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Making the Perfect Lion’s Tail Cocktail

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Last Updated on January 17, 2023 by Heather Wibbels

Tickle your palate with a refreshing Lion’s Tail cocktail. This bourbon lime cocktail recipe is simple to make, with only 5 ingredients. Shake one up and enjoy the spicy warmth of bourbon, angostura bitters and allspice dram, plus sweet and sour flavors from simple syrup and lime juice. It’s just one fabulous sip after another!

Lion's tail cocktail in a tall glass garnished with lime slices.

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This mixed drink can easily become a staple in an arsenal of cocktail recipes. On first glance, the Lions Tail appears as a simple whiskey sour, but this bourbon lime cocktail takes a pleasant spicy and bold turn.

The recipe was probably developed during Prohibition, but wasn’t recorded until 1937, when it appeared in “The Café Royal Cocktail Book.” 

The name, Lions Tail, may be a reference to the American phrase, “grabbing a lion by the tail.” But it’s a strange reference, because Café Royal was located in London. At any rate, it after two rounds of this one, it certainly might feel like you’ve grabbed a lion by the tail.

Flavors in the Lion’s Tail Cocktail

There’s an aromatic combination of clove, baking spices and bitterness from allspice, with the tart taste of lime and a bold stroke of bourbon connecting the two.

The flavors are more reminiscent of a rum drink, with a bold splash of allspice dram (also called pimento dram) and tart fresh lime.

In addition, a splash of bitters and a bit of simple syrup round out the drink.

Lime and bourbon is not a typical combination. We see rum paired with lime all the time, but here, the allspice dram acts as a bridge between the two.

Why this Bourbon Lime Cocktail Intrigues Me

I’m far more likely to add lemon juice to a bourbon or whiskey cocktail. Something about the tart bitterness of lime juice doesn’t always play well with bourbon.

This is interesting to me because it is so often used in rum drinks – specifically drinks with aged rum. As an aged spirit, rum is sweeter than bourbon, but it has many of the same aromatics on the nose.

This recipe intrigues me because honestly, I didn’t think it would turn out so well.

Perhaps by increasing the spicy notes with the acidic bitterness of lime, it balances the flavors to a point where the bourbon doesn’t have to work so hard to shine through. Regardless, it’s a fabulous combination. And one I’ll be riffing on soon.

How to Make a Perfect Lion’s Tail

This complex, spicy drink tastes fabulous any time of the year, but is the best when fresh limes are in season.

bourbon lime cocktail in a large cocktail glass garnished with a skewer of lime slices.

As a riff on a classic sour, making a lions tail is as easy as you can get.

  1. Measure lime juice, bitters, simple syrup, allspice dram and the star of the show, bourbon, into a cocktail shaker.
  2. Fill the shaker with ice and shake for 10-12 seconds.
  3. Pour through a strainer into a chilled cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish the glass of your Lion’s Tail with a lime peel twist, or lime wheels, as I did here. 

Be sure to read my tips on how to make ice shine in bourbon cocktails!

For more information about how to make a great whiskey sour, or how you could put a silky twist on it, head to How to Make a Boston Sour.

NOTE: If you do add egg white or aquafaba to your lion’s tail cocktail, the spice and lime flavors will both smooth out, making it more palatable to sensitive palates. But, if you’re like me and enjoy a little friendly flavor competition in a drink, leave it at the classic recipe.

Recommended Bar Tools

You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:

You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:

bourbon lime sour cocktail in a tall glass
Lion’s Tail Cocktail

Other Bourbon Citrus Cocktails You Might Enjoy

  • Raspberry Sour – The raspberry and lemon combo makes this drink recipe perfect for summer!
  • Whiskey Tiki Sour – With sweet pineapple flavor, you’ll want to sip this in a hammock next to the beach!
  • Blackberry Sunset Sour – I call this, “The little black dress of summer cocktails”.
bourbon lime sour cocktail in a tall glass

Lion’s Tail Cocktail

Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktailHeather Wibbels
Tickle your palate with a refreshing Lion's Tail cocktail. This spicy bourbon lime cocktail recipe includes angostura bitters, allspice dram and simple syrup.
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Course Drinks
Cuisine Bourbon Cocktail
Servings 1


  • 2 oz bourbon
  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz allspice dram
  • ½ oz simple syrup
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters or angostura bitters
  • Garnish: lime peel or wheel


  • Combine ingredients in a shaking tin. Add ice and shake for 10-12 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a fresh lime peel or lime wheel.
Keyword allspice dram, apple bitters, bourbon, chai simple syrup, lime, pimento dram
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

This post, originally published in January 2021, was last updated in January 2023.

By on January 14th, 2021
Picture of Heather Wibbels, Cocktail Contessa, pouring a cocktail

About Heather Wibbels

Heather Wibbels is a whiskey and cocktail author (Executive Bourbon Steward, no less) with a passion for cocktails. She loves researching and designing cocktails, drinking cocktails, and teaching cocktails. Mostly whiskey cocktails, given her Kentucky location.

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