Food & Drink

10 whisky cocktails every serious man should try

By Simon Lyle and Iain Meldrum

But for two great fallacies, we would all be drinking whisky cocktails, all the time.

The first is the lingering feeling that cocktails are somehow frivolous, or even unmanly with their long-stemmed glasses and fruit. The second is the legacy of those whisky snobs, who decreed it an offence to do anything with whisky other than sip it neat, with due reverence, in your library.

The truth is that the variety and complexity of whisky makes it a wonderful cocktail ingredient and decades of experimentation have developed some of the most iconic mixed drinks. Here are 10 that every serious drinker should try.

  • 10 whisky cocktails every serious man should try

    Sazerac

    Why?

    Another variation on the early cocktails, straight from The Big Easy (New Orleans, not Ernie Els – that would undoubtedly be a terrible classic cocktail). Any excuse to sensibly combine whisky and something as potent as absinthe should be embraced and this, combined with the Peychaud’s bitters, gives a really fresh taste.

    Ingredients

    2 ounces American whiskey

    3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

    2 tsp absinthe

    1 cube of demerara sugar

    Lemon twist

    Method

    Mix the absinthe with crushed ice in a glass and swirl to coat the glass and chill. Muddle the sugar and bitters then mix with the whiskey and stir over ice. Discard the ice and absinthe and strain the whiskey mix into the glass. Twist the lemon over the drink.

  • 10 whisky cocktails every serious man should try 1

    Boston Sour

    Why?

    If numbers one to five all feel a bit ‘brown drink in a glass’ and you want more of a visual showstopper, get cracking on the Boston Sour. Sharp lemon and sweet whisky is a winner but the addition of egg white here gives a velvety texture and results in a drink that looks more Cocktail Hour!, and less Don Draper during one of his sweaty, dishevelled turns. Simple, but beautifully balanced when properly executed.   

    Ingredients

    2 ounces American whiskey or Scotch

    1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

    0.5 ounce sugar syrup

    One egg white

    Maraschino cherry

    Method

    Combine all the liquid ingredients and dry shake (without ice). Open up the shaker and add a scoop of ice and shake again. Serve in a tumbler over ice with either a twist of citrus or a maraschino cherry.

  • 10 whisky cocktails every serious man should try 2

    Manhattan

    Why?

    The Manhattan is cocktail royalty, complete with disputed parentage. Probably not invented for Churchill’s mum as the Manhattan Club’s long-held story went, but almost certainly enjoyed by Winston himself. Only four ingredients but infinitely complex and still not a drink for the faint-hearted.    

    Ingredients

    2 ounces American whiskey (standard rye versus bourbon/spicy versus sweet arguments apply)

    1 ounce sweet vermouth (or half dry, half sweet is a ‘Perfect Manhattan’)

    2 dashes Angostura bitters

    Maraschino cherry

    Method

    Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry (for an almond hit) or lemon twist to taste.

  • 10 whisky cocktails every serious man should try 3

    The Godfather

    Why?

    Amaretto peddlers Disaronno have The Godfather down as a favourite drink of Marlon Brando and who are we to argue? The drink emerges around the same time as its namesake book and movie but it’s not an Italian American affair, with balance to the marzipan sweetness courtesy of Scotch, not bourbon. Elegant, unlike late-era Brando.

    Ingredients

    2 ounces blended scotch

    1 ounce amaretto

    Method

    Combine the whisky and amaretto in a tumbler with ice and stir. Serve without garnish. That simple.

  • 10 whisky cocktails every serious man should try 4

    Mint Julep

    Why?

    The Kentucky Derby is decadent and depraved – and drenched in Mint Juleps. Therefore, drink Mint Juleps and you too can be decadent and depraved, or at very least depraved. Anyway, they’re delicious, refreshing and they come in little pewter tankards. Believed to have grown out of the rose petal flavoured julab – a Middle Eastern concoction, via brandy and rum. Dangerously drinkable.   

    Ingredients

    2.5 ounces American whiskey

    0.5 ounce sugar syrup

    Handful of fresh mint leaves

    Method

    Crush or muddle the mint leaves with the sugar syrup at the bottom of a pre-chilled tall glass or pewter tankard. Add the whiskey and top with crushed ice. Stir until the outside of the glass/tankard is frosty. Garnish with mint. 

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    Old Fashioned

    Why?

    A primordial ‘cocktail’, back from when the word specifically described a drink with spirit, sugar, water and bitters. As bartenders began to mess with the formula using new liqueurs and vermouths, drinkers harked back to drinks done the ‘Old Fashioned’ way and this is what they required. Beautiful in its deceptive simplicity – basically takes the knuckle dusters off a whisky punch in the face.

    Ingredients

    2 ounces American whiskey (rye for the purist, bourbon if you like it sweet)

    2 dashes Angostura bitters

    2 tsp of caster sugar or sugar syrup

    A twist of lemon (with rye) or orange (with bourbon)

    Method

    Stir the ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a rocks glass and serve with lemon or orange twist (or add a Maraschino cherry to show you’re not scared of the Cocktail Police).

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    Boulevardier

    Why?

    A cocktail barman’s cocktail – order it to show you’re in the club. This is essentially a whisky Negroni. Like a Negroni, but without all the rules and regulations. There’s room to play around with different types of vermouths or amaros and bitters (experiment with Cynar or Aperol), which is why bartenders like it. Similar richness of flavour to a Manhattan but adaptable to your personal taste.

    Ingredients

    1 ounce American whiskey

    1 ounce Campari

    1 ounce sweet vermouth

    Method

    Stir the ingredients over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

  • 10 whisky cocktails every serious man should try 7

    Pickleback

    Why?

    Because sometimes all you want is a shot of whisky and a chaser of pickle brine. Well, maybe not that often, but this should not be knocked until tried. A peculiar habit that seems to have crept up from the Deep South relatively recently in cocktail terms but harks back to Russians enjoying pickled herring or dill pickles with their vodka. Salt and herbal flavours from the cucumber pickle brine balances with the sweet, woody whiskey.

    Ingredients

    One ounce American whiskey

    One ounce cucumber pickle brine

    Method

    Line up the whiskey in a shot glass. Line up the pickle juice in a shot glass. Shoot ‘em or sip ‘em (probably best to shoot the pickle brine the first time, just in case it’s not your thing).

  • 10 whisky cocktails every serious man should try 8

    Presbyterian

    Why?

    Hey, maybe the Presbyterians aren’t such a joyless bunch after all if this is what’s being served at the kirk? An excellent way to enjoy your Scotch. Traditionally people drank brandy with their ginger ale but pests ate all the grapes during the Great French Wine Blight and they had to look around for alternatives to liven it up – and there was whisky. Spice and zing from the ginger working with the woody flavours of the Scotch.   

    Ingredients

    2 ounces Scotch

    Ginger ale

    Method

    Pour the Scotch into a tall glass, add plenty of ice and top up with ginger ale. That’s that.

  • 10 whisky cocktails every serious man should try 9

    Thyme Well Spent

    Why?

    Because when everyone agrees that you should never mess with the classics, it’s time to mess with a classic. And nothing annoys people more than messing with the Old Fashioned. This one, courtesy of whisky mixologist Iain Meldrum, has a herbal note from fresh thyme, bitterness from rhubarb and spice from Scotch. Light, summery and refreshing.

    Ingredients  

    2 ounces Scotch (try something like a Chivas Regal 12 or Dalmore 12 – something spicy, not smoky)

    2 tsp simple syrup made with fresh thyme (add 2–3 sprigs to a batch while hot and leave for a couple of hours)

    Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters

    Lemon twist

    Method

    Add the whisky to the syrup and a couple of dashes of the bitters over ice in a mixing glass. Mix and strain into a rocks glass and serve with a twist of lemon.

    World Whisky Day is a global celebration, which invites everyone to try a dram and celebrate the water of life. Events are taking place all over the globe and it couldn’t be easier to host your own. If you're going to be raising a dram on the day then head over to the World Whisky Day website and register a public or private event for free. All that's required is some good company and some good whisky.