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15 Best Whiskey Cocktails to Order

These essential whiskey cocktails are popular for a reason

Whiskey is a popular liquor that goes well with a wide variety of ingredients, making it great for cocktails. 

You might have had your fair share of whiskey cocktails at cocktail bars and fancy restaurants – but don’t let those whimsical-looking libations fool you. Whiskey cocktails are easy enough (and delicious enough) for you to make at home as well! 

whiskey cocktails

This article will discuss different types of well-known, whiskey-lover-vetted drinks that look great, taste even better, and are easy enough to make right in your kitchen.

Some are true 1800s classics, while others are slightly more modern, but all are great options for your next at-home bartending experience. 

If you can make it to your local grocer in time to pick up a few ingredients, you can select one of these whiskey cocktail ideas and impress your roommates, your guests, your family, or just yourself as quickly as tonight! 

Without further ado, here are the 15 best whiskey cocktails to make at home. 

Popular Whiskey Cocktails

  1. Whiskey Sour
  2. Rusty Nail
  3. Manhattan Cocktail
  4. Old Fashioned
  5. Irish Coffee
  6. Sazerac
  7. Boulevardier Cocktail
  8. Hot Toddy
  9. Brown Derby Cocktail
  10. New York Sour
  11. Mint Julep
  12. John Collins
  13. Rob Roy
  14. Whiskey Highball
  15. Whiskey Smash

Whiskey Sour

Whiskey Sours are classic, timeless, and delicious. You can use any whiskey to make a good whiskey sour, but the best option is bourbon. In addition to the whiskey, all you’ll need is a lemon or lemon juice, maple syrup, and a garnish of an orange peel or a maraschino cherry to top it off. 

The whiskey has some spice, the lemon makes it tart, and the syrup adds the sweetness for an overall multifaceted taste that just doesn’t get old. 

Four your whiskey sour can use simple syrup instead, but using maple syrup adds a natural, complex flavor for an overall more nuanced taste in the end.


Rusty Nail

The Rusty Nail is a simple cocktail, almost as timeless as the whiskey sour but preferred by a narrower group of whiskey lovers. This drink is for people who genuinely admire the taste of whiskey and only want to add a little bit of sweetness to the spicy flavors that already exist in their favorite whiskey. 

We prefer to use scotch whiskey for a good rusty nail, and once you pour a glass of that, all you have to do is add a bit of honey and a splash of Drambuie, a scotch-based liqueur that will add more sweet and herbal notes to the mix. 


Manhattan Cocktail

The Manhattan cocktail is another one of those timeless staples on every bar’s cocktail list, and it’s easy enough to make right at home. This cocktail originated in 1870 in The Manhattan Club in New York, New York. 

This date makes it notably older than many of its cocktail compatriots that originated in the 20s and 30s. And there is a reason its popularity has lasted so long. 

With just three simple ingredients — whiskey, vermouth, and bitters — you get a deep, complex taste that is sweet, spicy, earthy, and bitter. We recommend using rye whiskey for this staple cocktail, but any whiskey will do. 


Old Fashioned

Speaking of old and timeless whiskey cocktails, the Old Fashioned isn’t just called old for no reason. It is truly one of the most dated cocktails that is still highly admired, as people have been drinking it since the early 1800s.

With that said, this cocktail is essentially just straight whiskey with a little bit of flair. All you will need is your best whiskey, a sugar cube, water, angostura bitters, and an orange peel to make it.

But it might not be as simple as it sounds because to make it indeed “old fashioned,” you need to add an appropriate amount of bitters to the sugar cube and muddle it with water for a certain amount of time. 

But don’t worry – an old fashioned can be newly fashioned into your own unique style if you’d like, too!


Irish Coffee

Who says your cocktails have to be served in the evening? If you’d like a bit of whiskey to start your day, perhaps while on a stay-cation or simply to start your weekend in a spirited way, try making an Irish Whiskey. 

All you’ll need to do is make your coffee as you usually would, then add a bit of whiskey to the mix. You can top it off with whipped cream for a delightful, frothy finish, because why not? 

As the name suggests, we recommend using an Irish whiskey like Jameson for your Irish coffee and adding a touch of sugar to sweeten up the bitter coffee flavor. 


Sazerac

The Sazerac is a simple, potent cocktail that is not for the faint-hearted. You have to love whiskey, as well as love strong flavor, to really enjoy this sip-worthy cocktail. 

This cocktail combines rye whiskey or cognac with absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters. And yes – we’re talking about absinthe, the liquor that was once outlawed but is now legal and ready to be mixed for your cocktail-making enjoyment. 

The absinthe isn’t just noteworthy in this cocktail for its infamous status and intriguing reputation. It also adds a black licorice taste to the cocktail’s finishing notes.


Boulevardier Cocktail

If you like a good negroni, the gin lover’s favorite, you’ll probably enjoy the Boulevardier Cocktail. 

This cocktail is similar to a Negroni, but you will use whiskey instead of gin instead. We specifically recommend using bourbon whiskey for the sweetness of its flavor, which mixes delightfully with the notes in the sweet vermouth. 

Besides those two main ingredients, you’ll add an ounce of Campari and finish off the cocktail with an orange peel garnish. This impressive combination takes whiskey to a whole new level and is perfect for the sweet-tooth sippers. 

Ice is not necessary, but if you decide to include ice, try clear ice for the best Boulevardier Cocktail final look. 


Hot Toddy

Irish whiskeys aren’t the only warm whiskey cocktail that can downright soothe your soul. A nice hot toddy is an excellent drink, especially during cold winter evenings. 

Best of all, you need four main ingredients for a delicious hot toddy — hot water, whiskey, lemon, and honey. That’s it! 

This drink is also a great alternative to other familiar wintertime delights such as hot cocoa or mulled wine because it’s not as sweet. Instead, it is more soothing and refreshing to drink. 

You can add additional flavor and an aesthetically appealing flair to your hot toddy by topping it off with a cinnamon stick. 


Brown Derby Cocktail

Say you were turned off by our bad-mouthing of sweet drinks. Don’t worry – we’ve got something for you too! 

The Brown Derby Cocktail is a sweet and citrusy whiskey beverage that combines the spicy taste of whiskey with the sweet and pucker-inducing notes of grapefruit. 

These two flavors are mixed in with the earthy yet deliciously sweet addition of honey as well, resulting in a truly yummy final taste. 

You can also use maple syrup or simple syrup instead of honey, depending on the specific undertones you’d like to achieve. Better yet — why not try all three! 


New York Sour

If you like whiskey sour but are also a fan of red wine, we recommend creating a New York Sour. 

Although Chicago might have been the birthplace of this innovative drink, New York City picked it up and made it the popular drink we know and love today. 

This is a fantastic drink choice for those looking for a blend of flavors. You get the classic tartness, sweetness, and spiciness of a classic whiskey sour, plus the fruity acidity of the wine. 

Additionally, this is an impressive cocktail to make when you’re hosting events in your home because it looks more complicated than it is! The two-lined layer is undoubtedly pleasing to the eyes.


Mint Julep

The Mint Julep has a fascinating history, as it was initially used for medicinal purposes, namely to treat stomach aches. After that, it was seen as a recreational drink like other cocktails, and in 1938, it was seen as the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. 

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a glass if you have a bit of a bellyache. We won’t stop you! We recommend using bourbon for a classic mint julep, then adding water, sugar, and crushed or shaved ice. 

Finally, as you might’ve guessed from the name, you’ll muddle the mint in syrup and add it for the finishing, refreshing, and — apparently — stomach-soothing minty taste. 


John Collins

The John Collins is another old cocktail from the 1800s and is said to be named after a waiter who worked in a London hotel and coffee house around that time. 

The John Collins is similar to the Tom Collins cocktail but uses whiskey instead of the usual spirit, gin and is topped with an orange peel or maraschino cherry garnish instead of a lemon. 

However, like a Tom Collins, you’ll still combine lemon juice, club soda, and simple syrup for this refreshing, fizzy drink. 

If you’d like to add some more complexity to your flavoring, feel free to add Angostura bitters for a finishing touch. 


Rob Roy

If you enjoy a good ol’ Manhattan but love scotch more than bourbon or rye, meet the Rob Roy. 

This cocktail is perfect for scotch lovers since, similar to a Manhattan, it’s all about the whiskey and less about everything else. 

The other ingredients — sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters — are there to add a touch of flavor and dress up the scotch a bit —nothing less, nothing more. 

This cocktail goes well in a high glass, lovingly topped with a festive maraschino cherry. 


Whiskey Highball

A Whiskey Highball is a refreshing whiskey drink that is so simple; even your dog could make it. 

All you’ll do is combine your favorite whiskey with soda water, and way-lah, you have a Whiskey Highball!

As with many super simple cocktails, there are variations to suit different tastes. Stick with club soda if you love the straight whiskey taste and want a more refreshing kick. 

However, if you’d like to even out the whiskey flavor while keeping the fizz, try mixing it with ginger ale or ginger beer instead.

You can finish off with a lemon garnish to stay on theme with this refreshing beverage that’s perfect for daytime and summertime hangouts. 


Whiskey Smash

A Whiskey Smash is like a Mint Julep with a citrus twist or a Whiskey Sour with a minty twist. 

Speaking more straightforwardly, if you enjoy minty, lemony, and sweet flavors in a refreshing, bubbly drink, then this one’s for you. 

You’ll need a good cocktail shaker and cocktail muddled to make this one right — but trust us, it’ll be worth the extra bit of effort! 

If you’re feeling like a pro and want to take it up a notch, you can try out Maple Bourbon Smash or a Blackberry Smash for additional sweet or fruity flavorings. 


Final Thoughts

You can make many different cocktail creations with different types of whiskey, but some are more complicated than others. 

Fortunately, all of the whiskey cocktails on this list are home-proofed and relatively simple to put together, whether it be for a party, a small gathering, or just a relaxing evening to yourself. Check out the best whiskey stones to keep your drinks cool!

And while each of these cocktails has a unique touch that makes them the true classics they are, they all undoubtedly have a special combination of ingredients. And they are all winners for those who like to soak in the flavors of their drinks. 

Try one out and see for yourself!

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Written by Erin B.

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.