Nonalcoholic Substitutes for Bourbon Whiskey

By Christopher Godwin

A distilled spirit, bourbon is made with at least 51 percent corn and aged in new, charred white oak barrels for a minimum of two years. No ingredients can be added to bourbon during bottling to enhance the flavor. Bourbon cocktails are fairly common, and the spirit is sometimes used in cooking. For those who don't drink alcohol, use substitutes in cocktails and food.

Tropical drinks on a table in a bar, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia
credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images
Fruity, nonalcoholic cocktails can still be complex and intriguing without bourbon.

Nonalcoholic Vanilla Extract and Water

In cocktails like a Manhattan or hot toddy, a mixture that is 1 part nonalcoholic vanilla extract and 2 parts water equal to the total amount of bourbon can be substituted for bourbon whiskey. For a distinctive touch, use a vanilla pod as a stirrer instead of a traditional plastic one.

Fruit-Based Cocktails

Fruit-based cocktails, or recipes that use bourbon as their base or as an added ingredient, can be prepared by replacing bourbon with fruit juice and nonalcoholic vanilla extract mixed at a 4:1 ratio. For example, the classic Kentucky sidecar, normally made with tangerine juice, lemon juice, Cointreau and bourbon, you can use a mixture that is 2 parts tangerine juice, 2 parts lemon juice and 1 part nonalcoholic vanilla extract. This mixture of fruit juice and vanilla extract is also suited to fizzes that have fruit flavor.

Peach Nectar and Cider Vinegar

Peach nectar and cider vinegar can be used in cocktails that call for bourbon and have a small amount of fruit flavor, like lime juice or are garnished with lime, as the peach nectar blends well into the drink. To make the bourbon substitute, combine 3 parts peach nectar to 1 part cider vinegar. This bourbon substitute is well suited to punches and drinks where large amounts of the cocktail are prepared ahead of time and served over ice.

For Baking and Food

When recipes call for bourbon or whiskey, a mixture of nonalcoholic vanilla extract and nonalcoholic almond extract can be used in place of bourbon in equal quantities. If the recipe only calls for a tiny amount of bourbon, you can simply omit the bourbon altogether, using slightly more of a liquid ingredient to replace the water content.