So, you’re an avid whiskey fan but looking for something a little different? You’re in the right place. If you like to drink your whiskey simply, then our five simple whiskey cocktail recipes are for you.
Cocktails don’t need to be complicated, just taste great. Here are our top five simple whiskey cocktails…
1. Old Fashioned
Origin: Like lots of old-fashioned things, the origin of this cocktail is a little unclear. Some say it was first mixed in the Pendennis Club in Kentucky in 1881. However, this is unlikely to be the case as there are records of it 12 years before the club was opened. It’s probably an evolution of an old-timey New Orleans cocktail called the Spoon Cocktail (so named because a spoon was left for the customer to stir in the sugar that hadn’t dissolved). However, wherever it came from, it’s most certainly a classic cocktail.
Taste: Citrusy and a little touch of sweetness, the Old Fashioned nicely brings out the flavour of the whiskey.
- Bourbon 60ml
- Angostura bitters-soaked sugar cube
- Soda water
- Soak a sugar cube in few dashes of Angostura bitters and a drop of water. Muddle it in a rocks glass.
- Add the Bourbon in portions of 20ml at a time, adding a couple of ice cubes each time and stirring for about 15 seconds for every 20ml poured.
- Finally, twist the orange peel slightly to bring out the flavour of the zest and garnish.
Variation: You can switch out the Bourbon and make a Scotch Old Fashioned instead. The final result will depend on the type of whisky you choose, but we like Grant’s blended Scotch for this.
2. Rob Roy
Origin: Named after an operetta, based on the life of Scottish folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor, this whisky cocktail has a history dating back to 1894. It was invented at Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan and, as you might imagine, it’s made with Scotch whisky.
Taste: Sweet and dry.
- Angostura bitters
- Grant’s Blended Scotch whisky 60ml
- Sweet Vermouth 20ml
- Mix sweet Vermouth with your Grant’s Scotch whisky and add a dash of Angostura bitters.
- Add ice and stir to chill and dilute.
- Finally strain it into a chilled martini glass, without ice and adorn with a couple of maraschino cherries.
Variation: Though traditionally sweet, the Rob Roy can be adapted to suit your taste with “dry” and “perfect” varieties. To do this, simply substitute the sweet Vermouth for a dry Vermouth or measure equal parts sweet and dry for a more balanced (or “perfect”) cocktail.
3. Whiskey Sour
Origin: Originally drunk by British sailors, the Whiskey Sour has travelled all over the world and taken different forms. One of the first mentions of this popular cocktail goes back to 1872, when a Peruvian newspaper article credited the invention of the drink to a sailor named Elliot Staub.
Taste: Sour and citrusy with zesty lemon and orange highlights.
- Bourbon 60ml
- Egg white 15ml
- Fresh lemon juice 30ml
- Sugar syrup (simple syrup) 15ml
- Angostura bitters
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, without ice.
- Shake well to aerate. The acidity in the lemon juice will help emulsify the egg white, giving it a thick and creamy foam.
- Fill the shaker with ice and shake for about 15 seconds, before straining.
- Add a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters and garnish with a maraschino cherry.
Variation: If you’re feeling more sophisticated, you could try making a New York Sour, which has a layer of red wine on top. To do this, once you have finished your traditional Whiskey Sour, slowly pour about 15-20ml of fruity red wine over the underside of a tablespoon and layer it on top.
If you prefer something simpler, this whiskey cocktail can also be made without egg white. Whatever the Sour, they're all great whiskey cocktails.
Want the cocktail and drink measures explained? It can be confusing. Find it here, simplified for you.
4. Brown Derby Cocktail
Origin: The Brown Derby Cocktail is a bit glam, coming straight out of Tinseltown. It was invented in the Vendome Club in the 1930s and was named after a hat-shaped restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard.
Taste: Refreshing and chilled.
- Bourbon 45ml
- Fresh grapefruit juice 30ml
- Honey syrup 15ml
- Add your honey syrup and fresh grapefruit juice to a shaker.
- Pour in the Bourbon and ice.
- Shake it well and strain the chilled drink into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with some grapefruit zest.
5. Whiskey Smash
Origin: Dating from the 1860’s, the first version of the Whiskey Smash was probably invented by the father of American mixology, Jerry Thomas, who first published a cocktail book with recipes. A more modern version - and the drink we know and love today - was created by Dale “King of Cocktails” DeGroff in the Rainbow Room, New York.
Taste: Minty, citrusy and refreshing. If you like mojitos, then you’ll love the Whiskey Smash.
- Bourbon 60ml
- A handful of fresh mint leaves
- Half a lemon cut into wedges
- Sugar syrup (simple syrup) 1 tbsp
- Muddle the lemons in a mixing glass along with the syrup and add some mint leaves afterwards.
- Next add the Bourbon and ice.
- Shake well and strain into the glass.
- Serve in a rocks glass with a garnish of mint leaves over crushed ice.
If you liked these simple whiskey cocktails, you'll love our best cocktails to make at home list.
Want to master these whiskey cocktails perfectly? Take a look at our bartender course.
Interested to discover more about alcohol? Read our 'what is whiskey' and 'what is a cocktail' pages here.