Got a bottle of the world’s most beloved golden-brown spirit at home? Go beyond neat and on the rocks for something a bit more shaken and stirred. We round up a few classic, tried-and-tested cocktail recipes that let the nuances of whiskey shine.
An indispensable part of every home bar, whiskey could be smoky, sweet, spicy, or even fruity, depending on the distillation, maturation, and fermentation process. Naturally, there are scores of options to choose from, with the most popular being bourbons, single malts, and scotch.
And while the time-honoured way of enjoying this spirit is to have it neat, there are a few old-school cocktails that are just as classic. Not only do they allow the flavours of whiskey to sing, but they’re also a refreshing switch up for your nightcap and make a great addition to the spread of an at-home party. If you’re game to sharpen your bartending skills, give these recipes a shot.
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This popular bar order dates back to the 1860s and is a blend of lemon juice with egg whites. The former gives the whiskey a hit of acidity, while the latter adds an intriguing, silky mouthfeel. Combine this with the sweetness of sugar syrup and some maraschino cherry, and you’ve got a drink that’s unputdownable. Classic whiskey choices for this cocktail are rye, bourbon, and Canadian.
The official cocktail of New Orleans, this boozy beverage finds its origins in 1838, when an apothecary served a blend of ingredients in an egg cup to his fellow masons. The formulations of the drink have changed since, especially with whiskey replacing the former cognac. Today, a glass of sazerac includes sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, and lemon peel. The flavour is tart, sweet, and bitter all at once and is a unique drink to add to your repertoire. Not to mention, it’s the perfect recipe for that bottle of rye whiskey sitting pretty in your home bar.
This is an iconic libation that dates back to 1882 and is often called the gin and tonic of the whiskey world. Ingredients featured here include Angostura bitters, sweet vermouth, and cherry, all of which lend the concoction a herbal, mildly bitter, and refreshing flavour. Besides being quite simple to put together, Manhattan is the best way to allow the bourbon or rye whiskey to shine. The former will give your drink a sweeter profile, while the latter will add a certain astringency to the flavour. Don’t forget to chill your cocktail coupe before serving this one up.
This summer-friendly, refreshing drink began as a medicinal blend to settle the stomach, gaining popularity in the 1700s as an elite drink served in silver cups with ice. Every bartender has their variation of this cocktail, with several debating the number of mint leaves to be used and the best way to infuse them in the drink. Regardless of what you prefer, the ingredients are a simple fusion of fresh mint, sugar, and smoky bourbon. Throw in a few bitters into the mix, and you’ve got yourself the perfect harmony of sweet and tangy. Garnish with a ton of good-quality ice and fresh mint.
A close cousin of the Manhattan, Rob Roy dates back to 1894 when a bartender in New York put together a set of flavourful ingredients to honour an operetta of the same name. This is a spirit-forward drink, making it imperative to pick the right whiskey. Most experts recommend a blended scotch. Other ingredients include sweet vermouth and angostura bitters, making for a rich, flavourful sip. Some recipes call for dry vermouth and many blend both. Regardless of the way you go, be sure to stir with good quality ice in a stemmed glass and top that off with a brandied cherry for an added flourish.
The perfect marriage of two beloved beverages, the Irish coffee was first served decades ago in 1943 as a pick-me-up for travel-weary passengers. Soon enough, the rich, indulgent flavours of the drink made it an airport sensation. Even today, this unique concoction is a crowd-pleaser, featuring ingredients like freshly-brewed black coffee, brown sugar, and fresh cream. Grab a delicious caramel and fruit-forward Irish whiskey on your next grocery run, and add a shot of Bailey’s for added creaminess.
A refreshing concoction for the summer, a highball only has two ingredients, ginger ale (or sparkling water) and whiskey. While that might make it seem simple, the secret to quality sips is to pick a whiskey that you’d enjoy neat and use a ton of good quality ice to complement it. Several Japanese bartenders go so far as to stir the drink a precise set of times at each step for the perfect payoff. Don’t forget to freeze your tall glass as well, and add a dash of lemon juice for some added flavour. Japanese whiskey is the best bet for this one.
Often synonymous with whiskey in the bartending world, the classic old fashioned is believed to be one of the oldest alcoholic concoctions on record. It was developed around the 1880s in a gentleman’s club in Kentucky that held on to the old-fashioned values of decency, decorum, and civility. The ingredients for this cocktail recipe include sugar, bitters, and rye or bourbon whiskey, served in a tumbler with a must-have orange peel and cherry. The flavour is sweet with bitter undertones and is a great addition to any cocktail repertoire.
A drink that made an appearance across bars in the early 1960s, a rusty nail is a cocktail designed for scotch drinkers. There are several theories surrounding its name, with some stating that it was first stirred with a rusty nail and others insisting it has got something to do with the drink’s golden hues. Ingredients for this one include scotch and Drambuie liqueur, both of which give the drink a deep colour and the perfect fusion of smoky and sweet flavour that’s light on the palate. Serve this over good quality ice.
Although not as popular as its cousins manhattan and rusty nail, this cocktail’s dry, herbal, and rich flavour makes it just as delicious. The whiskey of choice for this cocktail recipe is a scotch as opposed to the usual bourbon or eye, with other ingredients including sweet vermouth, dom benedictine, and lemon peel. When combined with good quality ice, the concoction makes for a refreshing addition to any occasion. However, it’s often consumed on Burns Night (the UK), in celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns.
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