Kentucky Sunrise Cocktail Recipe

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Kentucky Sunrise Nutrition Facts





Alcohol content:10%

Created by

Nic Polotnianko

I fell in love with the art of mixology 6 years ago. Since then, I've honed my skills, crafting a myriad of cocktail recipes, and sharing my passion with other enthusiasts.

Last Updated: January 16, 2024


The Kentucky Sunrise is a cocktail that hails from the southern United States, a region known for its rich bourbon heritage. This drink is a delightful twist on the classic Tequila Sunrise, substituting bourbon for tequila, which gives it a distinctly American character.

  • Who Would Like It?
    • Bourbon enthusiasts
    • Fans of citrus-flavored cocktails
    • Those who enjoy sweet drinks with a hint of tartness

How Kentucky Sunrise Tastes?

The Kentucky Sunrise offers a harmonious blend of sweet and tangy flavors. The bourbon provides a warm, oaky backbone, while the orange juice adds a fresh, fruity zest. The grenadine delivers a syrupy sweetness that rounds out the drink, making it both refreshing and indulgent.

Interesting facts about Kentucky Sunrise

  • The Kentucky Sunrise is often enjoyed during brunch or as a leisurely evening cocktail.
  • It's a popular choice for Derby Day celebrations.
  • The visual appeal of the sunrise effect makes it a favorite for Instagram-worthy cocktail photos.


  • Grenadine: 0.5 oz(15ml)
  • Jim beam bourbon: 1 oz(30ml)
  • Orange juice: 3 oz(90ml)
  • Maraschino cherry: 1
  • Orange wheel: 1

Detailed Ingredients Explanation

Emma Rose


Alex Green

Grenadine (0.5 oz)

This sweet, red syrup adds a touch of fruity flavor and creates the beautiful sunrise effect in the drink. If you use too much, the drink can become overly sweet, while if you use too little, the visual effect won't be as pronounced. A pomegranate syrup is an alternative that offers a similar color and tartness.

Mary Mitkina


Emma Rose

Jim Beam Bourbon (1 oz)

As the main spirit, bourbon provides a robust foundation with notes of vanilla and caramel. Using less will make the drink weak and overshadowed by the other flavors; more will overpower the subtleties of the grenadine and orange juice. If bourbon's not your thing, a milder whiskey might do the trick, though the drink will lose some of its signature kick.

Alex Green


Mary Mitkina

Orange Juice (3 oz)

Fresh is best here—it’s bright, slightly tart, and zesty, which counteracts the sweetness of the grenadine and complements the warmth of the bourbon. Too much juice and your cocktail becomes a morning beverage; too little and you'll miss out on the 'sunrise' experience. A mango juice could be an exotic twist, adding tropical flair.

Emma Rose


Alex Green

Maraschino Cherry (1)

Adds a festive garnish and a subtle almond-like flavor once you reach the bottom of the glass. Leave it out, and you deny yourself a tiny treat after finishing the drink. Luxardo cherries could be used for a richer, more indulgent twist.

Mary Mitkina


Emma Rose

Orange Wheel (1)

The orange wheel offers an aromatic garnish that signals the citrus flavors within and adds to the visual appeal. Without it, the presentation suffers but the flavor remains largely the same. A lemon twist would offer a sharper scent if you're looking for a zesty edge.

Alex Green

Recipe. How to make Kentucky Sunrise Drink

  1. Fill a highball glass with ice cubes.
  2. Pour 1 oz of Jim Beam Bourbon over the ice.
  3. Add 3 oz of fresh orange juice.
  4. Slowly pour 0.5 oz of grenadine into the glass; it will sink and gradually rise to mix with the other ingredients, creating a 'sunrise' effect.
  5. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and an orange wheel on the rim of the glass.

Pro Tips

  • To enhance the 'sunrise' effect, pour the grenadine over the back of a spoon to slow its descent.
  • Use freshly squeezed orange juice for a brighter, more authentic flavor.
  • Chill the glass beforehand to keep your cocktail cooler for longer.

Perfect Pairings

Pairing Suggestions for Kentucky Sunrise

Brunch Foods

The citrus notes of the cocktail pair wonderfully with breakfast staples such as pancakes, French toast, or a classic bacon and eggs platter. It's like a morning hug for your taste buds.


The smoky flavor of Jim Beam Bourbon finds its soulmate in barbecued meats. Ribs or pulled pork alongside a Kentucky Sunrise is a match made in heaven.

Spicy Foods

The sweetness of the grenadine and citrus from the orange juice can help balance the heat from dishes such as buffalo wings or jalapeño poppers.


For a sweet finish, this cocktail goes well with apple pie or caramel-flavored desserts, complementing the caramel notes present in the bourbon.

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What you could change in Kentucky Sunrise

  • Bourbon: If Jim Beam is not available, any good quality bourbon like Maker's Mark or Buffalo Trace can be used.
  • Grenadine: In a pinch, raspberry syrup or pomegranate juice can substitute for grenadine, though the flavor profile will slightly change.

Explore all drinks starting with K here

And of course - twists🍹

Creative Twists on Kentucky Sunrise

Tropical Sunrise

Replace orange juice with equal parts pineapple and mango juice. The result is a more exotic, tropical drink that makes you want to sip it on a beach somewhere.

  • Ingredients: 1 oz Jim Beam Bourbon, 1.5 oz Pineapple Juice, 1.5 oz Mango Juice, 0.5 oz Grenadine, 1 Maraschino Cherry, Pineapple Slice
  • Taste: Sweeter and more tropical than the original, with pineapple providing a tangy kick.

Bluegrass Sunset

Swap grenadine for blackberry liqueur, which adds a deeper, more complex fruitiness. Ideal for those looking for a tangy and less sweet alternative.

  • Ingredients: 1 oz Jim Beam Bourbon, 3 oz Orange Juice, 0.5 oz Blackberry Liqueur, 1 Blackberry, Orange Wheel
  • Taste: Less sweet, with a berry-forward flavor that complements the bourbon nicely.

Amber Gold

Mix in a splash of apple cider to both the bourbon and orange juice. Garnish with a cinnamon stick for an autumnal twist.

  • Ingredients: 0.75 oz Jim Beam Bourbon, 2 oz Orange Juice, 1 oz Apple Cider, 0.5 oz Grenadine, Cinnamon Stick, Orange Wheel
  • Taste: The apple cider adds a seasonal sweetness and depth that pairs beautifully with the bourbon's vanilla notes.

In case you forgot basics how to make Kentucky Sunrise

Garnishing a bar drink depends on the type of garnish and the cocktail. Generally, it involves preparing the garnish (like cutting a citrus wheel or picking a sprig of mint), and then adding it to the drink in a visually appealing way (like perching it on the rim or floating it on top).

Learn everything on garnishing

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Frequently Asked Questions on Kentucky Sunrise

What type of glass should be used for a Kentucky Sunrise?

A highball glass is typically used for a Kentucky Sunrise to accommodate the ice and the volume of the drink.

Can Kentucky Sunrise be made in a large batch for parties?

Yes, you can multiply the ingredients by the number of servings you need and mix the bourbon and orange juice in a large pitcher. Add grenadine individually to each glass to achieve the sunrise effect when serving.

How important is the quality of the bourbon in a Kentucky Sunrise?

The quality of the bourbon can significantly affect the taste of the cocktail. Higher-quality bourbon will provide a smoother, more complex flavor profile.

Is it necessary to use fresh orange juice for a Kentucky Sunrise?

While bottled orange juice can be used, fresh orange juice is preferred for its brighter, fresher flavor that enhances the overall quality of the cocktail.

Can I make a non-alcoholic version of a Kentucky Sunrise?

Yes, simply omit the bourbon and increase the orange juice, or use a non-alcoholic bourbon substitute for a similar flavor profile.

What are some common variations of the Kentucky Sunrise?

Variations may include adding a splash of club soda for fizz, using a different type of citrus juice, or incorporating flavored syrups or bitters.

How should I store unused grenadine?

Grenadine should be stored in a cool, dark place, or refrigerated after opening to maintain its flavor and prevent spoilage.

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