While whiskey is delicious on its own, nothing beats the best whiskey cocktails for smoothness and refreshment. A rich, balanced sip is achieved by balancing the smokey whiskey flavor with sweet or acidic flavors. Plus, there are so many great whiskey cocktails out there that you could try a new one every night and never get bored.
We'll enlighten you about the history of cocktails and provide you with some fantastic whiskey cocktail recipes. We guarantee you'll discover something you enjoy on this list, whether you prefer sweet and fruity, dark and stormy, or simple and classic drinks.
What is a Cocktail - A Combination of Spirits
The best whiskey cocktails can boost any party to new heights. Let's take a moment to explain the name "cocktail" before getting into the specifics of what to mix with whiskey.
In 1806 an editorial statement in The Balance and Columbian Repository gave the first documented definition of a cocktail. "Cocktail is a stimulant liquid made up of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters," it explained—the currently recognized description of ingredients when discussing the "perfect" cocktail. Cocktail components used to be limited to spirits, sugar, water, and bitters, but as the 1800s progressed, this definition expanded to include the addition of a liqueur.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a cocktail as "an iced drink of wine or distilled liquor combined with flavoring components." While this is a broad concept, it reflects the current practice of calling practically any mixed drink a cocktail.
A Brief History of Cocktails
For generations, people have mixed liquids to make an ingredient more appetizing or create medical elixirs. The ancestors of the cocktail (e.g., slings, fizzes, toddies, and juleps) did not become widespread enough to be recorded in history books until the 17th and 18th centuries. The first cocktail began as a single drink recipe rather than a category of mixed beverages, yet it's unclear where who or what went into its invention.
The Farmer's Cabinet is the first to mention the cocktail (Amherst, New Hampshire, April 28, 1803). According to David Wondrich, Captain J.E. Alexander created the earliest known printed cocktail recipe in 1831. It called for brandy, gin, or rum in a mixture of "...a third of the liquor to two-thirds of the water; add bitters, sugar, and nutmeg..."
Jerry Thomas released How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon Vivant's Companion in 1862, which offered ten cocktail recipes that used bitters to distinguish them from other drinks like punches and cobblers. Cocktails evolved and grew in popularity throughout the 1900s, with Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri coining the term "cocktail party" in 1917.
Best 10 Cocktails to Mix with Whiskey
Whiskey is a big and ever-expanding industry. Similarly, the list of best whiskey cocktails is growing. However, a few tried-and-true recipes are necessary for a well-rounded whiskey experience.
These cocktails demonstrate whiskey's diversity. They comprise some of the most well-known whiskey cocktails, savored by whiskey connoisseurs for decades (or far longer). It's a great list for a newbie who wants to learn everything there is to know about whiskey cocktail recipes.
The Manhattan is a whiskey icon, with its typical blend of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. It can be made using bourbon, Canadian whiskey, or any other style, and it's an excellent recipe to utilize when testing out a new brand.
2 ounces rye whiskey or bourbon or Canadian whisky
1-ounce sweet vermouth
2 to 3 dashes of aromatic bitters
Cherry, for garnish
Steps to Make Manhattan
Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice cubes and add the whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters.
Stir everything together thoroughly.
Fill a chilled cocktail glass halfway with ice.
Garnish with a cherry if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy.
Dry Manhattan: A dash of dry vermouth instead of the sweet version and garnish with a lemon twist.
Perfect Manhattan: Equal parts sweet and dry vermouth and garnish with a lemon twist.
Rob Roy: This variation specifically calls for Scotch whiskey.
Metropolitan: This cocktail replaces the whiskey with brandy.
Southern Comfort Manhattan: Use Southern Comfort instead of whiskey to get a hint of peach.
Old Fashioned Cocktail
The old-fashioned technique is straightforward to accessorize whiskey without drastically affecting its flavor. It's a wonderful way to experiment with any style of whiskey, as it's made with bitters, sugar, and an orange slice.
One sugar cube, or 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Three dashes bitters
2 ounces bourbon or rye whiskey
Orange peel, for garnish
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Steps to Make Old Fashioned
In an old-fashioned glass, soak a sugar cube or sugar with bitters. To combine, muddle or swirl.
Fill the glass halfway with ice and mix well.
Before dumping the orange peel into the glass, twist it up and give it a strong squeeze (targeted toward the glass, not your eyes), and particles of citrus oil will erupt into the drink. If desired, garnish with a cherry.
The old-fashioned was blended with an orange slice and topped with a dash of club soda and a maraschino cherry during much of the twentieth century. It's a tasty drink, although many bartenders prefer the basic version.
One teaspoon of water is usually added when using granulated sugar (rather than cubes), then stirred until the sugar dissolves.
Instead of granulated sugar, use a splash (about one teaspoon) of simple syrup mixed with the bitters before adding ice and whiskey.
A recent innovation is to add an orange slice or peel to the mix. Certain bartenders pair certain whiskeys with lemon peels, while others use both orange and lemon peels.
Orange bitters are delicious, and any whiskey barrel-aged bitters perfectly complement the drink. Some whiskeys can even take on unexpected flavors like chocolate, peach, or rhubarb.
Mint Julep Cocktail
The Mint Julep is a classic bourbon cocktail that you should not miss. Popular drinks might be tricky to make at times, but this recipe is surprisingly simple and only takes a few ingredients.
4 to 5 mint sprigs, leaves only
Two sugar cubes or 1/2 ounce simple syrup
2 1/2 ounces bourbon whiskey
Mint sprig, for garnish
Tips: This drink only needs crushed ice besides bourbon, sugar, and mint. Other types of ice will not have the same impact, so make a large mound of crushed ice before making this beverage.
Steps to Make Mint Julep
In a julep cup, Collins glass, or old-fashioned double glass, combine the mint leaves and sugar or simple syrup.
Muddle thoroughly to melt the sugar and unleash the mint oil and scent. Gently mix your mint. The goal is to extract the essential oils, not rip the leaves to shreds.
Pour some of your favorite bourbons.
Fill the glass halfway with crushed ice and gently whisk until the glass is cold. This should take at least 30 seconds, but the finer, the more time you spend on it.
Garnish with a sprig of mint. Gently slap the mint sprig with your hands before garnishing with it to unleash the aromatic oils of the mint. Take a sip and savor with a straw.
Instead of muddled mint and sugar, try infusing the simple syrup with mint. You may skip straight to the pouring and stirring, and it's a great method to keep fresh mint that's about to go bad.
There are also other Mint Julep-inspired recipes to try. For example, you can sip a White Peach Julep or one with ginger. Some people employ an entirely different strategy, substituting gin or brandy for the whiskey.
The flavor of a Mint Julep is also brilliantly recreated in an ice pop. It's ideal for the hot summer days.
One of the best whiskey cocktails is the whiskey sour. It's simple to make, and the recipe serves as the foundation for the entire sour drink family.
2 ounces whiskey
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 to 3/4 ounce simple syrup, to taste
Maraschino cherry for garnish
Steps to Make Whiskey Sour
Combine the whiskey, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker half-full of ice.
Shake everything up thoroughly.
Pour into a cold sour glass or an old-fashioned glass filled with fresh ice.
Serve with a maraschino cherry or lemon peel for garnish. Enjoy.
Tips: Each style or brand of whiskey you use will add a distinct flavor profile to the cocktail. You may need to modify the sweet and sour ingredients as you transition from one whiskey to another.
Add Egg White: An egg white is a traditional ingredient in whiskey sours. It helps to level out the tartness and smooth out the drink.
When using an egg, dry shake all of the ingredients without ice for 30 seconds before adding ice and shaking for another 30 seconds to ensure appropriate mixing. Serve on the rocks.
⚠ Consuming raw eggs exposes you to the danger of food-borne illness.
Use Scotch whisky to skip the sugar entirely.
A well-known variety is the Frisco sour. The sweetener is benedictine, while the sour comes from lemon and lime.
The old thyme sour is a sophisticated version that combines Irish whiskey, elderberry liqueur, Green Chartreuse, cinnamon, and thyme.
Switch from whiskey to gin, rum, tequila, or vodka, then modify the sweet and sour to suit the new liquor and your preferences.
Cocktail origin legends can be tough to decipher at times, and the highball is no exception. The cocktail first appeared in the late 1890s, and according to numerous sources, bartenders in England referred to whiskey drinks as "balls," and tall or "high" glasses were used for such drinks. Another hypothesis holds that the name is derived from a 19th-century railroad signal. The train may move through without stopping when the ball was high or raised on the signal post.
2 ounces whiskey
4 to 6 ounces ginger ale, or club soda, to taste
Steps to Make Highball
Fill a highball glass halfway with ice.
Fill it halfway with whisky.
Garnish with ginger ale. Serve immediately and enjoy.
Try the Presbyterian, which cuts the ginger ale with club soda for a drink that's just as bubbly but not quite as sugary as the highball.
Try the Irish gold combining Irish whiskey, peach schnapps, and orange juice when you're looking for something a little more sophisticated.
Combine it with the leprechaun when you want to elevate your whiskey to the next level. It goes well with Irish whiskey and tonic water for a dinner companion.
A highball is a favorite drink of the Japanese at dinner and in social situations. They prepare it with great care, combining Japanese whiskey with sparkling water.
The cobbler is a classic cocktail, and brandy and whiskey cobblers are both time-honored classics. They simply have more punch than the wine equivalents. Cobblers are indeed best served over crushed ice.
3 ounces brandy or whiskey
1/2 to 1-ounce simple syrup, to taste
1 to 2 ounces club soda, to taste
Orange slice, lemon slice, or seasonal fruits, for garnish
Cherry, for garnish
You can alter the proportion of syrup to your liking. A full ounce may be too much, depending on the whiskey or brandy. Begin with 1/2 ounce of syrup, whisk it up, taste it, and add more as needed.
Steps to Make Cobbler
Assemble the ingredients in a wine or old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice.
Stir well before adding the fruit toppings (skewered or piled on the ice).
Take a sip and savor with a straw.
Some cobbler recipes use club soda on top of the drink. This is a good alternative, but it is neither customary nor needed.
As a base, you can choose any distilled spirit. For example, you may make a Grand Marnier cobbler or a pear brandy cobbler. Many of them contain sherry in addition to the other spirit.
Try using Gomme syrup for the simple syrup for a more traditional flavor. It will give your drink a silkier, more pleasant texture.
The Boulevardier is a well-known cocktail with a high degree of adaptability. It has the texture and assertiveness of a Manhattan with the acidity, dryness, and bitterness of Campari. This dish exemplifies the balance that may be obtained when the proper ingredient ratio is used. Always keep this recipe in your back pocket. It will always come in handy.
If we combined the Boulevardier with an 80-proof bourbon and 30-proof vermouth, the resultant cocktail would be about 25% ABV (50 proof).
1 1/2 ounces bourbon whiskey
1-ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari
Orange twist, for garnish
Steps to Make Boulevardier
Pour the ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass.
For 30 seconds, vigorously stir.
Fill a chilled cocktail glass halfway with ice. The cocktail can be served either straight up or on the rocks.
Serve with an orange twist as a garnish.
John Collins Bourbon Whiskey Highball
The John Collins is a delightful bourbon sour drink appropriate for any celebration. It creates a fantastic everyday sipper that can be poured in a matter of minutes. In addition, it's a great opportunity to showcase your favorite whiskey in a simple, refreshing way.
Steps to Make John Collins
Mix the bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup into a Collins glass packed with ice cubes.
Thoroughly combine all ingredients.
Pour in the club soda and serve.
Serve with a cherry and an orange slice. Serve and enjoy.
Tips: You can also shake this drink. To do so, place a mixing tin on top of the glass and give the mixture a brief shake before adding the soda.
The John Collins is commonly made using bourbon, although it can also be created with other types of whiskey. Canadian, rye, and blended whiskeys are all popular choices. A decent blended Scotch may be the best because it is more neutral than many other brands, particularly single malts.
It's recommended to use freshly squeezed lemon juice to keep the drink balanced. You have more control by separating the sweet and sour flavors. You'll want that, especially as you experiment with whiskeys because you can change the two elements to fit the booze you're pouring at the time.
The pickleback is a pretty intriguing whiskey shot that you must try for yourself. It's a shot of Jameson followed by a shot of pickle juice, and it's without a doubt one of the most renowned shots ordered in bars all over the world.
The mix is unusual, but it works well. Even if you don't like pickles, this is a drink you should try since it has a rich, umami flavor that you won't find in any other drink.
Step to Make Pickleback
Fill one shot glass halfway with whiskey and the other half with pickle juice.
Many people have discovered that a beer chaser is an excellent way to complete the pickleback, but it is not essential. If you want to give it a shot, stick to light, refreshing lagers. Pickleback enthusiasts' favorite beers are Dos Equis, Tecate, and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
The whiskey is the key to crafting a fantastic pickleback. You can pour any Irish whiskey—or any other whiskey—but it won't be the same as a shot of Jameson. Perhaps it's the woody sweetness of this specific whiskey or something else. It's difficult to explain why, but Jameson makes the finest pickleback.
What to mix with whiskey? Drambuie!! Served on the rocks. It's intended to be a classy, slow-sipping cocktail that's perfect for after dinner.
Feel free to switch from blended to single malts and experiment with different brands, selecting a selection that is as top-shelf as you desire. Choose a bottle that is between mid-and high-end. You may also want to tweak the ratio of the two spirits to suit your taste, as well as the sort of whiskey you're using.
1 1/2 ounces Scotch whisky
3/4 ounce Drambuie
Steps to Make Rusty Nail
Fill an old-fashioned glass halfway with ice cubes with the ingredients.
Stir everything together thoroughly. Serve immediately and enjoy.
Some drinkers prefer a lemon twist garnish, but the rusty nail is frequently served unadorned.
To reduce dilution and keep the drink's full flavor, serve it over a slow-melting ice ball.
The amounts of the two ingredients, as with many simple classic cocktails, will be determined by your particular preference. The recipe's 2:1 ratio is a good starting point, although many rusty nail enthusiasts prefer a 4:1 ratio (2 ounces scotch and 1/2 ounce Drambuie).