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
- Smoky Sour
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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
Dash of lemon juice
Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass.
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
60ml soda water
Fresh mint leaves
Muddle together the fresh mint, sugar and lime in a tall glass. Load with ice, add the bourbon and top up with soda water.
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)
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.
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
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
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
Mix and shake the whisky and apple juice. Pour into a tumbler over ice.
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
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.
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
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.