Bourbon whiskey, which gets its name from Bourbon County, Kentucky,where most bourbon is made, is distilled from a grain mash that's at least 51% corn (but usually 65% to 80%) and may also contain barley, rye, and sometimes wheat (as in Maker's Mark brand). The distilled liquor is then aged in new charred oak barrels from which it gets its color and smoky, caramelly undertones. It adds a special nuance to savory and sweet dishes alike, pairing particularly well with brown sugar, pecans, vanilla, chocolate, mint, apples, pears, peaches, ham, and pork. It's great in sauces, marinades, brines, glazes, cakes, pies, truffles, and cookies.
Dark rum or other whiskey.
Save expensive single-barrel bourbons like Blanton's or Eagle Rare and small-batch bourbons like Knob Creek or Basil Hayden's for sipping. For cooking, a regular bourbon such as Jim Beam, Wild Turkey, Old Crow, or Heaven Hill is fine.
Even opened bourbon will keep almost indefinitely in a cool, dry place.