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

Shaking a cocktail

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.

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
  • Bourbon Mojito
  • Whisky Smash
  • Silver 75
  • Whisky and Apple Juice
  • Highball
  • Smoky Sour

Brown Derby

 

tdb-brown-derby-11
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.”

Ingredients

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

Method

Shake all the ingredients with ice and 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.”

Ingredients

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

Method

Muddle together the fresh mint, sugar and lime in a tall glass. Load with ice, 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.

Ingredients

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)

Method

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


Silver 75

 

Silver 75

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.”

Ingredients

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

Method

Mix the bourbon, lemon and simple syrup in a tin and lightly shake. Strain into a chilled glass. Top with sparkling wine, drop in a cherry, 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.”

Ingredients

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

Method

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


Highball

 

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.

Ingredients

40ml Suntory Kakubin whisky
Soda or sparkling water
Lemon

Method

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add the whisky and stir with a spoon to cool it. Top up with soda, stir and 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.

Ingredients

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

Method

Mix the ingredient in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 10-12 seconds, then strain into a chunky tumbler. Garnish with a twist of lemon.