17 May 2025
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A beginner’s guide to whisky cocktails – seven easy serves to start

World Whisky Day asked seven experts from around the world to recommend one simple serve to convince the whisky sceptic that it’s time to see what they’ve been missing. While we’re all stuck at home, there’s never been a better time to experiment with whisky cocktails.

Cocktails can be a great way for newcomers to find their way into the whisky world. A well-balanced drink can showcase the spirit’s versatility and complexity to those who may have been put off by the strength and powerful flavours of some whiskies and should even reveal some new aspects of the drink to seasoned drammers.

These seven simple serves should help cocktail lovers and whisky wanderers explore this unique spirit’s potential.

Brown Derby


Photo of a Brown Derby cocktail
Image care of TheDrinksBlog.com

Amber Bruce, Bar Manager at the Keefer Bar in Vancouver, Canada, recommends this classic cocktail, which originated in Los Angeles and is an excellent jumping off point for whisky novices. “For guests looking to get into whisky cocktails, I’ll usually recommend something that’s not overly boozy and leans toward more refreshing,” she says. It’s a simple one to make at home but Amber adds: “If you want to get fancy, squeeze a twist of grapefruit oil over the top for a nice punchy aromatic.”


  • 45ml Wild Turkey 81 bourbon
  • 30ml Fresh grapefruit juice
  • 7.5ml Honey
  • Dash of lemon juice


  1. Shake all the ingredients with ice
  2. Strain into a coupe glass.

Bourbon Mojito


Bourbon Mojito cocktail

The typical mojito is a sweet concoction based around rum, but Dan Bolton, Managing Director of distributors Hi-Spirits recommends getting whisky involved too. He says: “From straightforward serves such as a Mint Julep or Buffalo Mojito through to classic bourbon cocktails such as an Old Fashioned or Whiskey Sour, bourbon has been part of the mix as long as cocktails have been around.”


  • 50ml Buffalo Trace bourbon
  • 5ml lime juice
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 60ml soda water
  • Fresh mint leaves


  1. Muddle together the fresh mint, sugar and lime in a tall glass.
  2. Load with ice,
  3. Add the bourbon and top up with soda water.

Whisky Smash


Whisky Smash cocktail

Dhavall Gandhi, Whisky Maker and Operations Director of The Lakes Distillery, Cumbria, England, says the Whisky Smash can make “this very traditional spirit more accessible and palatable for first time or beginner whisky drinkers”. The cousin of a Mint Julep, basic Smashes are made by muddling together mint with liquor and simple syrup and serving in an iced glass. This version blends mint, cucumber and lime.


  • 60ml The One whisky, a blend by The Lakes
  • Half a lime cut into wedges
  • A quarter cup of diced cucumber
  • 5 sprigs of fresh mint
  • 100ml cold limeade (or lemonade)


  1. Muddle the lime, cucumber and mint at the bottom of a rocks glass.
  2. Fill the glass with ice and add the whisky.
  3. Top up with limeade. Garnish with mint, a lime wedge and cucumber wheel.

Silver 75


Silver 75 cocktail

The brainchild of Susie Hoyt, of The Silver Dollar in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, the Silver 75 is a take on the French 75 cocktail created by Harry MacElhone at the New York Bar in 1915. The Silver 75 substitutes the cognac or gin for whisky adding a sweet spice to the citrus and floral notes of the original. Susie says: “Not every cocktail needs to be strong and booze forward like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned. New whisky drinkers would really enjoy lighter cocktails like this. They are refreshing and a great place to start.”


  • 17ml Buffalo Trace
  • 14ml simple syrup
  • 14ml lemon juice
  • Sparkling white wine
  • Cherry and lemon peel


  1. Mix the bourbon, lemon and simple syrup in a tin and lightly shake.
  2. Strain into a chilled glass.
  3. Top with sparkling wine
  4. Drop in a cherry then twist the lemon peel and pop it in.

Whisky and apple juice


Whisky and apple juice

Cameron Bray, Bartender-in-residence at STARWARD Whisky in Melbourne, Australia, says: “Whisky can often be viewed as a bit of a stuffy, tweed-jackety kind of spirit but it was a key ingredient in many of the vibrant roaring 20s roots of the modern cocktail scene. This drink is easy to replicate and focuses on a really simple, delicious flavour combination. It’s a great entry level drink for someone just getting into whisky or making cocktails at home.”


  • 50ml STARWARD Solera
  • Freshly pressed green apples to top up
  • An apple fan to garnish


  1. Mix and shake the whisky and apple juice.
  2. Pour into a tumbler over ice.



Whisky highball

At the Tokyo Bird Japanese whisky bar in Sydney, Australia they recommend a classic Highball. Highballs, which have been around since the late 1800s, are a family of simple cocktails made using a base alcohol added to a large proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer, served in a tall glass over ice. Always great as an aperitif or served with food, this version uses Japanese whisky from Suntory.


  • 40ml Suntory Kakubin whisky
  • Soda or sparkling water
  • Lemon


  1. Fill a tall glass with ice.
  2. Add the whisky and stir with a spoon to cool it.
  3. Top up with soda and stir
  4. Garnish with lemon.

Smoky Sour


Whiskey sour

Lucy Whitehall, Brand Ambassador at The Famous Grouse Experience in Perthshire, Scotland, recommends this take on the classic Whisky Sour using a smoky blended Scotch. “It’s really easy for people to make at home if they’re starting to get into whisky cocktails,” she says. Sours date back to the mid-1800s and inspired many other classic concoctions from the Sidecar to the Daiquiri.


  • 50ml The Famous Grouse Smoky Black
  • 25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 12.5ml sugar syrup
  • Half an egg white (optional)
  • 2 dashes of aromatic bitters


  1. Mix the ingredient in a shaker with ice
  2. Shake vigorously for 10-12 seconds
  3. Strain into a chunky tumbler
  4. Garnish with a twist of lemon.
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