In a perfect world, we’d all be well-equipped with a sterling silver cocktail shaker, a variety of premium mixers, and fresh fruit, prepared to transform our favorite whiskies into tasty cocktails at a moment’s notice. However, life is often less than perfect.
So we’ve delved into five classic whisky cocktails with the help of some top bartenders, asking a lot of questions that begin with “What if…?” Because sometimes you’re low on limes, or can’t find a cocktail strainer. If you’re willing to put aside some of the pomp and pedantry, there’s more than one way to make a cocktail. In fact, more than a few great cocktails have been invented out of necessity.
With their relatively short ingredient lists and simple recipes, the whisky classics are well-suited for improvisation. If you’re hankering for a cold cocktail at home, read on to learn how to construct a great drink while letting nothing stand in your way.
Build Your Best Manhattan
Whether you opt for bourbon or rye, this elegant cocktail shines. Learn what to use if you’re out of vermouth—and even how to replace the bitters.
Build Your Best Old Fashioned
Whisky, sugar, and bitters form the basic template, and that simplicity makes variations practically infinite. Here’s how to adapt the formula to fit whatever you have on hand.
Build Your Best Highball
The Highball is a perfect food cocktail, letting whisky step into roles usually occupied by beer and wine. Any whisky, plus some bubbly water, can turn into a stellar and simple sipper.
Build Your Best Whiskey Sour
Citrus, sweetener, and whisky combine for one of the most refreshing drinks in the cocktail canon. No lemons? No problem.
Build Your Best Mint Julep
Historically made with brandy or other spirits, the Mint Julep technically doesn’t even require bourbon—or mint. Yes, even if you lack fresh greenery, a refreshing Julep remains in reach.