Most men will drink it neat, on the rocks, or with a splash of water, but these classic whisky cocktails prove the spirit still mixes with the best.
Few spirits lend themselves to cocktails quite as well as whiskey, with its complexity and diversity. Many of the cocktail world’s oldest libations, drinks that have inspired who categories of variations, used whiskey as their base, and every modern gent worth his salt should know the classics that have had the world smiling and watery-eyed for centuries.
Rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.
Traditionally made with rye whiskey, bitters, and sweet vermouth, the Manhattan is to whiskey what a martini is to vodka. History suggests this sophisticated libation as first created in 1870 at New York City’s Manhattan Club, where it was dreamed up for an event hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston, but today it features on the drinks list of every bar worth visiting. If you don’t dig sweet cocktails, the Brooklyn is a variation that uses dry vermouth instead of sweet, and Amer Picon in place of Angostura bitters.
Whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar.
Often bourbon-based, a whiskey sour is a simple yet elegant three-ingredient whiskey drink that can be mixed up in a flash. Add a dash of fluffy egg white and it becomes a Boston Sour, or top with red wine to transform it to a ‘New York’ rendition. Shaken and served on the rocks, this popular, slightly sweet cocktail is served in a rocks glass with a cherry and orange slice.
Whiskey, bitters, and sugar.
If you only try your hand at one whiskey cocktail, the Old Fashioned should be it. Simply made by muddling sugar and bitters with whiskey and good quality ice, this ultimate classic even has a glass named for it. Said to have been created in Kentucky at the Pendennis Club but made famous at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, there’s a fine art to making the perfect Old Fashioned. For the best results, build the drink in a bar glass and stir patiently to get the perfect dilution, before serving over ice and a citrus peel.
Bourbon, sugar, water, mint
The mint julep is an American classic comprising fresh mint leaves, sugar, and bourbon, served with crushed ice in a metal ‘julep’ cup. Best known as the libation of choice for attendees of the Kentucky Derby horse race, this refreshing cocktail was traditionally served in silver or pewter cups, held only by the edges to allow a layer of frost to form on the outside.
Whiskey, absinthe, sugar, bitters.
Originally served with Sazerac French brandy – hence the name – today The Sazerac is most commonly made with bourbon or rye although you might like to try it with a smooth Irish whisky or Scotch. Regarded as the first American cocktail, the Sazerac was invented in New Orleans by the importer of Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils cognac but the recipe was changed to bourbon (High West Distillery makes a nice drop) after a phylloxera epidemic ravaged Europe’s vineyards and curbed cognac production.
A simple, old-school blend of whiskey, sugar, absinthe, and Angostura bitters, which is served in a chilled old-fashioned glass with lemon peel to garnish, this is the cocktail for men who don’t mind being judged by what they drink.
Whisky, sweet vermouth, Campari
A classic whisky cocktail that’s increasingly enjoying a renaissance, the Boulevardier is said to have been created by Erskine Gwynne, an American writer working in Paris. Similar to a Negroni, but laced with the good stuff from Scotland, the Boulevardier is dead easy to make at home and is a classic libation that allows the use of really nice or unique whiskies to shine. Simply build the ingredients over good ice, and garnish with an orange peel.
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