The 13 Best Bourbons To Pair With Steak

Times have undoubtedly changed, but a steak dinner remains as indulgent and luxurious as it's ever been. Grilled in garlicky butter and accompanied by hearty sides such as baked potatoes, french fries, and roasted vegetables, there's no meal better suited for both lavish soirees and cookouts at home. Of course, red wine is the de facto beverage, as its jewel-toned richness perfectly matches the meat. But bourbon is equally deserving of consideration. It's smoky and smooth, can range in sweetness and acidity, and shines on its own or mixed in an array of sparkling cocktails. 

Knowing how many bourbons and steaks there are to choose from, finding a solid pairing takes trial and error and some patience. How do you know what works? Generally speaking, you'll want to seek out complementary elements, such as taste or texture, while also paying mind to your personal preferences. Getting a little creative is also key in landing on that surprising combination you never even dreamed was possible. We've taken up the role of sommelier and collected more than a dozen bourbons you'll be able to pour with whatever you're grilling from all ranks and reputations. So sit back, relax, and check out these 13 bourbons to pair with your steak. We'll take care of the rest. 

Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10 Year Bottled-In-Bond

Carving into a high-quality steak demands a bourbon that's equally impressive. The Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10-Year Bottled-In-Bond is one of Heaven Hill Distillery's longest-aged selections, spending an entire decade in the barrel prior to being unleashed in a glass. It carries warm notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel and bears a strong, woodsy finish that takes its sweet time on the tongue. 

"Bottled-In-Bond" refers to the Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897, which stipulated specialized production methods to block imitations and ensure the spirit stayed true to its roots (via Gear Patrol). By all counts, Henry McKenna deserves its status among the best of the best. Bourbon Banter recommends sipping this one with a New York strip, which has a rich flavor and rugged bite that would seamlessly align with a simple shot. Plus, its 100-proof label makes it a great pick for sipping neat or mixing into cocktails since the spirit won't dissipate under the pressure of other liquids. Kentucky mules, anyone?

Angel's Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Balance is arguably the most important factor when pairing bourbons with steak. You want something bold so that it's memorable but not to the point of overpowering the meat on your plate. If this is your predicament, you might want to take a gander at the Kentucky straight bourbon from Angel's Envy. These self-proclaimed "perfectionists" produce a bourbon that's less spirit and more golden nectar, and it's won many awards over the years. It's crafted in batches of 8 to 12 barrels at a time and undergoes an extensive fermentation process, first in white oak barrels, then in Portuguese port casks made of French oak (via Angel's Envy). 

The result of its long hibernation is a smooth mouthfeel, with a consistency not unlike a rich merlot. According to The Whiskey Wash, these similarities to wine make it a great candidate for charbroiled steaks, particularly with its contrasting flavor profile of sweetness (vanilla, maple syrup) and complexity (toast, bitter chocolate). For a complex bourbon that should please most palates, you'll want to give this one a pour. 

Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Pairings can be a transformative experience on behalf of the steak and the bourbon, but not every combination has to be a dazzler. Sometimes, it's more important to make compromises so that each nuance has its time to shine. To put this dilemma to rest, heed Whisky Advocate's advice and head straight towards Maker's Mark. The Kentucky straight bourbon is a pleasant spirit brimming with the scent of caramel and wheat, followed by comforting notes of sweet vanilla and vibrant fruit. This brand uses soft red winter wheat, which bears a gentler hand in the mash bill as opposed to rye (per Maker's Mark). 

Other features include pure Kentucky limestone water and double-barrel distillation for a smooth consistency, while a blast of fire to the barrels lends its trademark smokiness. Despite some of its harsher elements, Maker's Mark rounds itself out with a pleasurable burn, described by The Whiskey Shelf as "mellow and smooth." An easy-to-drink spirit is the way to go with a steak dinner, especially where a peaceful ambiance is concerned. If wine and dines are anywhere in your future, a bottle of Maker's Mark will certainly fit the bill. 

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

When the opportunity arises to dig into a rib eye steak, spring for a bourbon that matches its rich complexity. Seasoned professionals such as Four Roses understand the high stakes of distilled spirits, having honed its craft for more than a century in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky (per Four Roses Bourbon). The Single Barrel bourbon shows perfect pairing potential, made from an exclusive blend of corn, rye, and malted barley that poses a strong, fruit-forward taste on the palate. 

Additionally, Four Roses boasts a vigorous profile because of its high rye content. But the spiciness plays well with gentler notes such as pear and maple syrup. It's aged on the longer side at 7 to 9 years, making it special enough for a romantic steak dinner or any occasion where you feel like pampering yourself. It's offered at a reasonable-enough price to justify having it in your collection (currently $49.99 on Total Wine). As Whisky Advocate reveals, potent whiskies like these are ideal with artisanal steaks such as an aged rib eye in all its meaty, juice-ridden glory. 

Larceny Kentucky Straight Very Special Small Batch Bourbon

For a bourbon that won't strip your throat raw, look to those made with wheat. Offerings such as Larceny's Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon go well with marbled steaks, as the fat swirled throughout intensifies the richness found in the whiskey, per Whisky Advocate. The brand's name pays tribute to John Fitzgerald, a treasury bond agent whose exploits purloining barrels of booze out of the rickhouses he was assigned to cover established him as a bourbon legend. Its mash bill leans heavily on wheat instead of rye, fermenting anywhere between 6 to 12 years in open-air surroundings (via Larceny Bourbon). 

VinePair notes its mouthfeel is caramelized and full-bodied, as many wheated bourbons tend to be, with slight hints of bread and butterscotch taking it all home. What's more, Larceny doesn't just craft any old wheated bourbon. Each bottle is infused with 25% more wheat than other bourbons of its kind on the market, so this is a good choice for going beyond the typical rye-based varieties. Between its coppery hue and yeasty sweetness, you'll find savoring anything else with your filet mignon just plain wrong. 

Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon

Another solid option for sipping with your steak is Woodford Reserve's Straight Bourbon. Thanks to its long aging process and mineral-rich density, it blooms on the tongue with more than 200 different notes ranging from leathery tobacco and autumnal spices to chocolate and dried fruits (per Woodford Reserve). As if that wasn't impressive enough, the distillery where the magic happens is a historic landmark in Kentucky, according to its website. 

For a rye-based bourbon such as Woodford Reserve, opt for tender steaks that don't feature much fat. Jacques Scott Wine & Spirits, for example, points to cuts such as the sirloin or porterhouse, whose leaner profiles flatter the bourbon's spicy nature. And as Master of Malt suggests, going the cocktail route with an old fashioned would help calm the bitterness down if drinking it neat isn't your bag. If an upscale meat-eating experience is on the books, this is a bottle you'll want to have on the shelf regularly. Between the beef and the bourbon in front of you, it'll truly be a buffet for the senses. 

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey

There's great debate over how bourbon should be enjoyed with steak. Do you drink it neat, with no distractions? Diluted with a scoop of ice? Or mixed into a cocktail? Thankfully, Elijah Craig's Small Batch Bourbon is versatile enough to satisfy all steak lovers' preferences, on top of being easy to find. It's a smokier rendition of the spirit due to the distillers charring the oak barrels during the aging process which showcases the toasty flavors present upon first taste. 

Highly rated and reviewed, there's no doubt this bourbon would be a hit in any of the forms mentioned above with sturdier steaks. Boston Common echoes the suggestion of going big on flavor both in bourbon and beef: Think an illustrious American Kobe cap or rib eye, something expensive and rich. It's a little fiery, a little spicy, and bold enough to meet a fleshy hunk of beef on its own level. Take it from Snake River Farms Marketing Manager David Yasuda, who recommended the pairing for an exclusive collaboration with the distillery. "A rib eye is more luxurious...it delivers a mouthfeel of fat and really deep beef flavor," he said on Elijah Craig's website, adding that the bourbon "is able to cut through that nicely." 

Weller Special Reserve

"Gentle" isn't a word we'd typically use to describe bourbon or steak. But we're always willing to make exceptions. Weller Special Reserve, a selection produced by the craftspeople by Buffalo Trace Distillery, is another wheated bourbon, meaning that wheat is the prominent grain in the spirit's mash bill. As Breaking Bourbon elaborates, the name references William LaRue Weller, the person believed to have concocted the idea of utilizing wheat in lieu of rye and perhaps the reason we're writing this list in the first place. 

Far from the acidic substance flowing out of most dive bars, this bourbon bears a delicate touch that's easy to drink. Some of the tasting notes include butterscotch, honey, vanilla, and honeysuckle, as well as oak for some rustic flair. We'd argue it's a bourbon for those who don't drink bourbon, which is why pairing it with grilled steaks would be best. A match made in flame-broiled heaven, if there ever was one.

Eagle Rare 10-Year-Old Bourbon

If you are planning a decadent steak meal with all the fixings — marinades, sauces, the works — why not invest in a quality bourbon while you're at it? Eagle Rare 10-Year-Old is a crowd-pleaser in just about every way, from its indulgent finish to its seductive blend of toffee, orange peel, and rugged leather. It's also a collector's item for bourbon enthusiasts. Gear Patrol notes its impressive decade-long fermentation process and limited supply make it a highly-coveted bottle for booze collectors. Liquor stores can't seem to keep it on the shelves or out of the hands of price-gouging resellers, for that matter (per Malt Review).

Hype aside, there's a lot to love about Eagle Rare. It's bold and brash like a bourbon should be while remaining approachable to the newly initiated. The Whiskey Shelf recommends it for first-timers wanting to get their toes wet, just as much for booze aficionados who prize good taste. Thanks to its citrusy, toasty mouthfeel, you won't find a better bourbon to have by your side, especially where steak is concerned. 

1792 Small Batch Bourbon

We know Kentucky is the birthplace of bourbon, so it's no surprise the year it entered the union has gained a mystique, as seen in 1792 Bourbon. This high-rye number is made in Bardstown, Kentucky, at the Barton 1792 Distillery, as Vine Pair explains, remaining the oldest facility of its kind in town. It has all the elements that make a rye bourbon distinct, including a rich coppery hue and warmth-inducing tones of vanilla and wood. 

Although 1792's mash bill isn't publicly disclosed, The Whiskey Wash confirms rye can compose anywhere between 20% and 35% of a high-rye bourbon's recipe. Regarding 1792's Small Batch Bourbon, this is probably the case. This means it's also a domineering force on the tongue. With that said, Whisky Advocate suggests pairing this type of bourbon with an aged steak to bring all the flavors' strengths to the forefront. It's unapologetically potent, so venturing on the side of caution is highly recommended when treading this particular bourbon trail. Swallow it neat or splash with a little water to achieve your ideal heat. 

Broken Barrel Whiskey Co. California Oak Bourbon

To steak purists, pairing filet mignon with anything but a bottle of red is considered gauche. In some circles, it's borderline criminal. But before completely writing it off, allow Broken Barrel Whiskey Co. to break the rules, if only momentarily. Vine Pair recommends California Oak Bourbon for wine lovers, and it isn't hard to understand why. As Broken Barrel's website explains, the fermentation process takes a page out of the Sonoma County playbook by aging in both virgin French Oak staves and California Cabernet Sauvignon staves, giving the bourbon a candied feel that's sumptuous in the nose and mouth. Total Wine seconds this, highlighting the persimmon and cranberry overtones present. 

Certainly, California Oak Bourbon boasts the spirit's distinct weightiness, but with enough sugar to cut through the sturdiness holding it together. Give this bottle a spin if you're open to tossing that glass of merlot (not literally) the next time steak is on the menu. It's an easy one to find at most liquor stores, letting you focus on the meat of the matter (i.e., the steak). 

New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon

New Riff Kentucky Straight Bourbon differs from many of the selections we've highlighted here. It's not only bottled in bond for authenticity, but it's non-chill filtered, which Gear Patrol explains happens when the excess particles that are accumulated during aging are not strained from the final product. That helps it achieve a nice, earthy funk, in addition to its relatively brief four-year fermentation period (per Bourbon Banter). 

As Bourbon Banter details in a review, the flavor profile is robust, brimming with notes of cinnamon, butterscotch, brown sugar, and dark fruits. Yet the mouthfeel is quite abrasive and leaves a lasting finish on the mouth, which can be good or bad depending on your preferences. That's why pairing it with a dry-aged steak would be your best bet, as the savory taste of the meat would gel beautifully with the bourbon's astringency. Considering the company also makes steak seasoning, it's reasonable to suggest a shot of New Riff to follow. 

Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon

At the end of the day, we gravitate to the familiar, the things we can trust. For a traditional pairing like bourbon and steak, sticking to the classics will never let you down. Wild Turkey's 101 Bourbon seems like an obvious choice only because it's so ubiquitous in the liquor arena. It's the brand's top-selling selection, according to Forbes, and boasts a rich rye base and signature copper shade developed through extensive barrel-aging — about 6 to 8 years, according to Wild Turkey. Its 101-proof signals strength, but its flavor profile is surprisingly low-key. There's an essence of caramel, orange peel, vanilla, and cinnamon. Basically, all of your favorite baking spices mingled with sturdy notes of oak and wood. 

Clearly, Wild Turkey goes great with steak. But how about putting it in steak? The fact that there are endless recipes for steak sauces and marinades made with Wild Turkey's bourbon, including from Kentucky Living and WonderHowTo, shows that its popularity with the classic cutlet goes beyond any doubt.