You might prefer your whiskey straight or on the rocks, to really savour the complexity and texture that the drink offers. And while we respect that, you’re missing out on SO MUCH if you haven’t given whisky cocktails a try before. They’re also a great way to use relatively inexpensive whisky, including bottles that you wouldn’t normally consider drinking neat.
The trick to making great cocktails is to understand what flavours pair well with the base liquor, and when you get that right, there is no end to the number of drinks you can shake up. Whiskey, in consideration, is a versatile spirit that adapts and shines when mixed creatively, making the cocktails they’re used in taste amazing in their own right. There’s a reason that they never go out of style completely.
The following list showcases a variety of classic whisky cocktails that’ve been mixed time and time again over the years, as well as some recent innovations that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Recipes are included so get ready to shake and stir!
The Manhattan is a classic cocktail of choice for whiskey-lovers. This delightful mix of bourbon or rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters has been adored for many years because of its subtle bitterness and herbal undertones. While bourbon gives the cocktail a caramel-like aroma, rye whiskey is a more traditional base when it comes to prepping this timeless classic.
In the 1900 Bartender’s Manual written by Harry Johnson, the following ingredients are used to make this drink:
- 2 oz whiskey (we like Wild Turkey or Bulleit in ours)
- 1-2 oz of vermouth
- 1 dash of curacao or absinthe
- 1-2 dashes of orange bitters
- 1-2 dashes of gum syrup
- Maraschino cherry
- Pour whiskey, vermouth, bitters and other ingredients of choice in a mixing glass. Add ice cubes accordingly and stir until chilled.
- Strain the mixture into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a cherry. All done!
All-in-all the Manhattan is considered a strong cocktail with regards to its alcohol content as well as its undying appeal to bar-goers. Even now, with so many new signature drinks stepping into the scene, no respectable bar can ever go without this classic cocktail.
2. Old Fashioned
Considered by many as the original whisky cocktail, the Old Fashioned is another simple yet classy drink that has stood the test of time. Its first reference can be traced back to 1806, placing it right at the beginning of the cocktail era. Bourbon is best used for this, due to it’s natural sweetnesss. But you could also use a rich and sweet scotch such as Aberfeldy or Chivas Regal.
Prepare your Old Fashioned by muddling sugar with bitters and water, adding whiskey, and garnishing with an orange slice or zest and a cocktail cherry.
- 2 oz. bourbon whisky
- 1 sugar cube, or ½ tsp sugar
- 2-3 dashes bitters
- Orange peel
- Orange slice
- Maraschino cherry
- Place a cube of sugar in a traditional, old-fashioned glass and saturate it with bitters. Follow up by muddling the combination.
- Pour your double shot of bourbon or rye whiskey into the glass, add ice and stir well.
- Squeeze a drop or two of citrus oil from an orange peel into your drink, and finish by garnishing it with an orange slice and a Maraschino cherry.
3. The Whiskey Sour
As the name suggests, this cocktail is for those who like a punch of tanginess in their drinks. The sour family of cocktails combines a spirit, lemons and a sweetener. Daiquiris, Gimlets, Margaritas are all sours – cousins to the more directly named Whiskey Sour cocktail. While bourbon is more typically used as a base, rye or scotch are amazing alternatives as well.
Sours are typically made with egg white to give them that foamy look – but you can use aquafaba, aka chickpea juice, for vegan sours. And yes, it’s just as delicious. Simply strain a tin of chickpeas and use the liquid for your cocktail.
- ½ oz. whiskey of choice
- ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
- egg white or 1/2 oz of aquafaba (chickpea juice)
- ¾ oz. simple syrup
- Orange wheel
- Maraschino cherry
- Pour whiskey, fresh lemon juice, egg white/aquafaba and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker and then add a couple of ice cubes
- Shake it vigorously for a few seconds to foam up
- Open and top with ice then shake again until the outside of the shaker is cold
- At this point, strain the mixture into a chilled old-fashioned or rocks glass, garnish with an orange wheel and a cherry before serving.
4. The Irish Ale
The Irish ale cocktail is a variation of two common cocktails: the Irish buck and the Moscow mule. It is a simple whiskey highball to mix up and a refreshing drink that is perfect for any occasion. Whiskey and ginger beer go together naturally and Irish whiskey, in particular, provides a basic sweetness that cuts through the spiciness of a good ginger beer and the two come together perfectly in this cocktail recipe. If you’re a fan of ginger beer, this is a recipe you will want to try.
- 2 oz. Irish whiskey
- 3 oz. ginger beer
- 3 lime wedges
- Pour whiskey into a highball glass and then squeeze the juice out of the lime wedges, stir slightly.
- Fill the glass with ice, pour the ginger beer and stir well to mix the flavours.
- Use a lemon wheel for garnishing (optional). Serve and enjoy!
5. The Godfather
The Godfather is a simple mixed drink of scotch whiskey and amaretto, and has been a favourite since the ‘70s – for good reason too. The sweet nuttiness of amaretto enhances the oaky notes of a good scotch, making the drink taste very pleasant.
- 1½ oz. Scotch whisky
- ½ oz. amaretto liquor
- Pour the scotch and amaretto into an old-fashioned glass after filling it with ice cubes.
- Stir the combination well, and it’s ready to be served!
6. The Brown Derby
The Brown Derby, originally known as the “De Rigueur”, is a three-ingredient cocktail that was named after a fashionable Hollywood restaurant where it started gaining traction.
- 1½ oz. Bourbon whiskey
- 1 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
- ½ oz. honey or maple syrup
- Grapefruit twist for garnish
- Add the bourbon, grapefruit juice and your syrup of choice into a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
- Fine-strain the mixture into a Coupe glass.
- Express the oil from a grapefruit twist over the drink and drop it into the glass as garnish.
7. John Collins
A John Collins is especially good as an entry-level whiskey cocktail, as some people may find a traditional whiskey sour to be too strong. It can be prepared by simply adding club soda to a whiskey sour. Doing so creates a refreshing drink that is perfect for easy-going social occasions.
- 2 fl oz. bourbon whiskey
- 1 fl oz. lemon juice
- 2 fl oz. club soda
- 1 tsp simple syrup
- 2 cups ice
- 1 orange and lemon slice
- 1 maraschino cherry
- Combine bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker. Add a cup of ice, cover and shake until the outside is chilled.
- Strain the mixture into a Collins glass. Add another cup of ice, fill with club soda, and stir.
- Garnish with slices of lemon and orange, and a Maraschino cherry.
8. Mint Julep
A julep is an elixir that promotes good health and vitality. Add Bourbon to that base, and you’ve got yourself an iconic drink that we all know as the Mint Julep cocktail.
- 2 oz. Bourbon whiskey
- 8 Mint leaves
- 1 Mint sprig
- 1 tsp Powdered sugar
- 2 tsp Water
- Add mint, sugar, and water into a Julep cup and gently muddle the mint to release its aroma.
- Pour the bourbon and then fill the cup with crushed ice and stir until chilled.
- Top with more crushed ice and a mint sprig for garnishing.
9. Rusty Nail
The name apparently comes from the colour of this drink, rather than the taste, which is good news. It’s a simple cocktail made with two parts whiskey to one part Drambuie.
- 2 fl oz Scotch whiskey
- ¾ fl oz Drambuie liqueur
- ½ cup ice
- Pour your scotch and drambuie into a mixing glass, add half a cup of ice and stir until the outside of the glass is frosted.
- Strain the drink into a chilled rocks glass and serve.
Brain Duster is one of the more cool and refreshing whisky cocktails that are best served on hot days of summer. Regardless of the weather, however, you can serve this drink comfortably on different occasions around the year.
- 1 oz. rye whiskey
- 1 oz. absinthe
- 1 oz. Italian vermouth
- 1 dash bitters – preferably Angostura
- Pour the whiskey, absinthe and vermouth in a mixing glass. Add cracked ice and then stir.
- Strain the combination into a chilled cocktail glass and serve.
We hope you enjoy our whisky cocktail selection (responsibly, of course). Have we missed your favourite off the list? Let us know in the comments…
Oh, and don’t forget to check out our list of manly cocktails too!