10 Creative Whiskey Cocktails to Impress Your Guests
Shake up your routine and thrill your friends with innovative hybrids, exotic flavor combos, bacon — and literal smoke and fire.
As Ernest Hemingway once said, “never delay kissing a pretty girl or opening a bottle of whiskey.” We can’t help but agree, which means we’re always looking for new whiskey cocktails in which to use this incredibly versatile liquor. Whether you’re hosting a party and need a crowd-pleasing drink that’s easy to prepare, or want to wow your friends with your serious bartending skills, you’ll find what you need with these fun whiskey cocktails.
When your particular Sophie’s choice is whether to crack open the single-malt or to produce the satisfying rattle of a cocktail shaker, few phrases are as appealing as “bourbon martini.” That’s exactly what this is.
2 ½ oz bourbon
½ oz dry vermouth
Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lemon twist and serve.
From Old Man Drinks: Recipes, Advice and Barstool Wisdom by Robert Schnakenberg
You’ll never tire of scotch on the rocks, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop a taste for whiskey cocktails that complement, not smother, the brown spirit. Sharp, sweet and peaty, the Penicillin’s complex mix of flavors has a kick but goes down easy; that could be why it has something of a rep as an effective hair-of-the-dog. The recipe was created by New York City mixologist Sam Ross.
2 oz. single-malt or blended scotch (lightly peated)
1⁄4 oz Islay scotch
3⁄4 oz fresh lemon juice
1⁄8 oz honey syrup
3⁄8 oz sweetened ginger juice
Candied ginger to garnish
Combine blended scotch, lemon juice and syrup in a shaker, fill with ice and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and float Islay scotch on top.
(Photo: Matthias Friedlein/augustine-bar.de)
If you or your party are regular Manhattan and Old Fashioned drinkers, you’ll want to try this strong, bitter hybrid of both (not to mention that the name alone earns immediate points). Chartreuse and Demerara syrup join the traditional whiskey-bitters combo to make a whiskey cocktail so bracing, it’ll make you squint like its namesake.
2 oz rye whiskey
¾ tsp Angostura bitters
¾ tsp green chartreuse
¼ oz Demerara syrup
Combine all liquid ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe and twist the orange peel over it to release the oils and lay it in the cocktail.
From The Old Fashioned by Robert Simonson
The Dangerous Summer
This stirred variation on a classic Blood & Sand is named after the Ernest Hemingway novel about bullfighters. It was created by Joaquin Simo of Death & Co. in New York City.
1 ½ ounces Yamazaki 12-year whiskey
¾ oz Dolin Rouge vermouth
½ oz Solerno blood orange liqueur
½ oz Massenez Kirsch Vieux cherry brandy
1 orange twist
Stir all the ingredients (except the orange twist) over a martini glass. Flame the orange twist over the drink and discard. No garnish.
This warming whiskey cocktail uses smoked ice. That’s right: Smoked ice. It’s the creation of Evan Zimmermann of Laurelhurst Market in Portland, Oregon.
2 cups pecan or hickory wood chips
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
10 tablespoons Jack Daniel’s or other whiskey
6 tablespoons amontillado sherry
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Line heavy large pot with heavy-duty foil. Sprinkle wood chips over bottom of pot; cover. Turn exhaust fan on high. Heat pot over high heat until smoke begins to form inside pot. Fill 9 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch metal loaf pan with ice. Place in pot; cover tightly. Smoke ice until just melted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Cover loaf pan tightly with plastic wrap; freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Using ice pick, cut ice block crosswise into 4 large smoked ice chunks. Wrap tightly in plastic and keep frozen.
Bring 1 cup water and sugar to boil in medium saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pecans; reduce heat to medium and simmer until syrup tastes like pecans, about 12 minutes. Strain; discard pecans. Cover and chill pecan syrup until cold, about 2 hours.
Place 5 tablespoons whiskey, 3 tablespoons Sherry, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons pecan syrup in cocktail shaker. Fill with plain ice cubes; cover and shake until cold. Divide mixture between 2 old-fashioned glasses. Repeat with remaining 5 tablespoons whiskey, 3 tablespoons Sherry, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 tablespoons pecan syrup, and ice. Place 1 smoked ice chunk in each glass and serve.
(Photo: Pechluck Laskey/Foodspotting)
This rye whiskey cocktail makes good use of the classic Italian bitter Cynar, which is a blend of 13 herbs. The cynar smoothes the burn of rye but simultaneously opens up its flavors, coming through with a complex, slightly sweet aftertaste. Not to mention, it’s one of the quickest and simplest cocktails to make.
4 ounces rye
1 1/2 ounces Cynar
2 teaspoons simple syrup (see note above)
4 dashes Angostura bitters
Add rye, Cynar, simple syrup, and bitters to a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into two coupe glasses and serve immediately.
The Blue Blazer
This preppy-sounding recipe from 1939’s Savoy Cocktail Book, a compendium from the iconic London hotel’s bar, is actually the mixologist’s version of a circus trick: It involves setting whiskey on fire and pouring the blazing booze back and forth between two silver mugs. “A beholder gazing for the first time upon an experienced artist compounding this beverage, would naturally come to the conclusion that it was a nectar for Pluto rather than Bacchus,” enthuses author Harry Craddock, noting: “The novice in mixing this beverage should be careful not to scald himself. To become proficient in throwing the liquid from one mug to the other, it will be necessary to practice for some time with cold water.” That said: Miix at your own risk.
2 oz scotch whiskey
2 oz boiling water
Two large silver-plated mugs with handles
Put the whiskey into one mug, and the boiling water into the other, ignite the whiskey with fire, and while blazing mix both ingredients by pouring them four or five times from one mug to the other. If well done, this will have the appearance of a continued stream of liquid fire. Sweeten with one teaspoonful of powdered white sugar, and serve in a small bar tumbler, with a piece of lemon peel.
Japanese Old Fashioned
This spin on the most classic of American whiskey cocktails uses Japanese black sugar, which has a flavor similar to what we know as brown sugar. The ginger-infused syrup lends tang and a molasses-like depth to the traditional bourbon-bitters combo.
For the kuru sato–ginger syrup:
4 oz. (about 1 cup) kuru sato (Japanese black sugar)
1⁄2 cup grated ginger
For the cocktail:
1 cube kuru sato (about 1 tsp.)
2 (1⁄4-inch-thick) slices ginger
2 dashes Angostura bitters
3⁄4 oz. kuru sato-ginger syrup
3 oz. bourbon
Orange peel, for garnish
To make the syrup:
Combine sugar with ginger and 8 oz. water. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer; cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and steep ginger for another 5 minutes. Strain mixture and chill. Makes about 1 cup. Syrup will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.
To make the cocktail:
In a cocktail shaker, muddle sugar cube, ginger, and bitters. Add syrup and bourbon; stir and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Garnish with an orange peel.
The Brain Storm
This dry, citrusy cocktail is ideal when you’re in the mood for a smooth and subtle whiskey cocktail that still has heft. It originated at the American Bar at London’s Savoy Hotel, and comes from 1939’s Savoy Cocktail Book.
2 oz Irish whiskey
2 dashes Benedictine
2 dashes French vermouth
Squeeze orange peel on top. Stir well and strain into cocktail glass.
PDT’s Bacon Old Fashioned
Things being what they are today, this wouldn’t be a list of impressive whiskey cocktails without bacon being involved in some fashion. Although you’ve almost certainly seen a Bloody Mary garnished with a side of hog, you’ve likely never had an Old Fashioned made with bacon-infused bourbon. Here’s how to change that, if you’d like, courtesy of PDT in New York City:
3 or 4 slices bacon, or enough to render 1 ounce of fat
1 750-ml. bottle of bourbon such as Four Roses Yellow Label
2 ounces bacon-infused bourbon
1/4 ounce Grade B maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Twist of orange
For bourbon-bacon infusion:
Cook bacon in pan and reserve rendered fat. When bacon fat has cooled a bit, pour off one ounce from pan. Pour bourbon into a non-porous container. Strain the bacon fat into the container and infuse for 4 to 6 hours at room temperature. Place mixture in freezer until all the fat is solidified. With a slotted spoon, remove fat and strain mixture back into the bottle.
In mixing glass, stir 2 ounces bacon-infused bourbon, maple syrup, and bitters with ice. Strain into chilled rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with orange twist.