The Top 5 Whiskey Cocktails

Untappd Team
Post by Untappd Team
April 17, 2024
The Top 5 Whiskey Cocktails

With its rich history and diverse flavors, enthusiasts worldwide have long cherished whiskey. From the smoky depths of Scottish single malts to the smooth sweetness of Kentucky bourbons, whiskey offers a spectrum of tastes to explore and savor. Yet, beyond enjoying whiskey neat or on the rocks, a realm of creativity exists where this beloved spirit becomes the star of some of the most iconic and delightful whiskey cocktails.

In this article, we’ll explore five timeless whiskey cocktail concoctions. From the classic elegance of the Old Fashioned to the refreshing zest of the Whiskey Smash, each cocktail tells a story of craftsmanship, innovation, and whiskey's timeless allure.

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

5 Reasons Why You Should Offer Whiskey Cocktails

A group of people enjoying whiskey cocktails at bar or nightclub setting - up close photo

Whiskey cocktails offer restaurants a lucrative opportunity to elevate their beverage offerings, attract diverse customers, and contribute significantly to a restaurant's bottom line.

Here are several compelling reasons why restaurants should consider serving whiskey cocktails:

Wide Appeal

Whiskey cocktails appeal to a broad spectrum of drinkers, from seasoned whiskey aficionados to casual consumers looking to explore new flavors.

Especially for the new whiskey drinker, a whiskey cocktail could be a more approachable way to understand whiskey flavors without diving straight into a tumbler of the brown spirit.


A versatile spirit that pairs with various ingredients—from fruit juices and syrups to herbs and spices—whiskey works well in many cocktails.

This versatility allows restaurants to create diverse whiskey cocktails, each with a unique flavor profile and appeal. Whether patrons prefer classic cocktails—like Negronis and Old Fashioneds—or innovative creations, there's a whiskey cocktail to suit every taste and occasion.

Premium Perception

People often associate whiskey with sophistication, luxury, and craftsmanship.

By incorporating whiskey cocktails into a beverage program, restaurants, taprooms, and bars can enhance their image and position themselves as destinations for quality drinks and elevated dining experiences. This premium perception can attract discerning customers willing to spend more on premium whiskey cocktails.

Profit Margins

Whiskey cocktails typically have higher profit margins compared to other alcoholic beverages.

With relatively low ingredient costs and the ability to command premium prices, whiskey cocktails offer restaurants an opportunity to increase their profitability and generate additional revenue.

Upselling Opportunities

When presented with enticing options on the menu, patrons may be more inclined to try a premium whiskey cocktail or indulge in a whiskey flight, potentially increasing the opportunities for your staff to upsell. 

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Whiskey Varieties Needed for Whiskey Cocktails

A photo of a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey in perspective view

Whether a guest orders a Manhattan or an Irish Coffee, stocking all types of whiskey will ensure you have the right variety to mix the perfect whiskey cocktail.

Here are the must-have whiskey varieties for every bar:

Scotch Whisky

Single Malt Scotch: Known for its complexity and depth of flavor, single malt Scotch whisky is made from one hundred percent malted barley and distilled at a single distillery. 
Look for iconic single malt scotches from regions like Speyside, Islay, and Highland.

Blended Scotch: Blended Scotch whisky combines malt whisky with grain whisky to create a smooth and versatile spirit.

Popular brands like Johnnie Walker and Chivas Regal offer a range of expressions to suit every taste.


Straight Bourbon: Made primarily from corn and aged in new charred oak barrels, straight bourbon whiskey is a quintessentially American spirit known for its sweet and caramelized flavors. Look for well-known brands like Maker's Mark, Buffalo Trace, and Woodford Reserve.

Rye Whiskey: Rye whiskey, made primarily from rye grain, offers a spicier and more robust flavor than bourbon.

Brands like Bulleit, Rittenhouse, and Sazerac are popular choices for classic rye cocktails like the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned.

Irish Whiskey

Single Pot Still: Distinctive to Ireland, single pot still whiskey is made from a combination of malted and unmalted barley, resulting in a rich and creamy spirit.

Brands like Redbreast and Green Spot are renowned for their quality and craftsmanship.

Blended Irish Whiskey: Blended Irish whiskey combines malt and grain whiskies to create a smooth and approachable spirit with hints of honey and vanilla.

Whiskey enthusiasts worldwide love brands like Jameson and Bushmills.

Canadian Whisky

Canadian Blended Whisky: Known for its light and approachable style, Canadian whisky is often characterized by smoothness and a subtle sweetness.

Brands like Crown Royal and Canadian Club are popular for mixing into classic cocktails or enjoying on the rocks.

Japanese Whisky

Single Malt Japanese Whisky: Inspired by Scotch whisky production methods, Japanese single malt whisky offers a delicate and nuanced drinking experience, with flavors ranging from floral and fruity to smoky and peaty.

Look for acclaimed distilleries like Yamazaki, Hakushu, and Nikka.

How to Make an Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail

An Old Fashioned whiskey cocktail with an orange peel garnish at a bar

Technically, the cocktail that started it all, “Old Fashioneds,” at least in name, came about in the 1870s and 1880s. In the early 1800s, a whiskey cocktail typically included just whiskey, sugar, bitters, and water, according to Robert Simonson, author of “The Old-Fashioned: The Story of the World’s First Classic Cocktail, with Recipes and Lore.” Toward the end of the century, bartenders started getting more creative, adding other ingredients to their cocktails. Those who just wanted the original cocktail began referring to it as “old-fashioned whiskey cocktails.” Today, this rebellious drink lives on as one of the most popular and well-known whiskey cocktails.

Whether enjoyed as a sophisticated aperitif or a comforting nightcap, the Old Fashioned is an ageless whiskey cocktail that never fails to impress with its simplicity and depth of flavor.

Ingredients Needed for an Old Fashioned

  • 2 oz bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 1 sugar cube or 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Orange peel, for garnish
  • Maraschino cherry, for garnish (optional)
  • Ice cubes


  1. Start by placing the sugar cube or granulated sugar in an old-fashioned glass (or rocks glass).
  2. Add two dashes of Angostura bitters directly onto the sugar cube.
  3. Using a muddler or the back of a spoon, muddle the sugar and bitters together until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Add a large ice cube or a few regular ice cubes to the glass.
  5. Pour two ounces of bourbon or rye whiskey over the ice.
  6. Stir the mixture gently to combine the ingredients and chill the whiskey.
  7. Optionally, twist a strip of orange peel over the glass to release the oils, then drop it into the glass as a garnish.
  8. Add a maraschino cherry to the glass as a garnish for extra sweetness and color.
  9. Serve immediately and enjoy your classic Old Fashioned cocktail!


You can adjust the sweetness of the Old Fashioned by adding more or less sugar to suit your taste.

Some variations of the Old Fashioned include using different types of bitters, such as orange or aromatic bitters, to add complexity to the flavor.

Experiment with different types of whiskey, such as bourbon, rye, or even a smoky Scotch whisky, to create unique flavor profiles.

How to Make a Classic Whiskey Sour Cocktail

A whiskey sour cocktail on a bar

Another classic cocktail, the Whiskey Sour, dates back to 1862 when Jerry Thomas first mentioned it in his book The Bartenders Guide. However, it’s a good bet that this cocktail existed before then. As the story goes, sailors traveling the high seas would add a considerable amount of lemon, lime, or orange to room-temperature whiskey and bourbon to fight potentially fatal scurvy, partly caused by a vitamin C deficiency. The Whiskey Sour’s combination of citrus and alcohol became a pretty practical tonic.

Today, bartenders add egg whites to create an iconic foamy texture, probably not unlike those rough seas the sailors once rode.

The Whiskey Sour is an enduring whiskey cocktail that strikes the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and spirit, making it a favorite among whiskey enthusiasts and cocktail lovers.

Ingredients Needed for a Classic Whiskey Sour

  • 2 oz whiskey (bourbon or rye)
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • Ice cubes
  • Lemon slice or cherry, for garnish (optional)


  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
  2. Add two ounces of whiskey to the shaker.
  3. Measure and pour 3/4 ounces of freshly squeezed lemon juice into the shaker.
  4. Add 1/2 ounce of simple syrup to the shaker.
  5. Secure the lid on the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for about fifteen seconds to chill the mixture and thoroughly combine the ingredients.
  6. Strain the cocktail into a chilled rocks glass filled with fresh ice cubes.
  7. Optionally, garnish the cocktail with a lemon slice or maraschino cherry for a decorative touch.
  8. Serve immediately and enjoy your refreshing Whiskey Sour cocktail!


To make the simple syrup, combine equal parts granulated sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar completely dissolves, then remove from heat and let cool before using.

Add an egg white to the cocktail shaker before shaking it for a frothy texture. First, dry shake (without ice) to emulsify the egg white, then add ice and shake again before straining into the glass.

Feel free to adjust the sweetness and tartness of the cocktail by varying the amount of simple syrup and lemon juice to suit your taste preferences.


Experiment with different types of whiskey, such as bourbon, rye, or even a smoky Scotch whisky, to create unique flavor profiles.

Add a splash of orange juice or a few dashes of Angostura bitters to the cocktail for a fruity twist.

Garnish with a lemon twist instead of a slice for a more elegant presentation.

How to Make a Manhattan Whiskey Cocktail

Two Manhattan whiskey cocktails on a bar

Regarded as one of the first “modern cocktails,” the Manhattan appeared as a drink at the Manhattan Club in New York in the late 1800s. Although this story is up for debate, with other New York bars claiming its origin.

Still today, the Manhattan is a sophisticated cocktail with a rich history, making it a favorite among whiskey cocktail connoisseurs and drinkers.

Ingredients Needed for a Manhattan

  • 2 oz rye whiskey or bourbon
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Maraschino cherry, for garnish
  • Orange peel, for garnish (optional)
  • Ice cubes


  1. Fill a mixing glass or cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
  2. Add two ounces of rye whiskey or bourbon to the mixing glass.
  3. Measure and pour one ounce of sweet vermouth into the mixing glass.
  4. Add two dashes of Angostura bitters to the mixing glass.
  5. Stir the mixture well for about twenty to thirty seconds to chill the ingredients and properly dilute the cocktail.
  6. Strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass or coupe.
  7. Optionally, garnish the cocktail with a maraschino cherry. To add a citrus aroma, twist a strip of orange peel over the glass to release the oils before adding it as a garnish.
  8. Serve immediately and enjoy your classic Manhattan cocktail!


The choice of whiskey (rye or bourbon) will influence the flavor profile of the Manhattan. Rye whiskey imparts a spicier and drier taste, while bourbon offers a sweeter and smoother profile.

Sweet vermouth adds depth and sweetness to the cocktail, but you can also experiment with dry vermouth for a drier and more herbaceous variation.

Feel free to adjust the amount of bitters according to your taste preferences. Some variations of the Manhattan call for additional dashes of bitters or different types of bitters for added complexity.


Experiment with different types of whiskey and vermouth to create unique flavor combinations. For example, try a Manhattan made with a smoky Scotch whisky and a touch of dry vermouth for a Scotch Manhattan variation.

For a Rob Roy cocktail, substitute the whiskey with Scotch whisky and follow the same recipe.

Consider aging your Manhattan cocktail by pre-batching it and storing it in a bottle or barrel for a few weeks to allow the flavors to meld and mellow.

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How to Make an Irish Coffee Whiskey Cocktail

An Irish coffee whiskey cocktail

The Irish Coffee has a particularly entertaining history. Invented in 1942 by Joe Sheridan, a chef in Foynes, Ireland, the Irish Coffee may not have existed today without a particularly stormy night. An essential stopover destination for air travel between Europe and the U.S. in the early 1940s, Foynes often welcomed weary travelers making the long plane journey. One night, when a plane was forced to turn back due to inclement weather, Sheridan had the bright idea to create a new drink—coffee with brown sugar, whiskey, and cream added to warm up and give a stiff salute to the tired travelers.

Travel writer Stanton Delaplane is credited with taking the whiskey cocktail overseas and bringing the recipe to the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco, where the drink is still famously served today.

The Irish Coffee is a classic whiskey cocktail that combines the bold flavors of whiskey with the rich and aromatic qualities of coffee, creating a delightful and comforting drink perfect for any occasion.

Ingredients Needed for Irish Coffee

  • 1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey
  • 4 oz hot brewed coffee
  • 1 oz fresh cream (heavy cream)
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)
  • Ground nutmeg or cocoa powder for garnish (optional)


  1. Begin by warming a heatproof glass by rinsing it with hot water. This will help keep the coffee warm for longer.
  2. Discard the hot water and add the brown sugar (if using) to the warmed glass.
  3. Pour the freshly brewed hot coffee into the glass, leaving some space at the top.
  4. Stir the coffee and brown sugar until the sugar dissolves.
  5. Add the Irish whiskey to the coffee and stir to combine.
  6. Gently float the fresh cream on top of the coffee by pouring it over the back of a spoon held just above the surface of the coffee. The cream should sit on top of the coffee without mixing.
  7. Optionally, sprinkle a pinch of ground nutmeg or cocoa powder on top of the cream for garnish.
  8. Serve immediately and enjoy your delicious Irish Coffee!


The brown sugar is optional and can be adjusted to suit your taste preferences. Some people prefer their Irish Coffee without sugar, while others enjoy a touch of sweetness.

When floating the cream on top of the coffee, pour it slowly and gently to ensure it remains on the surface. The cream will create a distinct layer on top of the coffee, adding both visual appeal and a creamy texture to the drink.

For an extra indulgent treat, whip the cream lightly before floating it on top of the coffee to create a thicker and more luxurious layer of cream on top of the drink.


Experiment with different types of whiskey to create unique variations of the Irish Coffee. While you commonly use traditional Irish whiskey, you can also try variations with bourbon, Scotch whisky, or flavored liqueurs such as Irish cream.

You can omit the whiskey for a non-alcoholic version and enjoy a delicious cup of Irish Coffee-flavored coffee topped with whipped cream.

Consider adding a flavored syrup such as vanilla or caramel to the coffee for an extra layer of flavor.

How to Make a Whiskey Smash Whiskey Cocktail

A whiskey smash cocktail on wooden serving tray

Considered one of the best gateway whiskey cocktails, the Whiskey Smash is a refreshing and versatile cocktail that combines the bold flavors of whiskey with the bright acidity of citrus and the invigorating freshness of mint.

Most credit the invention of the Whiskey Smash to bartender Jerry Thomas, who published the recipe in his famous Bartender’s Guide when he published a revised version in 1887.

This cocktail gets its name and magic from muddling, a technique that smashes mint leaves to release essential oils.

A fun cocktail for all palates, the Whiskey Smash is great for any occasion. 

Ingredients Needed for a Whiskey Smash

  • 2 oz whiskey (bourbon or rye)
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 4-6 fresh mint leaves
  • Ice cubes
  • Mint sprig, for garnish
  • Lemon slice, for garnish


  1. In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker, add the fresh mint leaves.
  2. Using a muddler or the back of a spoon, gently muddle the mint leaves to release their oils and aroma. Be careful not to over-muddle, as this can result in a bitter taste.
  3. Add the whiskey, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup to the mixing glass.
  4. Fill the mixing glass with ice cubes.
  5. Secure the lid on the cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for about 15-20 seconds to chill the mixture and properly combine the ingredients.
  6. Fill a rocks glass or Old-Fashioned glass with fresh ice cubes.
  7. Strain the cocktail into the prepared glass over the fresh ice.
  8. Garnish the cocktail with a mint sprig and a lemon slice for an extra touch of freshness.
  9. Optionally, you can also slap the mint sprig between your hands before garnishing to release its aromatic oils.


The choice of whiskey (bourbon or rye) will influence the flavor profile of your Whiskey Smash cocktail. Bourbon imparts a sweeter and smoother taste, while rye offers a spicier and more robust flavor.

Simple syrup is made by dissolving equal parts of granulated sugar and water. You can adjust the cocktail's sweetness by adding more or less simple syrup to suit your taste preferences.

Fresh ingredients, including fresh lemon juice and mint leaves, are essential for achieving the vibrant flavors and aromas of the Whiskey Smash.


Experiment with different types of whiskey and citrus fruits to create unique variations of the Whiskey Smash. For example, try using lime juice instead of lemon juice for a slightly different flavor profile.

For an extra burst of flavor, you can add a few slices of fresh fruit, such as berries or peaches, to the cocktail before shaking.

Consider adding a splash of club soda to the cocktail for a lighter, more effervescent variation known as a "Whiskey Smash Fizz."

A Final Word on Whiskey Cocktails

In conclusion, serving whiskey cocktails can be profitable for bars and restaurants, offering a winning combination of broad appeal, premium perception, versatility, and upselling opportunities.

By incorporating these classic whiskey cocktails into your beverage program, your business can enhance your offerings, attract new customers, and increase revenue while delighting patrons with delicious and sophisticated libations.

Note: This article was generated with the help of ChatGPT. It was edited, enhanced, and published by humans.

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Untappd Team
Post by Untappd Team
April 17, 2024
These blogs are from various members of the Untappd for Business team!