Best Whiskey Cocktails
Here’s a quick rundown of the best whiskey-based cocktails you can make:
- Whiskey Sour
- Old Fashioned
- Irish Coffee
- John Collins
- Manhattan Cocktail
- New York Sour
- Whiskey Smash
- Mint Julep
- Kentucky Mule
- Brown Derby Cocktail
- Penicillin Cocktail
- Rob Roy
- Vieux Carré
The Whiskey Sour proves egg whites belong in cocktails. The classic recipe calls for bourbon, freshly squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters for garnish. The egg white is optional, but we recommend trying it if you want to get a creamier drink and cut back on the tart flavor.
You’ll need to dry shake this cocktail to get it right. Add your ingredients sans ice to a shaker, and only add the cubes for the second round. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or serve on the rocks, and you get a perfect whiskey sour.
The Old Fashioned is a simple cocktail recipe with one essential rule: use good whiskey without fail.
The recipe is supposed to bring out the unique flavor profile of the bottle. Whether you use bourbon or rye whiskey, the general idea is that if you can’t enjoy a glass on its own, it has no place in an Old Fashioned.
Other than a good whiskey bottle, you’ll also need sugar, Angostura bitters, water, and an orange twist to garnish. Mix everything with ice until well chilled, and serve on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass.
Coffee and whiskey lovers can find a middle ground with the Irish Coffee cocktail. Grab your favorite bottle of Irish whiskey, combine it with a freshly brewed pot of hot coffee, and add sugar to taste.
Then, whip some double cream and add it on top, along with your favorite spices like nutmeg or cinnamon. This classic whiskey cocktail is traditionally served hot, but feel free to use a cold brew in the summer to cool off.
Some cocktails can try to hide the distinct aroma of whiskey, but not the Highball. This two-ingredient cocktail lets the flavors shine through, which is why you can use any type you want, such as rye or scotch whisky.
Combine with some club soda, and add a lemon slice for garnish. You can also play with this recipe slightly and flavor club soda to give it new dimensions. Still, we recommend tasting the classic Highball whiskey cocktail at least once, especially if you use a high-end bottle.
If the Highball seems too simple, then try this twist on the popular Tom Collins cocktail.
The John Collins cocktail uses bourbon whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda to make a refreshing and bubbly treat. It’s best served in a rocks glass, garnished with an orange peel or slice.
This whiskey drink provides strong sour notes thanks to the lemon, which usually pairs well with the sweet and spicy notes of bourbon. But you can also use blended scotch whisky for this recipe if you want more flavors, like hints of vanilla or chocolate.
Try the Manhattan Cocktails if you’re a big fan of American whiskeys like bourbon, rye, single malt, or even Tennessee whiskey.
The classic recipe also calls for sweet vermouth, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, and a lemon twist or brandied cherry to garnish. Mix everything with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass to get one of the best classic whiskey cocktails everyone should try at least once.
There’s much debate among bartenders about whether this cocktail is better with bourbon or rye whiskey. Rye whiskey has a stronger, spicier kick that complements the bitters and lemon flavors well, but in all honesty, bourbon will work just as well.
The New York Sour recipe is the Whiskey Sour (bourbon or rye whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white) topped with red wine.
This unique combination creates a complex flavor profile that makes this sour cocktail seem like only skilled bartenders could mix it—far from it. Add all your ingredients to a cocktail shaker, shake to combine, and strain it into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
Then, use a bar spoon to slowly add the red wine so it sits at the top of the glass, and serve.
The Whiskey Smash is the fruitier cousin of the Mint Julep, but the addition of the muddled lemon wedges makes it deserve a higher place on this list.
Muddling is the key to making a great smash. Unlike squeezing lemon juice, a muddler will also extract the oils from the lemon peel, leading to a more complex flavor profile. Combine this with bourbon, simple syrup, and mint leaves, and strain into a cocktail glass with fresh ice to make your new favorite whiskey cocktail.
Take away the lemon wedges and double the mint, and you get a delicious mint julep. Use the muddler to extract the oils and signature notes of the mint directly into your cocktail glass, and then add the syrup.
Add the bourbon and fresh ice, and stir gently. You can also add some extra mint leaves as a garnish or add a few drops of orange bitters if you want to add another dimension to your cocktail.
The Kentucky Mule is one of the most popular variants of the vodka-based Moscow Mule recipe. It uses American whiskey like bourbon (though another kind also works) and lime juice as the basis, and it’s then topped with ginger beer.
Like its cousin, the Kentucky Mule is traditionally served in a copper mug, which helps it make a visual impression, but you can also get away with a highball glass.
It’s one of the easiest whiskey cocktails to make since you don’t even need a shaker. You can add your ingredients directly to the serving glass and stir to combine.
The classic Brown Derby Cocktail only needs three ingredients to get that complete flavor profile: whiskey, grapefruit juice, and honey syrup.
It’s best made with bourbon to give it a spicy kick that complements the tartness of the grapefruit. The honey balances everything out and gives this whiskey cocktail a friendlier taste.
Add everything to a cocktail shaker with ice, mix well, and strain into a cocktail glass. You can garnish with a grapefruit twist or serve directly.
The Sazerac became the official cocktail of New Orleans in 2008 and is known as the drink that started the cocktail movement in the US.
This drink started as a cognac cocktail, but the low supply in the 1880s made bartenders turn to rye whiskey, and most bars consider whiskey to be the best bottle for this drink. It needs Peychaud’s bitters, cold water, a sugar cube, and some absinthe to rinse the cocktail glass.
Garnish your drink with a lemon peel twist and sip on one of the most complex whiskey cocktails you’ll ever taste.
Penicillin is one of the youngest cocktails on this list, but don’t let that stop you from trying it. It uses blended scotch whisky, single malt scotch, fresh lemon juice, and honey syrup, all mixed with ice and strained into a well-chilled glass.
For an extra kick, use ginger-flavored honey syrup and add a piece of candied ginger on top. The Penicillin is a classic 2000s cocktail: sweet, strong, and more complex than first meets the eye.
You might want to skip the straw for this cocktail. Sipping it directly from the chilled cocktail glass will let you taste all the different notes, especially those subtle ones from the scotch whisky.
Want to try the Manhattan but prefer scotch whisky to its American counterparts? Then you should give Rob Roy a shot.
Add scotch, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters to a mixer with ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain the drink into a Nick & Nora glass, then add a brandied cocktail cherry on top, and you’ve got a great Rob Roy.
Since it’s a simple recipe, it will allow the natural flavors of the whisky to shine, which is why blended scotch is usually the most popular choice for this drink. But a good single malt can also work as long as its notes match the herbal flavors of the sweet vermouth.
Yet another New Orleans cocktail every whiskey lover should try is the Vieux Carre (old square), which comes from the city’s French quarters.
This is a complex cocktail that uses many strong ingredients that seem to complement each other to overpower your taste buds. But in fact, they all come together to create a balanced flavor profile that’s slightly sweet, herbal, and spicy.
You’ll need rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine liquor, pimento aromatic bitters, and a maraschino cherry to garnish. Add your liquids to a mixing glass with ice, and stir gently to combine and chill the mix.
Then, strain the cocktail into a rocks glass and add your garnish. Though it tastes like a complicated drink that was carefully blended, you’ll only need a few minutes to mix a classic Vieux Carre.
Many whiskey enthusiasts prefer to sip on this classic drink on the rocks to take in all its nuances without interference. But these whiskey cocktails don’t interfere with anything; they help bring out new layers in your favorite bottle.
So whether you’re a staunch rye whiskey fan or prefer the light and fruity touch of Irish whiskey, these cocktail recipes can help you taste a new side of your favorite bottles.
Give them a shot today, and don’t be afraid to add your personal touch to these recipes. You may end up creating the next best whiskey cocktail!