Whiskey is one of the most elegant and sumptuous spirits around, but we often forget that whiskey is also one of the key ingredients for making great cocktails.
Think of sacred monsters like the Manhattan or the Mint Julep, a ritual more than a drink for the Southern United States, so famous and loved that you think that during the last Kentucky Derby, 127,000 were served: they used almost 2 tons of mint.
But let’s not get lost in anecdotes. Today we want to compile a practical list of the best whiskey-based cocktails so that you will have cataloged them just in case there is no need to put on your tuba and go to the Kentucky Derby. Let’s start with the great classics, and then we will end up with some cocktails invented by us.
They are not in order of preference or goodness. Some are made with rye whiskey, others with Scotch or Japanese whiskey, and others with bourbon whiskey and no one would dream of ranking for pleasantness. Try them all and choose yours.
The king of hard cocktails. For those who love strong and rough flavors but don’t want to give up freshness in their drinks. Whiskey Sour is not a complicated cocktail to make: bourbon, lemon juice and sugar and you can feel like a real cowboy!
Born in 1700 as a tonic, digestive and miraculous drink, it has become the symbolic drink of the southern states of the States. Mint Julep is a very fresh, thirst-quenching but heavy cocktail, be careful, it looks like iced tea, but it’s not! Sugar, mint and water in a glass, pound and mix and then add good bourbon.
One of the first cocktails ever made, Old Fashioned is an absolute icon. The name follows the way of drinking in the past: sugar and Angostura in the glass, dissolve and mix with soda and add bourbon. The woody, highly concentrated and hyper-spiced bourbon flavor thus finds a way to open up and dissolve, becoming an incredible and much more elegant symphony.
The Manhattan cocktail is the essence of elegance: rye whiskey, Angostura, sweet vermouth, all mixed and not shaken, in the face of James Bond. The balance between sweetness, smoky and spicy tones and the herbs of Angostura is fabulous. A masterpiece of mixing.
The Rob Roy closely follows the Manhattan, identical, except that it uses the finest Scotch whiskey instead of rye whiskey. It deserves.
The Godfather is the easiest cocktail to make on the face of the earth: mix whiskey and amaretto and add some ice cubes if you want. It is an essential drink, but the spicy and smoky thickness of the whiskey is softened by the velvety and aromatic touch of the amaretto liqueur. The after-dinner par excellence.
Irish Coffee is a coffee corrected with Irish whiskey and cream, an absolute pleasure in winter when you are about to freeze. In the summer, do it ice-cold and it’s excellent all the same. We thank the legendary Mr. Sheridan once again, who invented this lovely drink.
The Boulevardier cocktail is a legend, a Negroni with bourbon whiskey instead of gin if we want to simplify. Still, its taste is unique and enveloping, with a symphony of spice and sweet and bitter tones that blend gracefully.
The old Rusty Nail is one of the great classics, another basic recipe, made with only two ingredients, but its flavor is pure Scotch poetry. Drambuie and whisky together form a close-knit, splendid couple. This is your cocktail if you want a complex, herbaceous, mottled, and very dry after-dinner.
Blood and Sand
In honor of Rodolfo Valentino, a true idol of the 30s, here is a soft cocktail that does not renounce finesse and freshness. Blood and Sand features 1/4 of Scotch whisky, 1/4 of orange juice, 1/4 of sweet vermouth and 1/4 of cherry brandy: shake with ice and serve a mythical cocktail, now forgotten by the masses, but which deserves more than a toast.
The Old Pal is the cousin of the Negroni, a different twin of the Boulevardier: rye is used instead of gin or bourbon whiskey. It has a more explosive flavor, less woody, but sweeter, herbaceous, velvety, caramelized with scents of cherries in alcohol. This is the beauty of cocktails. It takes very little to change the cards on the table, even when it seems that everyone has a poker.
We have an intruder here! Everyone knows that the Sazerac cocktail is made with Cognac! Well, not really. In the United States, it is common to prepare this classic drink with whiskey, so don’t be surprised if they serve you some bourbon whiskey with absinthe, sugar and 2 drops of Peychaud’s bitter.
And then we finish with some cocktails made by us: Space Monkey with coconut water and orange: very aromatic. Teddy: A summer iced tea with whiskey, apple juice, and ginger, only for old Kentucky miners. Chinotto Sour to fight Sunday afternoon boredom. Shaved Eagle for those who love intense flavors and eat herring for breakfast. Desideria: chocolate, whiskey, pistachio, and a thousand other spices for an orgy of enveloping flavors: beware, it’s an aphrodisiac cocktail.