Whiskey is wonderful for so many reasons. Most of them are obvious: superior flavour and quality borne through centuries of tradition and with decades of patience. Though whiskey is enjoyed by many different types of connoisseurs, what is all too often overlooked, is its versatility as a liquid.
We’ll admit it, sometimes we get so precious about our beloved spirit that we blind ourselves to the fact that Irish whiskey and Scotch are great in a cocktail. In fact, an argument could be made for their placement atop the cocktail spirit pyramid. Of course we’re a little biased, but hear us out when it comes to the wonder of whiskey in mixed form.
For one, it’s an assertive beast. Whether we’re talking about single malts, Irish whiskey, American whiskeys or even blended whiskeys – these barrel-aged beauties stand out in a crowd. And even against heavier modifiers you’re going to know that you’re sipping on brown spirits as you enjoy that drink. Secondly, they play well with so many different sorts of additions – from the simple to the most complex; it’s that aforementioned versatility that we can’t get enough of. An Old Fashioned is one of the most revered whiskey cocktails of all time. And really it’s just muddled sugar against American whiskey with a splash of bitters. But then you can have something as elaborate as the Vieux Carré. This New Orleans speciality combines rye whiskey with cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine liqueur, and yet you can still taste and feel that spicy grain spirit anchoring down the arrangement. It’s truly something special.
American Whiskey Cocktails
And yet you don’t have to be some sort of moustachioed mixologist in order to prove the point. If you’re just starting to explore this space, the gratification ought to be instant. Because it’s all too easy to make some of the most classic whiskey cocktails at home. American whiskies—bourbon and rye—are worked effortlessly into arrangements such as the Old Fashioned or the Manhattan. For the former you need nothing more than water, spirit, sugar, and a dash of bitters! For the latter it requires a proper rye and a sweet red vermouth. For either, you can substitute any style of whiskey you prefer: Irish, Scotch (better known as a Rob Roy), Japanese, Canadian…You will still come away with something sensational. Or you can just grab the absinth and assemble a Sazerac.
Irish Whiskey Cocktails
There are, of course, plenty of whiskey recipes built specifically to showcase Irish Whiskey. Bartenders have plenty of time to perfect them. Long before Scotch was even known as a category, the Emerald Isle was home to the world’s most popular category of brown spirit. Today, we’re seeing a return to those glory days, as Irish Whiskey enjoys an unprecedented period of growth. Its stature is rising, and so is its positioning on the back bar—towards the top shelf. Indeed, there are countless examples of high end, super premium Irish spirit that should be sipped neat to start.
Just don’t forget to explore the Irish whiskey cocktails, is all we’re saying. Since Ireland is home to myriad styles of whiskey, including single malt, single grain, pot still and blended whiskey, it remains the most versatile mixer of them all! The Whiskey Ginger—aka the Irish Buck—comes from these rolling green hills. The Tipperary is a more elegant arrangement incorporating Chartreuse and Vermouth. The Irish Blonde was conceived by the cocktail legend himself, Dale Degroff. It combines the most accessible Irish whiskey you can find with orange curaçao and fino sherry. Even more elaborate is the Psycho Killer, a five ingredient favourite that requires Campari, Crème De Cacao and Banana liqueur.
We haven’t even gotten to the Irish Coffee—a drink so universally beloved it’s basically a category unto itself. Whisky and ginger, anyone? We could clearly go on all day. But you’ve got some drinks to make. And we’ve got some whiskey cocktail recipes to share.
Whiskey Cocktail Basics
Just remember a few pointers before you get down to it. For one, have fun with it. Use recipes as a benchmark for balance but don’t feel like you can’t tweak them as you see fit. Like your particular drink a little sweeter? Add a touch more simple syrup. Like things bitter? Maybe add a splash more campari or vermouth. Don’t be afraid to be your own mixologist and create your own whole recipes from scratch. A cocktail is nothing more than a thoughtful composition of sweet, sour, and spirit. When they combine in proper proportion they tend to be the biggest crowd pleasers.
Or sometimes you might want to sub in a different base spirit within a classic recipe. A Manhattan, for example, is typically made with rye. But have you ever tried an Irish Manhattan? As you might have guessed it simply replaces the American whiskey with Irish whiskey and it results in a rich and rounded sipper that’s irresistible when served chilled and up. If you opt for an Irish pot still whiskey at the base you might discern some underlying notes of dark chocolate and fresh earth creeping through the vermouth modifier. Take out a pen and paper and scribble down some notes of what works and what doesn’t. Trust us when we say it’s the best kind of trial and error.
Which is exactly how bartenders and beverage experts arrived at the time-tested classics to begin with. They kept working at proportions until they hit the absolute sweet spot and low and behold, a masterpiece was born. Speaking of which, here are three absolute essentials, ranging in difficulty from easy to expert.
Irish Coffee recipe:
50ml Irish whiskey
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Top with hot brewed coffee
Garnish: whipped cream
Prepare the mug by filling with hot water for 2 minutes. Let it sit and then discard the water.
Add whiskey and sugar to the heated glass, fill with coffee and stir.
Top with an inch of unsweetened, lightly whipped cream.
Irish Manhattan recipe:
50 ml Blended Irish Whiskey
15ml Sweet Vermouth
5ml Maraschino (cherry) Liqueur
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Stir the whiskey with the vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Angostura bitters over ice.
Strain and pour into a chilled coupe class.
Zest an orange twist over the drink and drop into glass.
Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.
Irish Lady recipe:
50ml Irish Whiskey
15ml Triple Sec
30ml lemon juice
15ml simple syrup
1 egg white
Combine the ingredients into cocktail shaker filled with ice
Shake really hard for one minute
Strain and empty the ice; return the chilled mixture to the now empty shaker
Shake again—without ice—for an additional minute
Strain into coupe glass.
And there you have it, three classic Irish whiskey cocktails to add a dash of something different to your Friday night tipple. And while these are the tried and tested recipes, there’s no reason you can’t experiment; after all, The Taoscán, the fourth ultra-rare whiskey from The Craft Irish Whiskey Co., was arrived at after a period of experimentation, and we know how well that turned out. Sometimes it pays to step away from the normal route, to trust your own experience, your own instinct and, crucially, your own taste buds. Even if the end results aren’t quite as you’d like, you’ll have fun trying and may discover a new classic in the process. We’ve provided the recipes, the tips and the ideas, the rest is up to you. So grab your bottles, let your imagination take hold, and shake up a storm!