Scotch Whisk(e)y Cocktails ~ 4 of the Best

Scotch Whisk(e)y Cocktails ~ 4 of the Best
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Scotch whisky attracts its many followers at least in part because of the huge diversity of flavours it offers. So when I read a cocktail recipe which calls for “2oz Scotch”, I scowl and mutter.  Every whisky is different, and you can’t just throw in “2oz Scotch” and hope for a great tasting drink.

Cocktails involving whisky were invented in the United States, so naturally they used Rye or Bourbon whiskey. And this is where it can get a bit tricky.

From a flavour point of view there are three important differences between North American whiskies and Scotch: malt, sherry wood, and peat smoke. Each can have a positive or negative effect on the finished cocktail. So here, for your delectation (and experimentation!), I present four classic whisk(e)y cocktails, fine tuned for Scotch.



Manhattan cocktail2oz whisk(e)y

1oz sweet vermouth

1 dash Angostura bitters

Orange peel





Put three ice cubes in a mixing glass. Add the whisk(e)y, vermouth, and bitters and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the orange peel over the glass to release the oil. Discard the peel and serve. Don’t bother with the cherry, it adds nothing to the flavour and gets in the way.

The vermouth emphasises any sherry wood flavours of the Scotch, to the point where the drink is too bitter, so lighter whiskies aged predominantly or exclusively in Bourbon casks are the way to go. Cutty Sark or Compass Box Great King Street are excellent light blends. In malt whisky, An Cnoc 16 Year Old, Balblair 2001, or Jura 10 Year Old (which adds a wee thread of smoke to the mix) all work well. For a further tweak to the recipe, try using lime peel instead of orange.

My favourite variation, the Smoky Manhattan, calls for Laphroaig 18 Year Old. The smoky flavours of the malt really complement the red fruits in the vermouth. Delicious, and dangerously drinkable – Laphroaig 18 Year Old is 48%ABV, but doesn’t taste anything like that strong.

(The cocktail geeks amongst you will be thinking I’ve just given you some sort of Rob Roy recipe, but a Rob Roy is typically described as a “Manhattan made with Scotch” which brings me back to the scowling and muttering. Forget about Rob Roy.)


2)Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned cocktail

2oz whisk(e)y

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon water

1 dash orange bitters

Orange peel (cut thick to include the pith, but not the flesh)




Put the sugar, water, bitters, and peel into an Old Fashioned glass. Stir to dissolve the sugar and extract a little oil from the orange peel (you can of course use a teaspoon of simple syrup instead of the sugar and water). Add the whisk(e)y and stir again. Remove the orange peel, fill the glass with ice cubes, position the peel at a jaunty angle, and serve. Again, don’t bother with the cherry.

Here, the orange notes complement any sherry wood flavours in the whisky, so you’ll want to go for richer styles, but not smoky. Amongst the blends, Grant’s Sherry cask or Ballantine’s Finest would both work well. In malts, Macallan 10 Year Old (the Sherry wood, not the Fine Oak) is fabulous, and Dalmore 12 Year Old or Aberlour 16 are also good.


3)Sandy Collins

2oz whisk(e)y

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon sugar

Soda Water

Lemon wedge

Put the lemon and sugar in a Highball or Old Fashioned glass, depending on how long you want your drink to be. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the whisky and stir again. Add ice, top up with soda, stir again, garnish with a lemon wedge, and serve. Surely by now I don’t need to tell you to forget the cherry.

A classic summer cocktail, this works best with whiskies that are straightforwardly fruity. Peaty or Sherry wood flavours always seem too heavy, so go for light blends like J&B Rare or Cutty Sark. Amongst the malts, Glenfiddich 12 Year Old or Auchentoshan Classic are excellent, and a Sandy Collins is about the best use there is for Glenkinchie 12 Year Old.


4)Rusty Cherry

2oz Aberlour A’Bunadh

1oz Drambuie

Fresh Cherries

Dark chocolate

Wash and dry the fresh cherries, being careful to leave the stems on. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water, and dip each cherry in chocolate to coat it. Set aside on greaseproof paper to cool.

Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add the whisky and drambuie. Stir. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass,  and serve at once, with the chocolate cherries.

The purists amongst you will perhaps be arguing that the Rusty Nail (on which I base this recipe) isn’t a cocktail, since it has only two ingredients. But the chocolate cherries are an integral part of the holy wonder that is this taste experience – this is a truly delicious combination.

Warning! You are only allowed one of these. A’Bunadh is 60%ABV. Some of my most spectacular hangovers have been A’Bunadh related.

Roddy Graham



Written by damien

Posted: June 21, 2012