Whiskey is one of the most popular spirits to order when you’re out at a bar or restaurant. There are dozens of different kinds with subtle notes of warm flavors that are great on their own or paired with other spirits or mixers.
There are several drinks you can order with a whiskey base, but which ones are worth trying? Here are the 12 best whiskey drinks to order at a bar next time you head to happy hour or out on the town.
- Old Fashioned
- Mint Julep
- Irish Coffee
- Hot Toddy
- Whiskey Highball
- Whiskey Sour
- Rusty Nail
- John Collins
A Manhattan is one of the most classic whiskey drinks you can order from a restaurant or bar. The cocktail originated in the Manhattan Club in New York City sometime in the 19th century. It’s elegant, sophisticated, and something you order when you want something more refined.
Since then, it’s been a favorite among whiskey drinkers. This delicious drink is made with whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. Generally, bartenders will serve it in a martini glass and garnish it with a maraschino cherry. While you can drink it on its own, anything with lamb will do the trick if you’re looking for a dish to pair well with a Manhattan.
Even if you’re not a whiskey drinker, you’ve probably heard of an Old Fashioned. An Old Fashioned is one of the most famous whiskey drinks you can order at a bar and is known to be a more sophisticated option. It’s been around since the mid-1800s but remains popular to this day.
An Old Fashioned consists of whiskey, sugar, and bitters. Many people use an orange peel to rim the glass before adding it to the drink, but you don’t have to. The drink is aromatic and allows you to taste the whiskey for what it is without adding too many other flavors that take away from it.
Drinks with whiskey aren’t necessarily known for refreshing, but if you love whiskey and want something refreshing, you need to order a mint julep with whiskey. Mint juleps are the signature drink of the Kentucky Derby, with more than 12,000 being served throughout the two-day event.
It doesn’t have to be the Kentucky Derby, though, for you to enjoy the drink. Most bartenders will serve it in silver julep cups or rocks glass. The cocktail consists of whiskey, mint, and sugar. It’s the perfect sweet and summery beverage that still tastes like whiskey but cools you down in the summer. You can still enjoy the deliciousness any other time of year, though.
When you think of cocktails, you probably think of cold drinks, but Irish coffee is the perfect hot cocktail with whiskey. It’s comforting and doesn’t need to be enjoyed just during the year’s cooler months. Each bar makes it a little bit different. Many people order it when they’ve been out drinking the night before and need a little hair from the dog.
Despite that, you can order it whenever you want! For the most part, the whiskey cocktail is made with hot coffee, Irish whiskey, brown sugar, and simple syrup. Some bars will add Baileys Irish Cream and even whipped cream on top to make it a little fancier and sweeter.
A hot toddy is another delicious hot whiskey cocktail you can order at a bar. These aren’t always available year-round in many places, so be sure to think about them in the winter. When they were first created, many believed them to have medicinal properties. The medicinal properties included alleviating symptoms of the common cold.
A hot toddy is the whiskey beverage you order when you want something to sip on or have as a nightcap slowly. Every bar will make it a little bit differently, but most hot toddies are made with whiskey, lemon, honey, and cinnamon. The drink is usually warm, and the subtle spice makes most people associate it with a holiday drink. If hot isn’t for you, you can order it iced.
When you think of simple mixed drinks, they typically don’t have a “fancier” name or are simply named after two or three ingredients. If you want something simple that every bar can make, a whiskey highball is a drink for you. A whiskey highball only requires two ingredients: whiskey and soda water.
Some people garnish it with lemon or mint leaves, but you don’t have to. While most people won’t think this sounds overly appealing, if you love whiskey and cherish the different flavors, this mixed drink allows you to appreciate the whiskey notes without drinking straight whiskey. Without any sweetness added, the whiskey stands alone and shines.
New Orleans is known for having a lot of drinks originating there, but the Sazerac might be one of the most famous in the city. While it’s hard to pinpoint, many believe this whiskey drink originates from the 1800s. It came about around the same time as the classic Old Fashioned.
There are only a few differences between a Sazerac and Old Fashioned. When making a Sazerac, it usually includes rye whiskey, bitters, sugar, and absinthe. The drink is sweet with a slightly bitter taste and pretty potent, thanks to the absinthe. The drink can’t be ordered at every bar, but if you see it on the menu, it’s worth a try.
Another simple yet classic whiskey drink you can order from almost any bar is whiskey sour. A Wisconsin newspaper writer was the first to mention a whiskey sour in 1870, so it’s been around for about as long as an Old Fashioned.
A lot of people think a whiskey sour is made with whiskey and sour mix, but it’s not. Most whiskey sours combine whiskey (any kind), simple syrup, lemon juice, and sometimes egg whites. The citrus makes this cocktail so delicious because it has a sour hint but is not overly sour like other drinks. Overall, it’s still refreshing and delicious to sip on.
Much like other whiskey cocktails, a Rusty Nail has existed for some time. A Rusty Nail is said to have been around since 1937 when it appeared for the first time at the British Industries Fair in New York. It did fall off the radar though of whiskey drinkers until the 1950s.
Once the drink resurfaced in the 1950s, it quickly became one of the favorites among whiskey drinkers. Some even say it was one of the favorite drinks of the Rat Pack in the 1960s. If you want to try a Rusty Nail, the drink is made with whiskey and Drambuie. Drambuie is a scotch-based liqueur, so the drink is very strong and features different whiskey expressions.
Something you may or may not have noticed about many whiskey drinks is that they’re generally pretty simple. They only have a few ingredients so that you can taste the notes of the whiskey. The Godfather is one of those whiskey drinks. It only has two components: whiskey and amaretto.
The almond and fruity flavors from the amaretto might seem like they overpower the whiskey, but it doesn’t when the drink is made correctly. The sweetness softens the whiskey and makes it more appealing to drink for some people without taking away from the whiskey flavor. The ratio of whiskey to amaretto varies, but it should be 8:1.
Whiskey goes well with bitters, which is why many drinks with whiskey include some bitters. A Seelbach is unique because the drink is made with whiskey, bitters, and bubbles, aka champagne or sparkling wine. Depending on where you order it from, it can vary.
The origins of the Seelbach cocktail stem from the 1990s. A bartender named Adam Segar at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel in Louisville created the drink based on the hotel’s pre-prohibition menu. He claimed he read the menus, recreated the drink, and added the core ingredients but aromatics to enhance the flavors.
If you frequent cocktail bars and the name John Collins sounds familiar but don’t know why, you’ve probably seen some of the other Collins drinks on a menu before. The Collins drinks are made with three different spirits with different first names. The one with whiskey is called a John Collins.
A John Collins is made with bourbon whiskey, simple syrup, lemon juice, club soda, and an orange slice. Many bartenders will slide the orange slice along the rim of the glass before serving to add a little extra orange flavor. It’s delicious and refreshing without taking away from the whiskey notes.
Whether you’re looking for something simple like a whiskey highball or something more refined like a Seelbach, there are plenty of whiskey drinks to try. Try one or two of these whiskey drinks next time you’re at a bar.