I typically enjoy my whiskey three ways—in this order: neat, with a splash of water, and on the rocks.
That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a well-made cocktail, but I prefer them simple and subtle enough that you can taste the bourbon, rye, or whatever the recipe calls for. So I asked some of the best bartenders and spirits industry experts in America what’s shaking for whiskey cocktails this season.
24 Superb Whiskey Cocktails
“The Cold Fashioned is so simple to make, yet so well balanced and complex. Who doesn’t like a three-component drink that can be made without fancy bar equipment? Coffee works so well with whiskey: It’s the reason why the Revolver was so popular in the West Coast for years—until a better coffee liqueur was created in Australia, using real coffee and less sugar. This modern classic plays the roasty, barrel notes of the whiskey off the aromatic, complex flavor of arabica coffee, with the orange tying the two together in a beautiful way.” —Stephen Kurpinsky, U.S. brand ambassador for Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
1 oz. whiskey
1 oz. Mr Black Cold Brew Liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters
Method: Build over ice and stir. Garnish with orange peel.
HIGH WEST COBBLER: THE PAYROLL TRAIN
“It’s been said that the cobbler was the most popular cocktail in the 19th century—one that incorporated fresh fruit, sherry, or spirits. The low ABV of a cobbler and its ability to be refreshing is what allows you to drink it over a longer period of time without the effects you may normally experience from a high-alcohol cocktail. Crushed (or pebble) ice is key to a good cobbler. You can get crushed ice out of your ice machine at home but if you have pebble ice it will take longer to melt. A good cheat here would be to go to Sonic and buy a bag of their ice to-go. I’ve done this many times before and it’s also great for a backyard get-together.” —Steve Walton, beverage director at High West Saloon (Park City, Utah)
0.5 oz. High West Double Rye
1.5 oz. Oloroso (can mix this with mixed berries for extra flavor)
0.5 oz. Amaro CioCiaro
0.5 oz. cinnamon syrup
0.5 oz. lemon juice
0.25 oz. Smith & Cross rum
Method: Short shake, strain over crushed ice, and garnish with berries and mint.
“Highballs are perfect in a lot of ways. They can be made with no tools, no technique, no experience, and still deliver on something refreshing and delicious. During this time I’ve been trying to focus my energy on simple things to find joy in the day-to-day. A clean and easy highball gives me exactly that.” —Vinny Starble, beverage director and spirits specialist
1.5 parts Suntory Toki
0.5 parts Chenin Blanc (or other high-acid still white wine)
4 parts super premium soda water, like Topo Chico
Method: Combine all ingredients into a Collins or tall glass. Gently add ice. Garnish with flowers (optional). Express lemon peel over flowers (or top of glass) and discard.
“One of my favorite ingredients to work with is honey and I especially love the complex flavors found in the Bee Squared honey that is aged in Laws Whiskey barrels. I enjoy creating whiskey cocktails with Laws Rye because the rye matches well with bright flavors like grapefruit and mint. During quarantine I have been watching a lot of old Westerns. My favorite is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is an epic1966 Italian spaghetti western directed by Sergio Leone. I named my drink Angel Eyes—after the villain in the movie. My drink pays homage to this incredible classic and is the perfect marriage of Colorado Rye whiskey and Italian flavor!” —Katie Dehart, bartender at Attimo Wine (Denver, Colorado)
2 oz. Laws Whiskey House San Luis Valley Straight Rye
0.5 oz. Braulio Italian amaro
0.5 oz. Bee Squared honey
4 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
Method: Build over ice in a shaker. Shake and strain over fresh ice in an eight-ounce rocks glass.
GOODNIGHT IRENE, SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS
“Goodnight Irene is the perfect nightcap—filled with flavor but lower in alcohol than another glass of the terrific whiskey at its base (Knappogue Castle 16 Year). Sipping with a slightly bitter herbaceousness, hints of almond, and a touch of sweet raisin, it’s guaranteed to keep you singing well after last call!” —Jackson Cannon, bar director of Eastern Standard and The Hawthorne (Boston, Massachusetts)
1 oz. Knappogue Castle 16 Year
1 oz. Lustau East India Sherry
1 oz. Cynar
Method: Stir over ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with lemon oil.
MONKEY JAM SOUR
“The Monkey Jam Sour is the perfect balance of fun, simple, and refreshing. It’s the answer to the ‘sweet, but not too sweet’ request that often times can seem like quite the quandary. The best part is that this recipe is adaptable to your needs—feel free to experiment with the jams you have on hand in your pantry to master that perfect sweetness balance.” —Anna Mains, brand ambassador at Monkey Shoulder
2 parts Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
0.75 parts fresh lemon juice
0.25 parts simple syrup
2 tsp. jam or marmalade
1 dash orange bitters
Orange twist, for garnish
Method: Combine ingredients, shake and double-strain over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist.
FLEMING’S CHOICE WHISKY COBBLER
“The cobbler, for me, has always been a favorite—as a deliciously flavorful drink with a relatively low ABV. It’s perfect for daytime garden drinking, as well as slowing down after you’ve already had a few boozy beverages in a cocktail bar, but aren’t quite ready to leave just yet. (Ah, remember those glory days?) With this particular recipe and the current climate, I decided to ramp up a classic cobbler recipe with the addition of Aberlour A’Bunadh, our cask strength single malt. A’Bunadh is matured in first-fill Oloroso Sherry casks, so it has the perfect profile for a cobbler upgrade, adding a delicious layer of raisin sweetness with a lovely spice that really stands up to all that cobbled ice.” —Gemma Cole, national brand ambassador for Aberlour Single Malt Scotch Whisky
1 oz. Aberlour A’Bunadh
2.5 oz. Amontillado sherry
0.5 oz. simple syrup
0.5 oz. orange curaçao
Method: Add all ingredients to an ice filled shaker and shake until cold. Strain over crushed (cobbled) ice filled glass and garnish with an orange wheel and fresh black cherries. Enjoy with an eco-straw.
NEW YORK MANHATTAN
“The Manhattan is anytime—period. Regardless of what may be going on around you, a handmade Manhattan will always make you feel like you have yourself together. It’s like putting on a bespoke suit just to sit in your living room and play a game of chess with your wife while she’s wearing pajamas. The orange notes in the bitters and garnish put this Manhattan on par with any you’ve had before at your favorite cocktail bar. Even if you’ve chosen pajamas over suits as your pandemic dress code, sipping one of these will still make you feel sophisticated.” —David Powell, national ambassador at Hudson Whiskey
2 parts Hudson Manhattan Rye
3 dashes of aromatic bitters of your choice (I prefer Tuthilltown Basement Bitters)
1 part sweet vermouth (preferably Carpano Antica Formula or Dolin Rouge)
Orange twist and cocktail cherries, for garnish
Method: If serving on the rocks, build everything in a double old fashioned glass. If serving in a cocktail glass, add ingredients to a mixing glass: bitters, vermouth, Manhattan rye, then ample ice. Stir for 20 seconds to dilute—and chill for 15 seconds. Strain into a stemmed cocktail glass. Garnish with a Marasca cherry or express oils from an orange twist over drink and garnish.
THE MALT JULEP
“Since we’re all spending more time at home these days, I recommend simple cocktails with a few tasty ingredients that are forgiving if you need to eyeball the measurements. And the Malt Julep is certainly that! This Scotch variation on the mint julep is sweet and refreshing. I always recommend that people enjoy responsibly. When doing so, I do know that this cocktail will make for a tastier world! If your grocery store is allowed to sell spirits, this is a one-stop-shop cocktail. All the ingredients should be there!” —Allan Roth, brand ambassador at Glenfiddich
2 parts Glenfiddich 14 Year Old Bourbon Barrel Reserve
Bruised mint leaves
Method: Build with crushed ice and garnish with mint sprigs in a traditional julep cup.
THE DOWN UNDER
“I really love this delicious Australian whisky for this riff on a classic Manhattan. It’s easy to make at home, especially with ingredients that are easy to find. I wanted to stick with the theme of Australia—and coffee is such a big part of the culture down under so the addition of coffee liqueur (I prefer Mr Black, which is also Australian) balances this drink nicely. It’s easy to enjoy, especially after a long day (or year) of sitting at home.” —Gelo Honrade, bartender at Osamil (New York, New York)
2 oz. Starward Two-Fold Australian Whisky
1 oz. coffee liqueur
3 dashes Angostura bitters
6 dashes orange bitters
Lemon twist, for garnish
Method: Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until very cold. Serve straight up in a coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.
IRISH GOLD RUSH
“I definitely enjoy this cocktail all year round. It’s cool, sweet, and refreshing in the summer—yet honey and lemon always goes down well when there’s a chill in the air. I also love that it’s such an accessible cocktail. Almost every bar, restaurant, or household has some honey and lemons hanging around. Irish whiskey is the friendliest and most approachable whiskey, best enjoyed with a smile and good conversation. It’s not going to solve any of our problems, but it sure will help take our mind off them for a while. Whipping up this cocktail makes you look like you’ve got it together, even when you actually have nothing in the fridge! It’s a crowd pleaser too: simple flavors, subtle sweetness, and the delicate taste of Irish whiskey. Buy extra lemons because I guarantee you will be asked to make another round!” —Donna Stewart, brand ambassador at Tullamore D.E.W.
2 parts Tullamore D.E.W. Original
0.75 parts fresh lemon juice
0.75 parts honey syrup
Method: Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake until well chilled, about 10 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled old fashioned glass, garnish with a lemon twist.
FISTFUL OLD FASHIONED
“The Fistful Old is the perfect zipper to make at home as it’s so easy to make and requires few bar tools—or none at all. The smooth flavor of Fistful of Bourbon will transport you to another time. Sugar, ice, bitters, and a grapefruit can be found at almost all grocery stores. We launched Fistful of Bourbon Nationwide in September, so you should be able to find it at your favorite liquor stores soon—and it’s absolutely delicious.” —Anthony Bohlinger, brand ambassador at Fistful of Bourbon
2 parts Fistful of Bourbon
0.5 parts simple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Method: Combine ingredients and stir over ice. Strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with a large grapefruit peel if available.
BALVENIE DOUBLEWOOD 12 YEAR HIGHBALL
“The highball is perfect for when you’re craving refreshment. The crispness of the club soda, the brightness of the lemon, and the honeyed notes of the whisky strike the perfect balance. It’s always best to enjoy The Balvenie responsibly—so I recommend sipping your highball throughout the evening surrounded (even if that means virtually at the moment) by your friends and family. The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year is easy to find and absolutely delicious. It’s aged for 12 years in American oak, which provides caramel and vanilla sweetness, before being finished in European oak—giving the palate hints of nuttiness and spice.” —Naomi Leslie, brand ambassador, east region at The Balvenie
1 part Balvenie 12 Year DoubleWood
2 parts club soda
lemon wedge, for garnish
Method: Build over ice in a highball glass. Stir and garnish with a lemon wedge.
THE MACALLAN SPEYSIDE SIPPER
“When I’m looking for a cocktail, the biggest factors for me are balance and experience. I’ve been recently enjoying The Macallan Speyside Sipper cocktail that has both a familiar and comforting flavor—but is also incredibly satisfying in its refreshing taste. The grapefruit juice is light and incredibly dynamic, while adding green tea and a hint of lime really takes the cocktail to an original and stimulating level. This cocktail celebrates The Macallan in an unconventional way, while letting each of the other ingredients shine. Pro tip: Use the honey sparingly, just a little bit of sweetness can go a long way into giving you the exact experience you want.” —Zack Berger, brand ambassador at The Macallan
1.5 oz. The Macallan Double Cask 12 Year Old
0.25 oz. lime juice
3 oz. green tea
1 oz. grapefruit juice
0.25 oz. honey syrup
Method: Add all ingredients to a highball glass and serve over ice.
“The Nevada Buck is an easy-to-make recipe that’s both refreshing and delicious—perfect after a long day of farming in the Nevada heat! Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey provides a well-balanced base for this cocktail, while the spiced orange ginger ale accentuates notes of citrus and burnt orange on the palate.” —Ashley and Colby Frey, Frey Ranch Distillery cofounders
1.5 oz. Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey
0.25 oz. fresh lime juice
3 oz. Fever-Tree spiced orange ginger ale
2 dashes aromatic bitters
Method: Build all ingredients over ice in a double old fashioned glass. Stir and garnish with an orange slice.
CALL ME OLD FASHIONED
“Whisky is extremely versatile, it just all depends on how you treat it. This old fashioned riff with The Singleton is great for quarantine life because it’s easy to execute, uses basic at home ingredients, and has a bit of character to it with the addition of amaro.” —Kaitlyn Stewart, bar manager and Global World Class Bartender of the Year 2017
1.5 oz. The Singleton of Glendullan 12 Year Old or The Singleton of Glendullan 15 Year Old
0.25 oz. Amaro Montenegro
1 bar spoon of maple syrup
2 lemon twists
Method: Build in mixing glass over ice. Stir until desired dilution. Pour over a large cube of ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
“Brown spirits are not always associated with summer cocktails and refreshing flavors. But don’t let this drink fool you, it’s a bourbon-based drink with bright lemon and spicy cinnamon notes complemented by juicy Patrón Citrónge Orange and a dash of classic bitters. It is herbal and light; perfect for warm evenings or could be even converted into large format punch.” —Egor Polonskiy, manager of mixology and trade education at Patrón
2 oz. bourbon or whiskey
0.75 oz. Patrón Citrónge Orange Liqueur
0.5 oz. honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water)
0.5 oz. cinnamon simple syrup (equal parts water, sugar, and cinnamon)
1 oz. lemon juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 sprig of rosemary, for garnish
Lemon wheel, for garnish
Method: Pour all ingredients into shaker, shake, strain over fresh ice. Garnish with rosemary and lemon wheel.
MORNING CAME EARLY
“With this cocktail I tried to find a way to bridge the gap between flavors that I associate with summer (ginger, basil, mint) and bourbon. I found that the blood orange soda worked really well in several ways. It helped highlight the citrus in the Campari and complemented the spiciness of the Cinzano 1757. Most importantly it helped bridge the gap between the summer flavors and the warm and rich notes of vanilla, wood, dark chocolate, and baking spice in the Russell’s Reserve 10.” —Nataleigh Kabler, Bartender at Meta (Louisville, Kentucky)
1 part Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old
1 part Campari
1 part 1757 Vermouth di Torino Rosso
0.5 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled
6 mint leaves
6 basil leaves
Splash of soda water
Method: Muddle ginger, mint, basil, and Campari together. Strain into a Collins glass. Add Cinzano and Russell’s. Add ice and top with soda water. Garnish with a bouquet of fresh basil and mint. Optional: add a pinch of salt when muddling if you prefer a less bitter profile.
“I have a new appreciation for the depth in which blended Scotch adds to summer ingredients. Whisky has always been a great choice for summer cocktails, but this year in particular it solidified its part in my ‘chill summer rituals.’ The past six months have made it difficult to find specific ingredients, so I am thankful for Johnnie Walker’s versatility and adaptability in cocktails. It plays well with traditional or playful effervescence, fresh citrus, cooling and tropical fruits, and berries. And its complex layers mix well with fresh summer herbs—or floral- and fruit-forward teas, which have become a staple in these times. Basically, every element of summer can be incorporated into Scotch cocktails. I love using Johnnie Walker for highballs, coolers, and blended summer sippers. The Cool Jane is a playful summer-inspired cocktail designed for sipping at home using minimal ingredients that you would naturally have in your refrigerator and pantry. It’s for lazy summer days and was created to uplift your spirits.” —Lulu Martinez, beverage specialist and owner of LunaDrinks
1.5 oz. Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker
4 drops vanilla extract
3 oz. tonic water
1 lemon wedge
Long cucumber slice, for garnish
Method: Build all ingredients into an ice-filled highball glass; squeeze in a lemon (then discard). Garnish with a long cucumber slice.
“This is one of the first cocktails I put on the menu at Sable, after taking over the bar program in 2018. It’s great at home since it’s so bright, refreshing, and the apple highlights the orchard fruit notes of Toki. It’s equal parts nostalgic and inspiring. It brings me back to those early few months of being in a new bar team, trying to find our footing and creating ambitious menus together. Cheers!” —Jenee Craver, beverage director and cocktail consultant
2 parts Suntory Toki
2–3 apple slices
0.5 barspoon bee pollen or honey
2–3 dashes Bar Keep Apple Bitters
Method: Combine all ingredients except for Topo Chico into a shaker with ice and shake. Pour into a Collins or tall glass filled to the brim with ice. Top with Topo Chico.
ICED IRISH COFFEE
“When summer hits, and it’s a beach day or vacation time, I really enjoy starting my day (or afternoon) with an Iced Irish Coffee. Through the years of experimenting with different whiskeys, I find that the Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey is my number one choice. We currently feature the Kilbeggan Single Grain Iced Irish Coffee on our new cocktail-to-go menu at the Millburn Standard, and it’s a hot item! The whiskey has such full body and flavor—with a perfect subtle bite that brings the whole drink together. You can taste the whiskey, but it doesn’t intimidate or overpower the drink. Added bonus: You can build it, shake it, and drink it in a regular thermos.” —Jason Turon, beverage director at Millburn Standard (Millburn, NJ)
1.5 parts Kilbeggan Single Grain Irish Whiskey
0.75 parts Demerara syrup (mix equal parts demerara sugar and water)
3–4 parts Castle Run Cold Brew Coffee (alternatively, any iced coffee will work but cold brew is preferred, specifically Castle Run cold brew)
Heavy whipped cream
Method: Add Kilbeggan Single Grain, demerara syrup and cold brew coffee to a tall glass. Give it a good stir so everyone becomes friends in the glass. Float whipped heavy cream on top (we use a protein shaker to whip the cream). To finish it off properly, sprinkle a little nutmeg on top.
Rx (A.K.A. PRESCRIPTION)
“This is an easy and enjoyable cocktail to make at home, using accessible ingredients from your pantry. Normally this classic cocktail calls for unpeated whisky with a peated whisky float, but after tasting the Benriach 10 Year Curiositas, I found that the heavily peated front end screams out to be mixed into its own Penicillin riff. For this cocktail, I combined Benriach Curiositas with fresh ginger syrup, lemon juice, and Averna Amaro to tie in with the fruit and oak notes. Salted honey adds a little umami and a slight sweetness to balance it all out. Have one or several (responsibly) and enjoy exactly as the doctor ordered: the Rx (a.k.a Prescription).” —Danny Natali, Ronan and Wally’s Wine & Spirit (Los Angeles, California)
1.5 oz. BenRiach 10 Year Curiositas Single Malt Scotch Whisky
0.5 oz. amaro
0.75 oz. lemon juice
5/8 oz. ginger syrup*
5/8 oz. salted honey syrup**
Method: Add all ingredients into shaker tins. Shake until fully emulsified. Double strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with candied ginger.
*For the Ginger Syrup: Mix fresh ginger juice, cane sugar, and water at a 2:2:1 ratio with an immersion blender until combined.
**For the Salted Honey Syrup: Mix honey with hot water at a 2:1 ratio and finish with sea salt (one pinch for every ounce of liquid)
“My favorite quarantine ice cream of late has been Talenti’s raspberry cheesecake flavor. And milkshakes, especially boozy ones, are such a fun and refreshing way to enjoy the treat when we’re sitting at home all day long. To make a really delicious boozy milkshake, I wanted to choose a certain ice cream that would amplify the flavors that I really enjoyed about sipping a great whisky like Starward. I wanted to play off of the whisky’s fruity berry notes and its malty vanilla quality. I also believe it helps to choose an ice cream that is pretty dense because with the blender (or a Nutribullet) there will be some aeration during the blending process. I like my milkshakes extra thick. Talenti by nature is very rich and creamy, which creates a beautiful texture. I loved how Starward paired with the bright tart raspberry as well as the bits of shortbread that is present in the ice cream. The vanilla cheesecake base was an obvious pair with the heavy vanilla notes in the spirit. The one thing I believe to be missing in the ice cream was dark chocolate so I chucked a few pieces of Valhrona dark chocolate in there to give the milkshake a little edge and round things off a bit by balancing the creamy cheesecake and the tart-but-sweet raspberry flavor. As for toppings, this particular milkshake would be great with some extra dark chocolate tossed on top with some fresh raspberries. A sprinkle of some crushed up shortbread might be a nice addition as well.” —Matthew Reysen, bartender at Dante (New York, New York)
1.5 oz. Starward Two-Fold Whisky
0.5 oz. Amontillado Sherry
3 oz. whole milk
2–3 scoops Talenti Raspberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
2 pieces Valrhona dark chocolate
1–2 ice cubes
Raspberries, for garnish
Dark and white chocolate shavings, for garnish
Method: Add all ingredients except the garnishes to a blender for a couple seconds. Shaved dark and white chocolate over the milkshake. Serve in a chilled pint glass with fresh raspberries.
“The Clara Bow is inspired by the New York Sour, an early twentieth-century cocktail that features a float of red or port wine on top of a classic Whiskey Sour. I developed this cocktail alongside bartender Jim Kearns as an evocation of the speakeasies of the Prohibition era, back when bartenders resorted to using a combination of whatever sweeteners were on hand to mask the taste of spirits with questionable quality.” —Lynnette Marrero, co-beverage director of Wonderbar Beacon (Beacon, New York)
0.5 oz. Grenadine
0.5 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
0.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
1.5 0z. bourbon
5–6 mint leaves
Method: Build over ice in a rocks glass and stir. Garnish with mint sprig.
STRAWBERRY WHISKEY SMASH
“After months of quarantine and countless cocktails from my home bar, it was definitely time to spice up my standard whiskey drink. That’s where the Strawberry Whiskey Smash comes in. Whiskey, fresh lemon juice, and homemade strawberry mint syrup offer a fruity herbaceous twist. Topped with ginger beer for some effervescence and a few dashes of bitters, it’s the perfect cocktail to liven up the living room mixologist vibes while quarantining.” —Michelle Heidt, mixologist at Sourced Craft Cocktails
2 oz. Uncle Nearest 1856
1.75 oz. batch pour of mint-strawberry simple syrup or strawberry simple syrup, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and dash of angostura bitters
1 oz. ginger beer
Lemon or lime for garnish
Method: Combine ingredients and pour over ice. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge. Refrigerate and enjoy for up to seven days. Makes one cocktail.