Bourbon and Water

Bourbon and water in old-fashioned glasses

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 3 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 3 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 drink
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
128 Calories
0g Fat
0g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 128
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 0g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 0mg 0%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 1mg 0%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

It does not get much easier than this mixed drink. Really, the name says it all: it's bourbon and water. It's also often called "bourbon and branch," referring to either the stream of water that flows into your bar glass or the branch of a river near a distillery.

While the question of how to make a bourbon and water is an easy one, there are some other questions to consider: When should you add water to your whiskey? Should the drinks be served neatOn the rocks? Or perhaps with a splash of water in the classic bourbon and branch tradition? These are all good questions, and there are some tips you can follow, but it's ultimately about your preference.

Keep in mind that the type of water you select is important. Mineral water, spring water, filtered water, and distilled water are all good choices. It doesn't matter which you choose as long as it's the cleanest water you have at your disposal. It may seem trivial, but a good water selection can significantly improve your whiskey experience.

"The bourbon you pour will define your experience. I chose a higher proof bourbon to negate dilution and to not lose flavor. If it is your first time, start with a trusted reliable brand and you will have a point of reference. Once you get a taste for what you like, continue to explore." —Sean Johnson

Bourbon and Water Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Small glasses with water and bourbon

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Pour the bourbon into an old-fashioned glass.

    Bourbon in an old-fashioned glass

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add a splash of water.

    Water being poured into the old-fashioned glass with bourbon

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Serve and enjoy.

    Bourbon and water in an old-fashioned glass

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck


Depending on the whiskey you are using, you may want to make different choices about whether to add water or ice.

Over 100 Proof: Cask-strength or barrel-proof whiskeys (usually those over 50 percent ABV, or 100 proof) can usually benefit from the addition of a splash of cool water or an ice cube or two. Flavors and aromas that might be missed otherwise will begin to emerge, and the burn of the alcohol becomes less noticeable.  If adding an ice cube, allow a few minutes for the whiskey and ice to warm up before drinking. As liquids become colder, less flavor is apparent.

90 to 100 proof: Whiskeys from 45 percent to 50 percent ABV (90 to 100 proof) may be enhanced with water. You may also find that water makes it feel thin and watery; it's going to depend on your palate and the whiskey in front of you. Some whiskey drinkers find that a splash of water helps reduce the sting of alcohol while allowing them to detect subtle nuances in the spirit.

80 Proof Whiskey: Whiskeys at 40 percent ABV (80 proof) are probably best enjoyed neat. They have already been cut down to this strength at the distillery and may not need additional water or ice. But please let your own palate be the ultimate judge. Do not hesitate to order a whiskey on the rocks in a restaurant or bar if that is your preferred way to enjoy it.

Recipe Variations

  • Alternatively, pour the whiskey over ice and allow it to melt a little bit before drinking.
  • Some whiskey drinkers also enjoy a splash of soda water as seen in the popular scotch and soda.
  • You might also enjoy your whiskey neat with a "water back." This extra glass of water allows you to either pour in a splash or two as you see fit or cleanse your palate after taking a straight sip.

How Strong Is a Bourbon and Water?

Unlike mixed drinks, the alcohol content of bourbon and water is not going to be much different from drinking it straight. In general, you can expect a splash of water to weaken your whiskey by just a couple of percentage points. If you're pouring a 100-proof whiskey, for instance, it may only be 48 percent ABV (96 proof).