The Absolute Best Cocktails To Drink With Buffalo Trace Whiskeys

Bartender serving whiskey cocktails
Bartender serving whiskey cocktails - Ilkermetinkursova/Getty Images

There's a reason why so many of the cocktails we refer to as "classics" are made with whiskey — the complex and layered flavors in brown spirits act as the perfect canvas to build on from any number of ingredients. Luckily, the portfolio of whiskeys from Buffalo Trace runs the gamut regarding versatility and taste. No matter what kind of whiskey cocktail you're concocting in your head (or in your home bar), we feel confident they can be perfectly crafted with any Buffalo Trace options. As the head distiller for Buffalo Trace, Harlen Wheatley knows a thing or two about whiskey and how best to amplify it in cocktail form, so when he shared some of his favorite cocktails mixed up with Buffalo Trace whiskeys with us, we couldn't help but take notes.

After 240 years of distilling whiskey in Kentucky, it's safe to say Buffalo Trace has more than enough spirited options to satisfy just about any cocktail craving. Whether you're hoping to mix up something sweet, like an old fashioned, or trying your hand at something new to your routine, like a Sazerac or a Kentucky Godfather, there's a Buffalo Trace whiskey for that. After getting inspired by a few cocktail suggestions from the distiller himself and some Tasting Table favorites, you'll be more than ready to mix them up for yourself.

Read more: The 27 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked

Old Fashioned With Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Old fashioned cocktail on wooden table
Old fashioned cocktail on wooden table - Chris Gora/Getty Images

With the Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey being one of the distillery's more versatile spirits, it's no surprise Harlen Wheatley cites an old fashioned as one of the go-to cocktails for this whiskey. With a sweet aroma of vanilla and molasses and notes of brown sugar, toffee, and dark fruit on the palate, using this particular bourbon in an old fashioned is a beautiful match that amps up the sweet notes in the drink while also letting the base spirit shine.

While traditionalists insist old fashioned should be made with rye whiskey, we like Wheatley's swapping of rye for bourbon in this classic concoction. Combined with the simple syrup, a dash or two of bitters, and that brandied cherry for garnish, the rich subtlety of Buffalo Trace's signature bourbon is the star in the glass. Want to take it one step further with that sweet element? Mix yourself a Fancy-Free, an old fashioned variation which substitutes the simple syrup for maraschino liqueur to turn up the sweet and tangy cherry notes in each sip.

Sazerac With Sazerac Rye

Sazerac cocktail on wooden table
Sazerac cocktail on wooden table - 5PH/Shutterstock

A classic cocktail hailing from the 1800s, the Sazerac cocktail has seen a resurgence over the last couple of decades, and for good reason. One of the main ingredients in the glass, absinthe, was banned in the United States until 2007, but once people could get their hands on it, there was no stopping bartenders far and wide from including it as a regular on the cocktail menu rotation. Another favorite of Harlen Wheatley's, it's only fitting that the aptly named Sazerac Rye would be the star in this updated twist on the classic.

Historically, the Sazerac was made with cognac. The modern update of using rye in its place lends for a more complex flavor, adding some spice and warmth from the rye to the licorice notes in the absinthe, as well as the sweet and bitter combo from the sugar cubes and Peychaud's bitters. The Sazerac Rye is mellow with some dry sweetness and notes of cinnamon and vanilla, making for a balanced sip that can tantalize the regular whiskey drinker and someone looking to level up their cocktail game.

Kentucky Godfather With W.L. Weller Special Reserve

Godfather cocktail on wooden bar
Godfather cocktail on wooden bar - Bhofack2/Getty Images

The term 'Godfather' evokes power and strength, both of which are traits we see in Harlen Wheatley's favorite cocktail, the Kentucky Godfather. The traditional Godfather cocktail is made with scotch, amaretto and nothing more, Wheatley's go-to is a twist on the classic, substituting bourbon for the scotch and garnishing with a spritz of orange zest and a cherry for added glamour. Strong and whiskey-forward, there's no question the base spirit in this cocktail needs to be one that can hold its own.

The traditional Godfather cocktail is a no-frills drink, beloved for its simplicity; yet there's reason to love the Kentucky interpretation of the classic. This twist won't have the same smokiness as the original, but as an update, Weller Special Reserve is the perfect fit. The smooth taste, slightly reminiscent of summer fields, comes from wheat instead of rye grain in the mash bill. The soft flavor has notes of honey, caramel, and honeysuckle that make the ideal balance for the nuttiness of amaretto.

Whiskey Sour With Traveller

whiskey sour cocktail
whiskey sour cocktail - 5PH/Shutterstock

When Buffalo Trace's newest offering, a blended whiskey called Traveller, arrived on the scene earlier in 2024, it brought with it a lot of fanfare. After all, it is a first-of-its-kind collaboration effort between Buffalo Trace and Grammy darling musician Chris Stapleton. The arrival of Traveller whiskey also brought versatility, both as a sipping whiskey and one that can be used in just about any whiskey cocktail you can think of. According to Harlen Wheatley, the blended whiskey has an approachable nature to it; the distiller wanted to ensure it wouldn't overpower any tastebuds. It's only fitting that Traveller would work so perfectly in a whiskey sour recipe, a classic but simple cocktail with only a handful of ingredients.

The perfect balance of sweet and tart is what makes a whiskey sour such a likable cocktail, especially when a workhorse of a whiskey like Traveller is used as the base spirit. Traveller has a slightly sweet flavor with notes of toasted nuts and spice that act as a balance to the tangy citrus ingredients. A bready backbone in the taste and aroma make for an even smoother sip alongside frothy egg white, while the whiskey's sweeter notes are brought forward by the touch of just a few drops of bitter garnish.

Mint Julep With W.L. Weller Full Proof

Mint julep cups on a tray
Mint julep cups on a tray - Clarkandcompany/Getty Images

The mint julep gets the most attention around Kentucky Derby time, yet it's a cocktail that can be enjoyed any time of year.  With the right whiskey, it can and should become a regular staple in your cocktail routine. And because Buffalo Trace is located in the heart of Kentucky whiskey country, it seems only fitting to use a Kentucky whiskey in this classic Southern beverage.

Intended as a Buffalo Trace whiskey to honor William Larue Weller, the man behind the W.L. Weller whiskey lineup, the Weller Full Proof is a wheated bourbon that follows an original recipe. It's bottled at a stout 114 proof, so the simple syrup found in a mint julep is necessary to cut the strength. Because it's non-chill filtered, the bourbon maintains a lot of residue from aging and distillation in the form of oil and barrel flavors. That makes the flavor rich and robust, with notes of vanilla, caramel, and toasted oak that are evened out by the herbaceousness of muddled mint. This a cocktail that only requires a few ingredients, most of which are probably in your kitchen right now. The bourbon might not be cooled during filtration, but make sure you pour it over crushed ice for a pure experience.

Manhattan With E.H. Taylor Straight Rye

Two rye manhattan cocktails
Two rye manhattan cocktails - Fudio/Getty Images

The classic Manhattan is a whiskey-drinkers cocktail, and as such, it deserves to be made with a whiskey that was designed for those with a true heart (and palate) for Buffalo Trace whiskeys. E.H. Taylor Straight Rye Whiskey is the ideal rye to feature in this classic tipple, most notably because of its unique flavor profile and moderate 100-proof strength. Made with rye and malted barley — no corn — the resulting spirit is sweet and spicy, with notes of dried fruit and dark caramel for a terrifically balanced sip.

Bourbon drinkers can make the debate over which spirit is better for the cocktail, but a Manhattan is traditionally made with rye whiskey alongside vermouth, Angostura bitters, and an orange peel. For the vermouth, skilled bartenders can use both dry and sweet together, in varying proportions, to evoke deeper notes from the spirit. By using a rye whiskey with a pronounced sweet and fruit-forwardness, the final product will highlight E.H. Taylor at its best. A light note of black pepper in E.H. Taylor rye can be brought out with the addition of another regular Manhattan garnish, maraschino cherry. Dry but smooth, this is a cocktail to be sipped slowly and enjoyed, appreciating the balance.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.