Whiskey is a dark distilled spirit that is aged in wood barrels and made from a variety of grains, including barley, corn and rye. Most popularly distilled in Ireland, Scotland, the United States, Canada and Japan, there are several styles of whiskey, each with their own labeling requirements, distillation methods and flavor profiles. Every style of whiskey and each brand within the style will have different flavor characteristics. In general, though, whiskey has a grainy, woody, oaky taste with notes of caramel, vanilla, fruits and spice. While whiskey may have a reputation for being a heavier, stronger spirit, there’s a wide range of whiskey-based drinks that will satisfy any palate.
The Old Fashioned is a classic and elegant cocktail that dresses up whiskey in a simple way. This classic drink has been served since the mid-1800s, and while it has evolved into many variations today, it is still as popular today as it was back then. Made with bitters, sugar and an orange slice, it’s an excellent way to experiment with any style of whiskey. The intent of the Old Fashioned is to avoid adding too much to it, which allows the whiskey to shine.
The Manhattan is another classic and simple cocktail that has been around since the 1870s. You just need three ingredients: whiskey, dry or sweet vermouth, and bitters. The Manhattan is usually served in a chilled cocktail glass with a maraschino cherry garnish. It is a whiskey-forward drink, with the vermouth adding smooth, spiced sweetness and the bitters adding a little punch. There are many ways to adapt this classic recipe to personal taste, but it is an essential cocktail that should be in every bar.
Another timeless whiskey cocktail that takes the less is more approach is the Whiskey Sour. Whiskey Sours only need whiskey, lemon juice, citrus juice, and maple syrup blended in a cocktail shaker. The flavor is balanced and complemented by the tart lemon and the sweetness of the whiskey and simple syrup. A traditional recipe for a whiskey sour includes an egg white, though this is optional. The frothy egg white foam tends to tame the tartness and gives the drink a smoother texture. The drink is strained in a rock glass over fresh ice with an orange peel or maraschino cherry as garnish. This simple recipe is the base for the entire family of sour drinks.
The Sazerac is a well-balanced cocktail that was created in New Orleans in the 1880s. The recipe only requires whiskey, a sugar cube, Peychaud’s Bitters and absinthe to rinse the glass in. This drink creates a nice balance of citrus flavors with black licorice finishing notes from the absinth. The cocktail is usually served in an oversize old-fashioned glass with a lemon twist garnish. However, there are a few things to avoid when making a Sazerac. A Sazerac should never be shaken or served on ice, and the lemon peel should not touch the drink. Rather, express the oils over the glass and hang the peel on the rim or discard.
Created in New Orleans in the 1930s, the Vieux Carré is named after the French phrase meaning “old square,” which referred to the French Quarter. It’s quite a boozy concoction containing rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, Bénédictine liqueur, and a cherry or lemon twist for garnish. The complex drink should be measured out carefully to ensure the ideal balance of flavors is maintained. The Vieux Carré is a short, slow sipper that is a slightly sweet, spiced. and warming drink with herbal, citrus and smoky notes.
It is unclear when and why this cocktail took its name, but one thing that is not up for debate is that it was the preferred drink for the Rat Pack who helped the Rusty Nail’s rise to fame. The Rusty Nail is one of the few classic whiskey drinks made with scotch and has a very simple mixture of just two ingredients: This cocktail is made with a blended scotch and Drambuie, a proprietary liqueur recipe of honey and spices with a scotch base. Served on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass, the Rusty Nail is designed to be a sophisticated, slow-sipping drink that is excellent after dinner.
7 and 7
The 7 and 7 is a popular whiskey highball that brings together two specific beverage brands: Seagram’s 7 Crown Whiskey and 7-Up. A drink that rose in popularity during the ’70s, it has no fancy ingredients, substitutions or variations. When ordering a 7 and 7, you know exactly what you’ll get. It’s a cheap and refreshing drink that’s perfect for happy hour.
It is believed that Hot Toddies first appeared in Scotland in the 1700s as a medicine or as a way to defeat the cold weather. Warm and toasty, the Hot Toddy is a classic hot cocktail that is very simple to make. The basic recipe is whiskey, honey or simple syrup, lemon juice and hot water. Most hot toddies also include spices like cinnamon, cloves and ginger, or even cayenne pepper to help clear sinuses. Ingredients are combined in a mug, and then boiling water is added. This simple cocktail has inspired a number of other toddy recipes using different liquors and other ingredients.
Created in Ireland in the 1940s, Irish Coffee is more than just spiking coffee with a shot of whiskey. It’s a simple, yet well-planned coffee drink that should be mixed with care like a latte. The drink requires just four ingredients: Irish whiskey, hot coffee, brown sugar and a touch of freshly whipped cream. An Irish Coffee makes an excellent after-dinner drink, perfect for a chilly evening.
Whiskey’s complex flavor is suitable for all seasons. No matter the place or time, there is a whiskey drink that’s perfect for the occasion, along with a wide-range of drinks that can showcase the versatility of whiskey.