Bourbon is a specific type of American whiskey, with a mash bill that must consist of at least 51% corn to be classified as a bourbon. The rest of the mash usually consists of some combination of rye or wheat and malted barley.
Though the precise origin of bourbon is uncertain, many believe bourbon was first invented in 1789 in Bourbon County, Kentucky by a Baptist minister named Elijah Craig. Another theory attributes bourbon’s origins to two brothers in Louisville, Kentucky in the 19th century, who shipped whiskey to New Orleans in charred oak barrels. This aged whiskey swiftly gained popularity, and patrons in New Orleans began requesting “that Bourbon Street whiskey” – eventually becoming known simply as bourbon.
While its exact origins may be unknown, bourbon has proved itself to have serious staying power, and continues to enjoy great popularity in the states and worldwide. Bourbons tend to be smooth and have some degree of pleasant sweetness, thanks to both the high corn content and the aging process, which releases the flavors of caramel and vanilla that are present in most bourbons. Today, bourbon is very popular in cocktails, and is often enjoyed neat or on the rocks as well.