20 Best Cooking Bourbons You Should Try

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Bourbon might be one of your favorite alcoholic beverages. It is often used as an ingredient in cocktails. But did you know that you can also make delicious recipes with bourbon?

Some brands of bourbon will taste better than others in certain recipes. And knowing what to choose will help you put together the best dessert and savory dishes. 

You can choose brands such as Kentucky Gentleman, Buffalo Trace, or Four Roses, and you will not be disappointed. Keep reading to find out the best brands of bourbon you want to use for cooking. 

Also check: 13 Best Gluten-Free Bourbon Brands

Best 20 Bourbons for Cooking 

The following bourbon brands can be used in various recipes and cocktails, but you can enjoy them neat or on the rocks. So, having a few of them in your kitchen is definitely a good idea! 

1. Kentucky Gentleman 


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Kentucky Gentleman has an ABV of 45%, and you can find it in most stores at reasonable prices. This bourbon is the type you want in your kitchen, as it is suitable for many recipes that require bourbon.

Kentucky Gentleman is affordable bourbon with interesting flavors of cherry and caramel that will compliment dishes such as sauces, beef stews, or roast turkey.

You can also use this bourbon as an ingredient in your salad dressing. Plus, you will also like this bourbon plain since it has a rather inviting flavor. 

2. Buffalo Trace 


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Buffalo Trace is another great bourbon with 45% ABV that you can use when cooking a tasty meal for your friends and family. It is sweet enough to offer your sauces an intense flavor of caramel, and it pairs great with the meat.

Buffalo Trace is a great bourbon for desserts and sweet sauces such as toppings. But you can use it to marinate beef or other meat and add some interesting taste to your salad dressing.

However, this type of bourbon is not one of the cheapest you can find. So, even if it has just the right flavor and sweetness for your desserts, you might not find adding it to your recipe easy. If you choose to cook with Buffalo Trace, you will not be disappointed! 

3. Four Roses 


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Four Roses are one of the most popular bourbon brands, with an ABV of 40%. This bourbon has a sweet and fruity flavor that can complement almost any recipe.

Its mellow taste goes great with desserts and complex, savory dishes. When you drink this bourbon neat, you will taste a floral aroma and a delicate flavor. You should be able to find it fairly easily in stores and at a reasonable price that goes just a bit over $20.

4. Redemption Straight Bourbon Whiskey


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Redemption Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the secret ingredient you want in your dishes that requires a bit of alcohol. It has an ABV of 44%, and it can go perfectly in sauces and savory recipes, while it is not as commonly used in desserts.

Its caramel notes and oak flavor makes it pairs beautifully with barbecue. This bourbon whiskey is made by Master Distiller Dave Carpenter, and even if you might struggle to find it in local stores, it is worth giving it a try. You can enjoy a glass of this bourbon neat as well while you prepare your dinner! 

5. Elijah Craig Small Batch


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You will love the neat Elijah Craig Small Batch bourbon, on the rocks, in cocktails, and in your favorite dishes. It is, however, a bit more expensive than your average bourbon, and many people don’t want to waste it on cooking.

But once you add it to your dishes, you will love the result and most likely will want to keep using it. The sweetness of this bourbon comes through caramel and vanilla notes.

It goes great in desserts and stews, but you can also make some delicious toppings with it. When it is cooked, this bourbon also has an intense spicy taste that makes your dish much tastier. 

6. Old Forester


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The Old Forester bourbon has a 45% and a great flavor that combines oak, vanilla, pine, and orange. Its taste gets even better when you add it to your recipes, as all the flavors are enhanced when you cook with this bourbon.

Old Forester goes great with steak, making it tender and giving it a richer flavor. This bourbon can be your best choice for marinades and savory sauces. It blends perfectly with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic, so you can use it in many recipes. 

7. George Dickel, 8-Year-Old Bourbon


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A 45% ABV bourbon, George Dickel will not disappoint you if you use it in your cooked recipes. The flavor of this bourbon is more fruity than others, with notes of cherry and orange.

You will also taste almond and oak as you sip from your neat George Dickel, but these notes might not be so present after you cook them. But this bourbon is not the cheapest as it also ages for more time.

Most people enjoy drinking it neat or in cocktails. However, adding to your favorite recipe will bring you one of the best culinary experiences. 

8. Coopers’ Craft Kentucky Straight Bourbon


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The Coopers’ Craft Kentucky Straight Bourbon could be ideal if you are looking for a low-alcoholic bourbon to use in your recipe. It has an ABV of 41% and a rich flavor that includes apricot, caramel notes, and cinnamon.

Coopers’ Craft might not have the intensity you need for your steak, but it can be a great choice for desserts and sauces. It is also a good choice for savory dishes made of veggies. 

9. Jim Beam


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Another popular bourbon that you can use in your dishes is Jim Beam. With an ABV of 40% and a mild flavor, you can’t be disappointed when you add this bourbon to your recipe.

It tastes like caramel, apple, and honey, with just a hint of alcohol that will not take over the other flavors in your dish. Jim Beam is ideal for marinades thanks to its mild flavor. Plus, Jim Beam is easy to find in any liquor store as it is a classic in the world of bourbon! 

10. Four Roses Yellow


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Four Roses Yellow has an ABV of 40% and a taste that goes great with desserts. You can also use it for savory dishes, but it is famous as an ingredient in sweet recipes.

As you sip from Four Roses Yellow neat, you will be able to distinguish notes of apple, brown sugar, and pear. All these notes will add an interesting taste profile to your sweet toppings or fancy pies.

Four Roses Yellow is easy to find in stores and comes reasonably priced, making it a great option when your recipe calls for bourbon. 

11. Wild Turkey 101


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Wild Turkey 101 is a stronger bourbon, with an ABV of 50.5%, and it is mostly used for desserts and entrees. It goes particularly great with seafood and chicken recipes because it adds a mild level of sweetness without taking over the other flavors in your dish.

Among the notes in this bourbon, you will identify caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a spicy taste that adds an interesting charm to any type of dish. Wild Turkey 101 is great for cooking and enjoying it neat, in cocktails, or on the rocks. 

12. Old Crow


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Old Crow with 40% ABV is just what you need to add some interesting taste to your dishes. It is ideal for steaks and savory dishes, from baked recipes to stews.

When you enjoy a glass of Old Crow neat, you taste caramel notes and corn. But as you add it to your dishes, you might discover that it transforms the entire taste of your sauce or stew.

And you don’t need to overdo it since this bourbon has an intense flavor without an alcohol burn. 

13. Old Grand-Dad Bourbon


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Old Grand-Dad is one of the best bourbons for cooking, with an ABV of 40%. The flavor of this bourbon is milder and more simplistic than others, with fewer notes, which makes it suitable for all types of dishes.

Its caramel notes and mild vanilla taste make it a great ingredient in a Manhattan cocktail and a great drink to have neat. No dish calls for bourbon where you couldn’t use this brand! 

14. Maker’s Mark Wheated Bourbon


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Maker’s Mark Wheated Bourbon is a strong bourbon with an ABV of 55%, which is in the price range of this alcoholic beverage. But you will not waste this drink in your food as it can change the entire taste profile of the dish.

It is sweet and warm bourbon, and its cinnamon, vanilla, and caramel notes become even more defined as you cook it. You will love this drink neat or on the rocks but adding it to a complex recipe such as your steak marinate is also a great choice. 

15. Evan Williams Black Label


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Evan Williams Black Label is the type of bourbon that brings great taste and interesting history to your table. Evan Williams was the founder of the first distillery in Kentucky as early as the 18th century, and he started a path of creating high-quality liquors.

The bourbon is a fairly affordable one that you will find in most liquor stores. It has a mild taste of vanilla and butterscotch with an ABV of 43% and is ideal for sweet recipes. 

16. New Riff


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New Riff is one of the more expensive bourbons you can use in your recipes if you want to choose a fancy brand at around $40 a bottle. It has an ABV of 50% and a great flavor and aroma that you will most likely love from the first sip.

The New Riff bourbon is ideal for barbecues, sauces, and marinades. It might not be everyone’s choice for desserts, but it works great in a sweet topping. 

17. Ezra Brooks


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Ezra Brooks is one of those bourbons that taste delicious by themselves. It is not only extremely tasty and relaxing after a long day at work or when you want to dive into a book or a great movie, but it can be an incredible ingredient for your dishes.

The peppery finish of the Ezra Brooks bourbon makes it ideal for mixed drinks and desserts. You can add to sauces, toppings, and even some savory recipes.

Ezra Brooks comes with an ABV of 40%, so you will not have to worry about it being too strong for your final dish. However, if you want more alcohol in your bourbon, you can also find it at 45% ABV.

18. Heaven Hill


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Heaven Hill has a floral, sweet aroma that compliments desserts perfectly. This is not a strong or intense bourbon, so you will most likely enjoy it neat or with ice and in different cocktails.

If you want to make a delicious glaze, this bourbon is one of the best choices. It pairs well with coconut flavors, and you can use it to make an amazing whiskey cake! 

19. Ancient Age 10 Star


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Ancient Age 10 Star has an ABV of 45% and a mild, sweet flavor that goes well in cocktails like the Manhattan drink and cooked recipes. This brand is for you if you don’t want a strong bourbon with an intense flavor.

Ancient Age 10 Star is an affordable brand that you can find at around $15 a bottle, and you can use it in sauces, stews, desserts, and any other recipe that calls for bourbon. 

20. Basil Hayden’s Bourbon


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If you want a bourbon that pairs great with your savory dishes and desserts but you can serve it neat or on the rocks, Basil Hayden’s Bourbon might be just what you are looking for!

It is a valuable ingredient in cocktails such as Old Fashioned and other classic mixed drinks. However, opinions are split regarding this brand because it is not as intense and spicy as other brands of bourbon.

It might not be the cheapest bourbon you find, but it can be one of the best to add to your cooked recipes! 

What brand of bourbon is best for cooking?

Finding the best brand of bourbon for cooking is a very subjective task. It depends on what you will cook as well as what are your personal preferences. 

If you want to make a marinade sauce, Jim Beam might be one of the best choices. It is fairly affordable and tastes great by itself, too, so you can enjoy a glass as you put your meal together. 

On the other hand, the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bourbon is one of the best choices for baked desserts such as pies. Its flavor gets even better once you bake it, and your pies will have an intense taste and a satisfying sweetness level. 

All types of bourbon in the list above are suitable for cooking different recipes. The best way to choose your bourbon for your dish is by tasting it neat.

Most bourbons will keep the same flavor after being cooked, but some will enhance certain notes when they are exposed to heat and mixed with other ingredients. But if you like the taste and aroma of your neat bourbon, chances are that you will also love it in your recipes. 

What is a good bourbon to use for baking?

You have several options if you are looking for the perfect bourbon for baking. Besides the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bourbon, Grand-Dad bourbon will compliment all your baked dishes perfectly.

You can use either one of these two brands for baked savory dishes and baked desserts. Another bourbon you can consider for such recipes is Maker’s Mark. So, you can choose which type you find at your closest store and at a price you are comfortable paying. 

When you add bourbon to your baked dishes, expect them to acquire an intense, rich flavor thanks to this ingredient. It is important, though, to follow the recipe and only add the amount of bourbon recommended.

Otherwise, you risk obtaining a dish with an alcoholic flavor that is too strong and takes over the rest of the ingredients. 

What is a good bourbon for the marinade?

There are many bourbons for marinades, with mild or intense flavors. How intensely you prefer your bourbon for such a recipe will be up to you, but most chefs recommend using a bourbon with a mild flavor in marinades. 

Jim Beam is one of the best for all kinds of marinades, followed by Old Forester and New Riff. All these brands are fairly easy to find in most parts of the world but the price may vary.

Give them a taste and see which one you like most in a neat drink, and you can use that to make your final decision for your marinade sauce. 

What is the best bourbon for the glaze?

Choosing the best bourbon for a glaze can be particularly challenging. The flavor of your bourbon will be much more present in a glaze than in other recipes. So, you want to ensure a perfect balance of aromas and flavors. If your glaze is not tasting as good as expected, it might ruin your final dish. 

Heaven Hill is one of the best bourbons to use in glazes of all kinds. Its floral aroma and inviting sweet taste make it a perfect choice for sweets and glazes.

It also blends well with other ingredients in your glaze as it is a very flexible drink that enhances all the other flavors it gets in contact with. 

Best bourbon for cooking chicken

Wild Turkey 101 is a great bourbon for cooking chicken. It has an interesting spiciness that goes perfectly with a savory dish with chicken as the main ingredient. This type of bourbon will also be ideal for seafood recipes and desserts. 

Best bourbon for cooking pork and beef 

Pork and beef can benefit from almost any kind of bourbon. It is important to stick to one that is not very sweet since the ingredients to such a dish will be specific to a savory dish. 

Kentucky Gentleman and Buffalo Trace are great choices for your beef and pork recipes, and they will add just the right type of flavor to your food. 

Mixing your bourbon with high-quality ingredients is also very important for the final taste of your recipe. For instance, you can balance the sweetness of it by adding more of a different ingredient.

So, allow yourself to be creative in the kitchen and taste your bourbon based sauce or marinade until you are happy with the result. 

Bourbon for cooking salmon

When cooking salmon, you can use the same bourbon you would use for chicken or seafood. So, Wild Turkey 101 will not disappoint you with a recipe based on salmon, either. Generally, using a sweet bourbon with a mild flavor can be just what you need for your salmon recipe. 

Salmon in a bourbon glaze is one of the best dishes to try. For such a recipe that involves a glazer, feel free to use a bourbon like Heaven Hill that is ideal for glazes. Ultimately, any sweet bourbon will give you a taste that you will love in a glaze, even if you are not cooking a dessert. 

Final thoughts 

Bourbons come in various flavors, ABV levels, prices and brands. You will enjoy having some of them plain or on the rocks, more than others. Also, certain bourbons like the ones in this article will take your recipe to another level of culinary experience.

Following the recommendations in this guide will help you surprise your friends and family with exquisite dishes. Allow yourself to be inventive when you are cooking with bourbon.

You might like it in less or more quantities than the recipe recommends and should follow your instinct. But whatever brand of bourbon you choose, you can’t go wrong with the above mentioned ones! Choose your bourbon and enjoy your amazing recipe! 

Chad Smith

Meet Chad Smith, a seasoned bartender with a passion for mixology. He's the founder of Tin Roof Drink Community, a blog where he shares expert tips, creative recipes, and fosters a vibrant community of cocktail enthusiasts and aspiring bartenders. Join Chad as he takes you on a flavorful journey through the world of drinks. Cheers!

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