whiskey and vermouth, so it works well in a Manhattan as well as a boulevardier.
Non-alcoholic spirits aren't what they used to be; there is a non-alcoholic alternative for almost anything, and we are so glad you're going on this journey with us. Some of the same flavors abound, and many of the same opportunities for pairings — maple syrup, apple, lemon juice — but a bottle of non-alcoholic bourbon is also an opportunity to create a delicious cocktail that you couldn't make in a world where alcoholic bourbon is the only option.