17 Good Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktails
Sazerac, Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Hot Toddy, Mint Julep, Boulevardier, and more. These classic whiskey cocktail recipes cover every kind of drink preference — from light and refreshing to potent and aromatic. What’ll you have?
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Manhattan Cocktail from Greatist
If you’re new to the world of whiskey, although exciting and vast, it can be overwhelming to explore. Not only are there different types, from Japanese whisky to single malt scotch to bourbon, but how does one begin to incorporate them into mixed drinks? Fortunately, it’s a spirit that can be adapted into a cocktail for every mood, occasion, season, and pocketbook.
You can ease yourself into the category with an approachable Japanese whisky highball or jump in with a single malt Rob Roy. To get you started, I pulled together cocktail recipes of popular whiskey drinks. Most are classics and easy to make.
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Light & refreshing whiskey drinks >>
Potent & aromatic whiskey drinks >>
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Curious about whiskey? Read these commonly asked questions for some Whiskey 101.
What is the difference between rye and bourbon whiskey?
Rye whiskey is made from 51% rye while bourbon is 51% corn. This makes for a sharper, spicy flavor profile for rye, while bourbon is softer and sweet. For this reason, bourbon is generally favored as the more approachable for sipping neat and for cocktails. However, in cocktails with sweetness as part of the recipe, rye is the whiskey of choice for stirred classics such as the Manhattan and Vieux Carré while bourbons are preferred for shaken whiskey sours and icy juleps.
How do you make cocktails with whiskey at home?
For a serious cocktail that doesn’t take a lot of work, stir up an aromatic classic such as an Old Fashioned, which only requires a sugar cube, bitters, and your favorite whiskey. If you prefer something lighter, citrusy, and refreshing, make a mule by combining a couple ounces of whiskey with a half ounce of lime juice and some ginger beer.
Can I drink whiskey straight?
Drinking whiskey neat is the best way to appreciate its nuances and pick up its flavors. It’s a good idea to sample it straight before trying it in mixed drinks to better understand what it brings to the equation. When drinking neat, add a couple of drops of water to help open up its flavors. Not too much water, though, as that will dilute it.
What is the best whiskey for making cocktails?
You don’t need to spend a ton of money on a bottle of whiskey to make a good cocktail since there are plenty of decent budget-friendly options, such as a $15 Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond bourbon and $20 Rittenhouse Rye 100.
Classic whiskey cocktails
The best way to explore the whiskey category is to try it in classic cocktails, which spotlight the spirit in simple and straightforward recipes
Classic Hot Toddy
This hot cocktail is a go-to when temperatures take a dive because not only are the ingredients probably already in your cupboard but it’s easy to make for instant comfort from the chill. It’s also a favorite during the cold season for soothing sore throats. You can make it with bourbon, brandy, or rum.
Whether you’re looking for something hot to kick off a weekend brunch or to cozy up to on a cold winter night, an Irish coffee is a sure bet, plus it’s easy to make. Simply add an ounce and a half of Irish whiskey to a hot cup of coffee, mix in a teaspoon and a half of brown sugar and then top with whipped cream.
The classic Old Fashioned is known as one of the very first cocktails with its simple mix of spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. But if you’d like some guidance and pro tips, such as what kind of ice and whiskey to use, bartender Alex Day walks you through the steps in this Yummly video tutorial.
The Sazerac Cocktail
The original Sazerac, which originated in New Orleans and is the city’s official cocktail, was made with cognac but was eventually replaced by the 19th century’s then more popular rye whiskey. But in this sipper, cognac and rye are combined, working perfectly together and accented by the anise flavors of the absinthe.
The original cocktail, which was created in Manhattan in 1874, was made with New Yorkers’ preferred spirit: rye. Its spiciness works well with the sweet vermouth. But in the South, the sweeter bourbon is the preferred whiskey in this recipe. Go with whichever is your favorite whiskey. Just make sure to garnish your cocktail with Luxardo maraschino cherries versus the neon red ones used for children’s sundaes.
Light and refreshing whiskey drinks
Cool off on warm days with these easy-to-make porch pounders
The beauty about this drink recipe, as with many classic cocktails, is that you can swap out the bourbon for gin, vodka, or rum if you’re so inclined for equally delicious results. But why would you want to? There’s nothing like a bourbon smash with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and mint on a warm day.
Kentucky Maid Cocktail
This bourbon whiskey cocktail is a hot-weather salve with its refreshing mix of lime juice, mint leaves, and cooling cucumber. Bonus is that it’s easy to make anywhere: on a picnic blanket, at camp, or poolside. Simply pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker or even a mason jar, muddle it, add some ice, and then shake and sip.
Although this is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, it can and should be enjoyed during any occasion, from a brunch party to hanging out on a porch. Overproof bourbon is highly recommended here to prevent the cocktail’s flavors from being quickly diluted by the crushed ice.
Don’t let the simplicity of the whisky highball recipe fool you. Sure, all it takes is whisky and soda water, but it’s all about the technique. For this example, bartender Alex Day uses 5 ounces of soda water with 2 ounces of delicate Japanese whisky. But if your favorite whiskey has a bolder flavor, he suggests using a bit more soda water to help stretch out its flavors.
For some of the most quaffable whiskey drinks, try it in these refreshing sour variations
Frozen Eastern Sour
The bourbon whiskey Tiki classic by Trader Vic’s gets freshened up in this version with regular orange juice traded for fresh Cara Cara oranges and thrown into a blender for a frozen summertime treat. A dash of Angostura bitters rounds out the drink with a bit of spice.
The trick to greatly improving this popular whiskey sour — a mix of bourbon, lemon juice, and honey — is simply to shake it with a grapefruit peel. Doing so releases the citrus oils in the peel and helps balance out the sweet cocktail by giving it a welcome bitter finish.
This modern classic is a variation of the Gold Rush whiskey sour. But bartender Sam Ross of New York’s famous Milk & Honey bar swapped in blended scotch and a honey and ginger syrup and laced the drink with an aromatic float of a peaty scotch. The result is an extremely quaffable cocktail with heat, honeyed sweetness, and an enticing smokiness.
New York Sour
Who would have thought that a simple float of red wine on a rye whiskey sour would upgrade it from OK to great? But here, not only does it make for an eye-catching cocktail but a delicious one that’s helped by the fruitiness of the wine. The key is to use a dry red wine, such as a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais.
Potent and aromatic whiskey drinks
Stir up these spirit-forward whiskey drinks after dinner and at the end of the night
Not familiar with this cocktail? Think: Negroni but with bourbon, making it the whiskey lover’s gateway drink to the world of amaro. However, unlike the equal-parts recipe of the Negroni, the Boulevardier uses a 2:1:1 ratio, allowing the bourbon’s sweetness to better balance out the bitterness of the Campari.
Coffee lovers who are no strangers to spiking their java with whiskey will love this cocktail made with rye-heavy bourbon, coffee liqueur, and orange bitters. The drink’s creator originally used Tia Maria coffee liqueur, but you’re encouraged to try any of your own favorite brands.
The Rob Roy, which is basically the Manhattan cocktail and was created 10 years after it, is named for a Scottish folk hero. But, it swaps out the rye in the Manhattan for a blended scotch whisky. A single malt will work, too, just make sure it’s not heavily peated as that may unbalance the flavors of the drink.
The Tipperary Cocktail
Those who want to toast St. Patrick’s Day with something more sophisticated than green beer can mix together this sipper made with green chartreuse, sweet vermouth, and Irish whiskey, which is more mild than bourbon or scotch.
More cocktail inspiration
Explore more delightful drinks with these related Yummly cocktail articles.