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9 Substitutes for Bourbon in Cooking & Cocktails!

Let me first introduce you to Bourbon. Bourbon is a distilled spirit made at least using 51% corn and matured in new, charred white oak barrels for a minimum of two years.

Bourbon is mainly used in cocktails, but occasionally it is also used in cooking. For those who don’t drink alcohol or don’t have any bourbon at hand here are a few substitutes for bourbon that you can use in cocktails and food.

Alcoholic Free SubstituteUsed in
(Ratio 1:2)
Cocktails (e.g. Manhattan, Hot Toddy)
(Ratio 4:1)
Fruit Based Cocktails
Kentucky sidecar (tangerine juice x 2, lemon juice x.2, Cointreau x 1 + Bourbon Vanillin x 1)

(Ratio 3:1)
Cocktails that use a small amount of fruit flavor like lime juice.
(Ratio 1:1)
General use. For recipes that use bourbon or whiskey.
5WATERGeneral use. For recipes that use small amount of bourbon.
Alcoholic Substitutes
(Ratio 1:1)
Desserts. Great substitute
Cocktails. Can make a good substitute in some cocktails.
(Ratio ⅛:1)
Desserts. (Spicer)
Sauces and Marinades. (Spicer)
Savory Dishes.
9SCOTCHGeneral use. Less complex flavor.


Bourbon is an American whiskey made with at least 51% corn, with the rest usually being wheat or rye. It differs from Scotch whiskey in its thicker taste. It is commonly used in cocktails but also in cooking.

If you don’t have bourbon on hand or want to substitute it for another reason, here are some of the best substitutes possible.


Vanilla Extract + Water

This mixture can be used in cocktails such as a Manhattan or hot toddy. Substitute the total amount of bourbon using a mixture that is 1 part Vanilla Extract and 2 parts water. 

Fruit Juice + Vanillin

Fruit-based cocktails that use bourbon either as a base or as an added ingredient, can be prepared by substituting bourbon for nonalcoholic fruit juice and vanillin mixed in a 4:1 ratio. For example, take the classic Kentucky sidecar (tangerine juice + lemon juice + Cointreau + bourbon), you can replace with a blend that is 2 parts tangerine juice, 2 parts lemon juice, and 1 part nonalcoholic vanilla extract. This option is also suitable for fizzy drinks with fruit flavor.

Peach Nectar + Cider Vinegar

Peach nectar and cider vinegar can replace the bourbon in cocktails that have a small amount of fruit flavor, like lime juice or are garnished with lime. To use this as a substitute, I suggest combining 3 parts peach nectar to 1 part cider vinegar. This bourbon substitute is best suited to punches and drinks where large quantities of cocktails are prepared ahead of time and served over ice.

Vanilla Extract + Almond Extract

When recipes call for bourbon or whiskey, a blend of vanilla extract and almond extract can be used in place of bourbon in equal amounts. 


If your recipe calls for only a small amount of bourbon, you can simply omit the bourbon altogether, adding water to replace the liquid content.



Brandy is a very good substitute for bourbon especially in desserts. However, it is also suited in most cases. I suggest to use the same amount of brandy as the recipe calls for bourbon.


Rum is another great alternative for bourbon despite being a little bit spicier. It works well for most recipes especially for desserts and meat marinades and sauces.


Similar to brandy, cognac is very good in sweet dishes especially chocolate desserts. However, it can make a great alternative also for savory dishes. To use just replace the same amount of cognac with the bourbon.


Scotch has a much less complex flavor than bourbon and hence can be used to replace bourbon in every recipe using the same amount.

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