This is how you make a classic bourbon cocktail

SPONSORED CONTENT. Learn the art of making a bourbon cocktail

Our beginner’s guide to creating two of the classics: a Boulevardier and an Old Fashioned.

This is sponsored content for Russell's Reserve

There are certain life skills that everyone should master. The three most important are undoubtedly how to cook an omelette, how to knot a tie, and how to make a great cocktail.

Knowing how to knock up a signature cocktail with a nip of nonchalance is a skill to impress everyone from your significant other to your grandmother. So pay attention.

Fortunately, you won't need to start practising any Tom Cruise moves. Lots of classic drinks are easy to prepare, and, despite what James Bond might say, are better stirred than shaken.

Federica Thorn, bartender at Sydney's Kittyhawk, says bourbon is a great ingredient around which to base your signature cocktail, partly because it's so versatile.

"I love bourbon," she says. "It's one of my favourite spirits. It's very good in cocktails because it's a little bit sweet. It's got a lot of caramel and bubblegum flavours to it. You can use it in sweet or sour cocktails or elegant, stirred down drinks as well."

Learn the lingo

It probably wouldn't hurt to learn a bit of bartender jargon at this point. Here's a short glossary:

· Up: Off ice.

· Down, or on the rocks: On ice.


· Neat: A spirit served on its own with no ice or water.

Got it? Let's move on.

Equipment you'll need at home

"It's nice to go out and have someone make these drinks for you," Federica says. "Especially someone who knows all about the different types of spirits and different types of bitters and can open up your mind to different versions of the drink.

"Then you can go home and experiment."

The recipes below – for the boulevardier and the old fashioned – are time-honoured and failsafe. You can probably knock them up with whatever utensils you've got to hand, but let's face it, nobody's going to be that impressed when you reach for the colander and the gravy jug. To do these drinks justice, and to really look the part, it wouldn't hurt to invest in a bit of equipment.

You will need:

· A stirring glass (a big glass with a spout on it).

· A stirring spoon. With a long handle.

· A jigger to measure your alcohol.

· A Hawthorne strainer. Used to strain the drink from the mixing glass and keep ice out of the serving glass.


· Rocks glasses. Tumblers big enough to accommodate large ice cubes plus your drink. Also known as old fashioned glasses, after the cocktail that you're about to learn.

· Coupé glasses. Stemmed glasses for cocktails served up. Rounder than martini glasses (and easier to drink from).

· Nick and Nora glasses. Smaller coupé-style glasses named after Nick and Nora Charles, the cocktail-loving characters who debuted in the 1934 movie, The Thin Man.

Top tip: If you're serving drinks up, put glasses in the freezer for 20 minutes to chill them first. Or even better, store them in the freezer so you're always prepared (you may lose some food storage space, but it's all about priorities). For a quicker (but less effective) chill, fill with crushed ice and top up with water while you're making your cocktail, then throw the ice and water out.

OK, here are the recipes.


30ml Russell's Reserve Bourbon

30ml Cinzano Rosso Vermouth

30ml Campari

Add ice to mixing glass. Stir, strain slowly into a chilled glass and garnish with orange peel.

Credited to American writer Erskine Gwynne, who is said to have invented it in Paris in the 1920s, the boulevardier is similar to a negroni, but uses bourbon instead of gin.

"You can serve it on the rocks or up, in a coupé or Nick and Nora glass," Federica says.

In this version (see video), we're serving it up, with an orange garnish.

Campari National Brand Ambassador Daniele Pirotta says the secret to stirring a boulevardier is to follow your nose.

"When the aromas open up, you will know the cocktail is ready," he says.

Old fashioned

Old Fashion

60ml Russell's Reserve Bourbon

10ml sugar syrup (use equal parts of raw sugar and hot water to create sugar syrup)

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir. Pour over ice into rocks glass and garnish with orange peel.

A cocktail classic ­– if not the classic cocktail – the old fashioned has been traced back to America in the early 19th century, when it was simply known as a 'whiskey cocktail'.

It didn't get its current name until the 1860s (by which time, clearly, it was already old-school cool).

"It's a very simple drink but you can do so many variations with it, such as change the bitters, or use different types of sugar…" Federica says.

"It's a classic and very popular in this venue."

Top tip for beginner cocktail makers

So there you go. Consider yourself classically trained. Of course, once you've mastered a classic bourbon cocktail or two, you may find you want to start expanding your repertoire. If so, it's vital you remember one golden rule, says Federica: have fun.

"Have an open mind and curiosity and enjoy yourself," she says. "Just have a good time."

Master Distiller, Jimmy Russell has been making bourbon in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky for more than 64 years. Working alongside him is his son, Master Distiller, Eddie. Together they have created Russell's Reserve small batch Kentucky straight bourbon. Russell's Reserve is testimony to the uncompromising approach that comes with over 100 years of combined experience. Visit for more inspiration.
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