Whiskey has always been one of the most popular spirits, and for good reason — the best whiskey is as simple or complex as you want it to be, with a variety of options for beginners or experienced drinkers. Whiskey is classic enough to enjoy in a cocktail with your grandpa, yet trendy enough that craft cocktail bars dedicate entire drink menus to it. Whiskey serves as the backbone to some of the most incredible and iconic cocktails.
Whiskey has a unique flavor palette that plays well with a wide variety of mixers. It can be bright, light and refreshing in a Lynchburg lemonade, or warm you up on a cold night (or morning) in an Irish coffee. Whether you’re ready to bring in summer, or looking to hunker down on a cold night, there’s an amazing whiskey cocktail for the occasion below.
Keep reading to discover our favorite whiskey cocktails, from classic Old Fashioned’s to lesser-known combinations like Pickleback.
1. Old Fashioned
A traditional cocktail that is a staple in the whiskey realm, an old fashioned is as sophisticated as it is delightful. This simple whiskey cocktail consists of bitters, sugar, a slice of orange and a splash of soda. And it doesn’t matter what type of whiskey you have on the shelf, because this classic works with just about all of them. That being said, for a sophisticated whiskey cocktail like this, you can’t go wrong with a premium whiskey like this Maker’s Mark.
A manhattan is the iconic, go-to drink in the whiskey world. Traditionalists claim it must be made with rye whiskey, but it’s okay to experiment. A couple dashes of bitters, a bit of sweet vermouth and a maraschino cherry make up the simple, yet sophisticated delight. It’s a great cocktail for any season or occasion. For a truly classy concoction, pour yourself a manhattan with a small-batch whiskey like Woodford Reserve.
3. Kentucky Mule
Don’t have any vodka on the shelf? That’s fine, go Kentucky mule instead. Liquor.com recommends mixing some bourbon, a little freshly squeezed lime and 6 oz. of ginger beer. That’s all you need for a delicious summer drink that’s equally as good, if not better than, a Moscow mule. Pouring it in a copper cup will keep it chilled and delicious. We don’t have a particular bourbon to recommend for this cocktail, so enjoy this drink with your favorite bourbon.
4. Whiskey Sour
A whiskey sour is tart, with a touch of sweetness, and a whole lot of goodness. Add a whiskey of your choice, freshly squeezed lemon, simple syrup and a egg white into a shaker (the egg is optional and adds a slight thickness to the drink), according to these instructions from The Spruce. After you mix it up well, especially with an egg, strain into a chilled glass, and add a cherry. This is the base for many sour whiskey drinks, but when you stop here and enjoy, it’s delicious as is.
5. Lynchburg Lemonade
Personally, we think this whiskey cocktail is best when mixed with Jack Daniels, and this recipe comes direct from the Jack Daniels distillery. Lynchburg Lemonade is a light and refreshing libation to enjoy during summertime. To get this mix drink ready before your summertime barbecue, pour 1 oz. of triple sec, lemon juice and 4 oz. of a lemon-lime soda, or freshly squeezed lemonade, into a tall glass over ice. Stir in the Jack Daniels to your liking and you’re set for summer.
This simple drink can be made with any type of whiskey, but can be especially delicious (and strong) with Wild Turkey 101. Try this simple recipe from Serious Eats; the mixer is ginger ale or soda water, depending on your preference. If 101 is a little too stiff for your liking, try it with an 80-proof whiskey and add a little more club soda or ginger ale to mellow things out.
Wild Turkey 101
7. Irish Coffee
Contrary to what you might think, Irish Coffee is more of a “dessert” or evening drink than a breakfast pick-me-up or hangover cure. Of course, if you feel like kicking your morning off with an Irish coffee, we won’t judge. It’s amazing with French pressed coffee, a little brown sugar, whipped cream, and your favorite Irish whiskey. Enjoy a small glass after a meal to help with digestion, and catch a little buzz, too.
8. Hot Toddy
While this isn’t necessarily the best whiskey cocktail for spring and summer, the hot toddy is a classic bourbon beverage. It’s the perfect drink for cold winter nights or anytime you’re dealing with a bad head cold. The ingredients — soothing boiling water, honey, cinnamon and citrus — make this a light and refreshing cocktail. This recipe from Cookie and Kate calls for adding a cinnamon stick as a garnish, a traditional touch. Best enjoyed with your bourbon of choice, a hot toddy can also be brewed with whiskey and brandy.
In an odd pairing of pickle juice and Jameson Irish Whiskey, a pickleback is surprisingly refreshing. Just two ingredients — a shot of each will do the trick — and you’re set. The tartness of the pickle juice offsets the bite of the whiskey almost making for a perfect, built-in chaser. Pickle juice will actually help you combat a hangover, but if you drink a million of these in a night, any amount of pickle juice probably won’t save you.