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We Asked 11 Bartenders: What’s the Most Overrated Bourbon Cocktail?

Bourbon is a distinctly American whiskey that has shaped cocktail culture since it was first distilled in the 18th century. But this spirit had morphed into more than your standard go-to for enjoying straight up or on the rocks. The liquor’s rich, dark characteristics and Kentucky roots have led to some extremely popular cocktails, such as the Mint Julep.

That said, not all that glitters is necessarily Kentucky gold when it comes to cocktail creation. Bartenders can begin to begrudge certain concoctions for the way they waste the integral parts of the spirit. So, we decided to ask 11 bartenders which bourbon cocktails they feel are given more fame than they’re due. From sours to the aforementioned sipper, here are the bourbon cocktails bartenders say are overrated.

The most overrated bourbon cocktails, according to bartenders:

Mint Julep
Bourbon Special
New York Sour
Paper Plane
Old Fashioned
Hot Toddy

“I would say a Mint Julep is overrated and really only popular once a year when the Kentucky Derby runs. I think a Kentucky Mule is a more fun, versatile drink that’s still similar.” —Pete Rinaldi, bartender, 22 Bowens, Newport, R.I.

“The most overrated bourbon cocktail has gotta be the Bourbon Special — every so often I’ll spy something on a ‘tiki menu’ [like] this drink that was popular in J. Steven Crane’s Kon-Tiki restaurants. It’s just a strange buck variation with falernum and makes me want a Mai Tai.” —Max Stampa-Brown, director of food and beverage, The Garret Group, NYC

“In my opinion, it’s literally the Mint Julep. I know it has its connotations with the South and the Kentucky Derby, but it’s literally shaved ice or crushed ice with bourbon, mint, and sugar water. I mean, it screams American South, but the cocktail tastes like absolute sh*t.” —Erito Hinojosa, bartender/bar manager, Bee’s Knees & Honey Lounge, Brooklyn

“The New York Sour takes a perfectly good cocktail and throws it off balance for me. It looks gorgeous but adds nothing except extra hangover potential.” —Timmy Nagle, bartender, Cozy Royale, Brooklyn

“​​A Manhattan is a waste of good bourbon, especially if you’re specifically choosing a top-shelf bourbon to only have the flavor masked by sweet vermouth. A Perfect Manhattan is pointless. I swear people only order them ‘perfect’ because they like the way it sounds more than the way it tastes.” —Jess Ferrairo, bartender, The Paddle Inn, Newburyport, Mass.

“As far as being overrated, I have to say the Old Fashioned gets top billing for bourbon cocktails. If you are a fan of a well-made bourbon cocktail and you adore your go-to bartender for post-work or what have you, no need to mess with what feels right. [But] it’s the easiest cocktail you can prepare for yourself in your home to your exact expectations. I’m a touch biased, as it’s impossible to count how many times a patron has asked for something like an Apple Martini or another sweet, unavailable vodka-based cocktail, and then opted for an Old Fashioned as an option B. The progression from A to B has always flummoxed me, so for these highly biased reasons, the Old Fashioned is my pick for the most overrated bourbon cocktail. Now, switch it up to rye and riff it up with some sherry, and it’s an entirely different conversation.” —Chantal Tseng, sommelier/bartender and freelance educator, Washington, D.C.

“​​The most overrated bourbon drink is the Paper Plane. Sam Ross will kill me — it’s a great drink, but [it’s often] ordered by people who don’t drink cocktails and it can be unbalanced and overly tart, in my opinion. I enjoy it, but there are better options out there for bourbon drinkers.” —Rob Crowe, general manager and beverage director, Bar Madonna, Brooklyn

“I used to drink bourbon Old Fashioneds, but I never need to see that one ever again.” —Michael Lombardozzi, owner, Ra-Ra Rhino, Brooklyn

“Honestly, I’d say a Paper Plane. I like all the components, but together they always come out a bit too sweet for me. The balance of sweet and bitter blends better in a Boulevardier.” —Kirsten Dube, bartender, Short Path Distillery, Everett, Mass.

“This might be controversial, but I think the Old Fashioned is the most overrated bourbon cocktail; I prefer mine with rye. Skip the bitters and the simple syrup (or if you’re in Wisconsin, the cherries and Sprite) and get the whiskey of your choice neat or on a big-ass ice cube. ” —Lindsay Ballantyne, bartender, Semolina Kitchen & Bar, Medford, Mass.

“I have to say I think it’s a Hot Toddy. I just don’t get the hype at all. Why do you need to add that much water to an already delicious series of ingredients?” —Anthony Granica, bar manager, Jackrabbit, Buffalo, N.Y.

The article We Asked 11 Bartenders: What’s the Most Overrated Bourbon Cocktail? appeared first on VinePair.

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