Have you got a bottle of good whiskey you’re eager to put to good use? Well, we’ve got a list of classic whiskey cocktails for you to try.
For many, whiskey is a liquor they associate with “hard” drinking. It’s something moody gumshoe detectives drink in smoky bars or in their run down offices. However, despite this stereotype, whiskey isn’t all about doom and gloom, t can be very lively spirit when paired with the right delicious partners.
Sure, you can drink whiskey straight or on the rocks, but why not whip up good whiskey drinks that are steeped in history?
The whiskey cocktail recipes on this list run the gamut from as far back as 1688 to simple whiskey drinks of the 1800s.
The world of whiskey cocktails offers a rich and varied landscape for your palate to explore. As one of the most versatile spirits in the mixologist’s arsenal, whiskey can be the foundation of intriguing flavor combinations and innovative twists on classic concoctions. Whether you’re a seasoned whiskey enthusiast or a curious newcomer, there’s always a new blend or technique waiting for you to discover.
Starting with the basics is essential for understanding the range and versatility of whiskey cocktails. Familiarizing yourself with the fundamental mixtures such as the Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, and Manhattan will provide you a solid foundation to build upon. As you gain confidence in your mixology skills, experiment with different whiskey types, like bourbon, rye, or scotch, to broaden your horizons and add depth to your creations.
Ultimately, the joy of whiskey cocktails lies in the limitless potential for customization. By playing around with measurements, garnishes, and variations on classic recipes, you can create a signature drink that suits your personal taste and reflects your unique style. So, grab your shaker, gather your ingredients, and immerse yourself in the world of whiskey cocktails – a journey filled with endless opportunities to innovate and impress.
We also take a tour of whiskey mixed drinks of the Prohibition Era, and we even included some modern-day easy whiskey cocktails you can use to whet your whistle.
Ready to learn how to make the best whiskey cocktails? Let’s dive into this list of the best whiskey drinks!
When you want a cocktail that’s made with an excellent Scotch, you can’t go wrong with the Rob Roy cocktail.
The Rob Roy got its start in 1894 and it’s named in honor of an operetta premier that was based on the life of Rob Roy MacGregor, a beloved Scottish folk hero.
To make the Rob Roy, you need blended Scotch whisky, sweet red vermouth, and Angostura bitters (or orange bitters).
Garnish your Rob Roy with a Luxardo cherry or Maraschino cherry.
Our best advice for making the Rob Roy is to use a really good Scotch like Dewar’s or Chivas Regal.
2. Vieux Carre
Another cocktail that comes from New Orleans, the Vieux Carré is a strong cocktail that features cognac, rye whiskey, and vermouth.
Similar in style to the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned, the Vieux Carre is straight out of the French Quarter and hails from the 1930s.
The bartender who created the Vieux Carre was Walter Bergeron and he named his signature cocktail after his beloved French Quarter.
In 1937, this cocktail appeared in a published cocktail book.
To make the Vieux Carre, you need cognac, rye whiskey, Benedictine, sweet red vermouth, Angostura bitters, and Peychaud bitters.
Garnish the Vieux Carre with a Luxardo cherry.
If you want to try a whiskey cocktail similar to the Manhattan, the Brooklyn cocktail should be on your mixology bucket list.
Bitters and Maraschino liqueur give this sophisticated cocktail a stunning nuanced finish.
The Brooklyn cocktail was first printed in 1908 and was created by Jack Grohusko, a bartender at a lower Manhattan restaurant.
A Brooklyn cocktail includes rye whiskey, Maraschino liqueur, dry vermouth, and Amer Picon (or a similar citrusy, herbal amaro).
The original recipe from 1908 called for sweet vermouth.
The New York Sour is utterly unique in the world of cocktails with the word “sour” in its name.
Also called the Maple Syrup New York Sour because it has maple syrup, this cocktail is like classic whiskey sours, but with a special something extra: a layer of wonderful red wine on top.
Although this cocktail has a modern feel, it’s believed to have been created in the 1880s by a Chicago bartender, then later popularized in NYC, which is how it came to have the New York City name.
When you pour the red wine, be sure to pour it gently on top of a spoon into the glass so that the wine floats on top.
The way to remember how to make a Boulevardier is that it’s basically a Negroni that’s made with whiskey rather than gin.
The Boulevardier is one of the many classic 1920’s cocktails from the iconic Harry’s New York Bar that was located in Paris, France.
Supposedly, the Boulevardier was named after an American writer named Erskine Gwynne, a man who founded a Paris magazine called the Boulevardier.
To make the Boulevardier, you need Campari, bourbon, and sweet vermouth.
The classic whiskey sour hails from the 1870s. To make a whiskey sour, you need
Traditionally, a whiskey sour is made with an egg white that gives it a frothy foam topping.
However, when you make the cocktail with an egg white, you actually have a Boston Sour.
This whiskey sour recipe doesn’t use egg whites. It’s a simple recipe and calls for good quality whiskey, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup.
Garnish your whiskey sour with a maraschino cherry and an orange slice.
Here’s a bonus recipe. Make your whiskey sour with bourbon, and you officially have a Bourbon Sour.
The Blood and Sand cocktail is a classic Scotch cocktail that features cherry liqueur and orange juice.
The recipe for Blood and Sand was published in the popular and historical cocktail book published in 1930, the Savory Cocktail book.
This Scotch cocktail was named after a silent movie about a bullfighter, also named “Blood and Sand,” with the tie-in being the blood orange juice that is used to make this punchy mixed drink.
To make the Blood and Sand cocktail, you need a cherry brandy or cherry liqueur such as Cherry Heering. Be sure you don’t buy Maraschino liqueur because it gives it a totally different flavor.
You need sweet vermouth, Scotch whiskey, and blood orange juice to make this classic cocktail.
Garnish your Blood and Sand with an orange twist.
When you want to close your eyes and imagine that you’re enjoying a whisky cocktail at a street cafe in the French Quarter in New Orleans, do it with the official cocktail of The Big Easy: the Sazerac.
The Sazerac is made with whiskey and sugar, but it has a surprise ingredient: absinthe, a black licorice liqueur.
This legendary whiskey cocktail may have been invented by a New Orleans apothecary named Antoine Peychaud.
To make the Sazerac, you need a good cognac, rye whiskey, a sugar cube, absinthe, and Peychaud’s bitters.
In recent decades, people have started associating Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur with Irish coffee, but traditional Irish coffee uses Irish whiskey.
The story goes that a chef named Joe Sheridan was on a Pan Am flight in 1943 when the flight had to turn back to County Limerick.
There was a terrible storm and the chef was asked to prepare food and hot drinks for the passengers.
Joe decided to add some Irish whiskey to the coffee, and when someone asked him if the coffee was Brazilian, Joe said that it was Irish coffee.
Classic Irish coffee is made with strong coffee, brown sugar, and Irish whiskey such as Jameson’s whiskey. Top it off with whipped cream.
10. Irish Mule
If you love Irish whiskey, you’re going to adore the Irish Mule, which is a spin on the beloved Moscow mule.
The Irish mule is a good intro drink if you’re new to whiskey because it has a light and bubbly flavor with a whiskey finish that is perfectly spicy.
Mules are drinks that are made with ginger ale or ginger beer, liquor, and citrus juice. Mules belong to the bucks cocktail family.
You can use any Irish whiskey you like to make an Irish mule, and you don’t even have to use the most expensive Irish whiskey.
Ginger beers such as Q Ginger Beer are perfect for an Irish mule.
11. Whiskey Smash
We love a whiskey smash because it’s a refreshing and tangy whiskey cocktail.
With the citrus flavors and the fresh mint leaves, this little whiskey cocktail packs a delicious punch.
This is a whiskey cocktail recipe with a long history. It was first published in a bartender guide in 1887.
It’s fun to imagine all of those Victorian-era folks enjoying this yummy cocktail. It’s a classic cocktail for sure.
To make this whiskey cocktail, be sure to muddle your mint leaves by putting the mint leaves in the bottom of your cocktail shaker and smashing them up with a cocktail muddler.
For a completely different whiskey cocktail, give the Godfather a try.
The Godfather is made with amaretto liqueur and Scotch, and those two ingredients are all it needs to be exceptional.
This cocktail is a great one to try if you want an intro to scotch that isn’t too overpowering.
Most mixologists believe that this cocktail from the 1970s was named after the “Godfather” movie because Maron Brando’s character drank Scotch a lot in the film.
13. La Louisiane
Some people love a spirit-forward cocktail, and nothing satisfies that craving quite like La Louisiane.
La Louisiane was created in the 1800s and it’s similar to the Sazerac.
However, La Louisiane is much more complex in terms of flavors and the Benedictine gives this classic whiskey cocktail an herbal flare.
Also, you use sweet vermouth for La Louisiane, so it has a slightly sweet taste.
To make La Louisiane, you need rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and Peychaud’s bitters.
Garnish La Louisiane with gorgeous dark Luxardo cherries.
14. Bourbon Sidecar
The bourbon Sidecar cocktail is similar to the classic Sidecar, and it was first created in the 1920s.
Allegedly, an American Army captain scooted around in Paris in a motorcycle sidecar and the cocktail was named after him.
You can use either Triple Sec or Cointreau in a bourbon Sidecar.
To enjoy a bourbon Sidecar, you need to shake it in a cocktail shaker and then strain it into a cocktail glass. Then, add clear ice to the cocktail.
A bourbon Sidecar is served with a lemon twist or lemon peel.
The mint julep is the official cocktail of the Kentucky Derby, and it’s a hugely popular cocktail in the state of Kentucky.
Every year, more than 120,000 mint juleps are served during the weekend of the Kentucky Derby. However, you can enjoy this gorgeous mint-flavored cocktail any time of the year.
Here’s another fun fact about the mint julep: in 1784, a doctor prescribed a mint julep as a tummy ache prescription.
To make a mint julep, you need fresh mint leaves, bourbon whiskey, ice, and powdered sugar (or simple syrup).
A mint julep is primarily dry and it’s all about the bourbon.
16. Whiskey Highball
Is a whiskey highball just a fancy name for a simple whisky soda? Not exactly.
While these two cocktails have the same ingredients and the suggested glassware is uniform, a Highball is a lot more complex than a whiskey soda.
The whiskey highball originated in a Manhattan bar in the late 19th century and was first mentioned in a New York Times article in 1904. The article said that the mixed drink was designed for people who wanted to make low-quality spirits more palatable. Ha!
Nevertheless, the whiskey highball has come into its own.
To make the whiskey highball, use good-quality whiskey, club soda (ginger beer and ginger ale also work), and a lime wedge.
Are you looking for another classic Scotch cocktail to try? We present the Penicillin cocktail.
When you combine Scotch with honey, ginger, and lemon, you end up with the Penicillin cocktail.
Oh, and you need two different types of Scotch, both single malt Scotch and blended Scotch, so it’s just what the doctor ordered.
This is another cocktail that originated at NYC’s Milk & Honey bar. The creator of the Penicillin is a bartender named Sam Ross.
Basically, this cocktail is a whiskey sour that’s made with ginger honey syrup and Scotch whiskey.
The name is a play off the common ingredients found in many herbal remedies: honey, fresh lemon juice, and ginger.
18. Old Pal Cocktail
The Old Pal cocktail has just three simple ingredients, but there’s nothing simple about the complex flavors of this classic whiskey cocktail.
Fans of a Manhattan cocktail or Negroni usually love the Old Pal Cocktail.
The Old Pal cocktail was created in the 1920s by a very famous bartender named Harry MacElhone from Paris’s Harry’s Bar.
Traditionally, the Old Pal is made with rye whiskey, but you can make this great easy cocktail with bourbon whiskey if you want.
This whiskey cocktail gets its vibrant red color from Campari, an Italian bitter.
Once you have a bottle of Campari, you can use it to make lots of classic cocktails, including a Negroni, an Americano cocktail, and the Boulevardier.
Garnish the Old Pal with a lemon peel.
19. Milk Punch
Milk Punch is the oldest whiskey cocktail on this list and it dates back to Scotland in 1688. The Milk Punch cocktail was first mentioned in 1711 in a cookbook.
Also, in 1763, Benjamin Franklin recorded a version of the Milk Punch cocktail, so this is a mixed drink with a lot of history surrounding it.
To make Milk Punch, you need whole milk, bourbon whiskey, brandy, simple syrup, vanilla extract, and a cinnamon stick, star anise, or grated nutmeg for garnish.
In this list of classic whiskey cocktail recipes, we were delighted to include one whiskey mixed drink that is a true modern classic.
The Paper Plane cocktail was created in 2007 by a bartender named Sam Ross, who began making this cocktail at New York City’s Milk & Honey bar.
The Paper Plane cocktail is named after a catchy song of the same name by M.I.A. Ross says that he was listening to the song when he created this delicious cocktail.
When you make the Paper Plane for the first time, we definitely recommend listening to the song.
The Paper Plane cocktail has bourbon whiskey, Aperol, Italian amaro, fresh lemon juice, and a lemon peel for garnish.
Although it’s just whiskey that’s lightly sweetened and seasoned with Angostura bitters, the Old Fashioned has become one of the most well-known whiskey cocktails in the world.
This recipe dates all the way back to the early part of the 19th century, and there are lots of spins on this classic whiskey cocktail.
Don’t skip the sugar cube (or a teaspoon of sugar) for an Old Fashioned. It really is what makes this whiskey cocktail so special.
You can use either rye whiskey or bourbon for an Old Fashioned.
22. Rusty Nail
We couldn’t make a list of classic whiskey cocktails and exclude the beloved Rusty Nail.
The Rusty Nail uses Drambuie and Scotch to make the perfect stout cocktail.
Hailing from 1937, the Rusty Nail first was introduced at a British Industries Fair in 1937, where it was called the BIF (the acronym of the fair).
Interestingly, no one can even take a guess as to the origins of the unique name of this classic cocktail. Some folks have speculated that this cocktail was named after the rusty nails that may have been found on Drambuie crates.
This classic whiskey cocktail became popular in the 1960s and it’s full of flavors like honey, along with herbal notes from the Drambuie.
23. Toronto Cocktail
The Toronto cocktail is utterly unique.
This classic whiskey cocktail combines whiskey’s warmth and depth with the herbal intrigue of Fernet-Branca liqueur, an Italian bitter that’s made with spices and herbs.
Unlike many bitters, Fernet-Branca has a fairly high alcohol content, clocking in at 40-45% alcohol.
To make the Toronto cocktail, you need the Fernet-Branca, rye whiskey, simple syrup (or maple syrup), and Angostura bitters. Garnish your Toronto cocktail with an orange peel.
Once you have a bottle of Fernet-Branca, you can use it to make cocktails like the Fernet Sour or the Hanky Panky. However, you can also drink it straight, apparently a trend with bartenders in San Francisco.
The Brown Derby cocktail originated in the 1930s from a Hollywood, California restaurant chain that was shaped like a Brown Derby hat.
This cocktail uses honey syrup instead of simple syrup, and the honey gives the Brown Derby cocktail an exceptional signature flavor.
The Brown Derby is made with grapefruit juice, so it’s super citrusy. You can also squeeze in some fresh lemon juice.
You can serve a Brown Derby cocktail on the rocks, but it’s traditionally strained into a martini glass.
Garnish the Brown Derby with orange peel or an orange slice.
This is another cocktail that was invented at the hugely popular Milk & Honey bar that’s located in New York City. The bartender who created it is T. J. Siegal.
Although the Gold Rush cocktail is a modern classic, it has a fun retro feel.
The Gold Rush is the perfect cocktail for people who love bourbon drinks.
The honey syrup is what gives the Gold Rush cocktail its signature flavor, and the lemon adds a nice zing.
If you’re looking for a truly vintage classic cocktail, you have to try the Manhattan cocktail.
This classic whiskey drink originated at a New York City club called The Manhattan Club in the 1870s.
Traditionally, rye whiskey is used to make a classic Manhattan cocktail, but you can also use bourbon for a sweeter and smoother flavor.
For a Manhattan cocktail, you need to add sweet vermouth, which is a fortified wine with liquor added to it for stabilization. Some good brands of sweet vermouth are Carpano Antica and Dolin.
Just two dashes of Angostura bitters go in a Manhattan.
Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.
27. John Collins
A John Collins is a great cocktail for people who are just starting to try whiskey because it’s not an overpowering cocktail.
Basically, a John Collins is like a tall whiskey sour. The main difference is the club soda and the ice cubes (or crushed ice).
You can use any type of bourbon or whiskey in a John Collins. Just pick your favorite and mix it up.
To make a John Collins from scratch, you need lemon juice, simple syrup, and club soda. You can also use sweet and sour mix.
Garnish with a maraschino cherry and an orange slice.
Do you want to learn to make the perfect whiskey sour, one of our favorite easy whiskey drinks? Oh, and how about learning to make a Halekulani cocktail? Watch the video below.
Our 30+ BEST Classic Whiskey Cocktails (+Rob Roy Cocktail)
- 2 oz Scotch Highland Park 12 preferably
- 1 oz sweet vermouth Carpano Antica preferably
- Angostura bitters two dashes
- Combine scotch, sweet vermouth, and angostura bitters in a mixing glass over ice.
- Stir the mixture until properly chilled.
- Strain mixture into a chilled coupe/
- Finally, garnish your drink with a Luzardo cherry.
Organize all the required ingredients.
Enjoy the food.