Up North they have their Long Island Iced Teas, Sidecars and those pink Cosmos. Out West, they make a mean margarita. But ’round here we enjoy something a little rougher, honest, simple in presentation, complex in character, and sweet until provoked — sort of like us come to think of it.
We’re talking about bourbon, the house drink of the South, born in the corn fields of Kentucky and raised in many a glass from the mouth of the Delta to the mountain tops of Virginia.
Here at Southern Living, we’ve been known to enjoy a sip or two whether it’s at one of our favorite bars or a football game, mixed into a killer cocktail or neat. If you’re looking to expand your collection, try something new, or need a little something to tide you over while your name languishes on the Pappy Van Winkle waiting list, here are some favorites from the food department.
Hunter Lewis, Executive Editor
Buffalo Trace Distillery: W.L. Weller 12-Year
I’ve been digging W.L. Weller 12 Year, which our photographer Robbie Capponetto turned me on to when the whole Pappy shortage took on a life of its own. Weller is a wheated bourbon so it’s ultra smooth. Drink it neat, pour a few fingers over two ice cubes, or use it for cocktails.
Nelson’s Green Briar Distillery: Belle Meade Bourbon
When I’m looking for a little more fire and spice, my go-to lately is Belle Meade, a newish brand out of Nashville that’s heavy on the rye.
Norman King, Associate Food Editor (and Resident Cocktail Connoisseur)
Maker’s Mark: Maker’s 46
It’s like a sophisticated and classy lady with a quick wit and sassy attitude. Sweet and mellow up front and a spicy note that hits you as it rolls off the palate. Best suited for sipping neat or in a Manhattan.
Woodford Reserve: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Smooth and mellow with a noticeable complexity. It’s perfect for sipping neat, on the rocks, or in classic cocktails. Try it in an Old Fashioned.
Whitney Wright, Deputy Food Director
Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
I’ll never say no to a patch of Basil Hayden’s. It was one the first bottles of small batch bourbon I ever tasted. And, I tasted it with some of my dearest friends, so it makes me think of them and a few dinner parties we had. (One couple chose Hayden as their kid’s middle name.) Although it’s mild, it’s been distilled with lots of rye which gives it a complex, spiced flavor. It’s the perfect sipping bourbon, especially if you’re a beginner.
Pam Lolley, Test Kitchen Professional
Maker’s Mark: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
It’s just so smoooooth.
Hannah Hayes, Food Department Fellow
Bulliet Bourbon Frontier Whiskey
If watermelon says summer and fresh bear tracks mean trouble, the orange label on this bottle is a sure sign of a good time. When I’m not enjoying an IPA, you’ll find this smoky, peppery, vanilla-tinged whiskey in my hand. I love drinking it from chilled jelly jars with my friends whether it’s neat or mixed into a mint julep. Bonus, the bottles make great bookends.
And if you’re looking for a bigger way to celebrate this month, check out our 21 Southern Bourbon Cocktails. Cheers y’all.