All in the mix

Whisky cocktails are at the forefront of a cocktail revolution. Sally Toms reports
By Sally Toms
Like it or not, cocktails are back in style. Many believe that whisky cocktails are a fantastic way of attracting new drinkers, and during recent years the industry has begun to recognise this and put forward whisky as a premier ingredient.

The trend has received criticism from serious whisky aficionados, however. Perhaps because traditionally other ingredients were only added to whisky to mask its flavour. For example, the first whiskies ever produced were so foul they had to be mixed with herbs and heathers to make them palatable, and during Prohibition cocktails were popular primarily because they masked the rather nasty taste of bath tub gin and moonshine.

But thankfully, times have changed, and a slosh of your favourite dram in a cocktail is a great way to invigorate your taste buds and maybe even rejuvenate your appreciation for whisky.

In its simplest form, the cocktail consists of two or more ingredients – at least one of which must be alcohol. Other ingredients can be fruit juice or soda, other spirits, as well as fruits, honey, milk, cream, herbs and spices. If you can think of an ingredient, chances are somebody’s made a cocktail with it.

Don’t be tempted to use the bottle of cheap ‘cooking whisky’ you keep at the back of the cupboard, the ingredients in a good cocktail are there to enhance the characteristics of the spirit and create a new and pleasing flavour –not hide it in fruit juice.

Bourbons and blends are the traditional choice for a whisky cocktail base; generally the flavours marry well with orange zest, summer fruits and warm spices. Bourbons with vanilla character for example can be enhanced by using vanilla pods.

The single malt is a relative newcomer to the scene, but one that shouldn’t be shied away from. The subtler flavours can add another dimension to the right cocktail. The flavours of particularly smoky and peaty whiskies can be tricky to incorporate but the rewards are well worth the effort.

The creation of a cocktail is as important as the drinking of it.

Equipment wise, nothing is absolutely essential, but there are some specially created tools that do make it easier and can help you look the part. A Boston shaker is a handy tool – a toughened glass with a sort of upside down steel cup on top for thoroughly shaking your cocktail.

A Hawthorne strainer is good, but a sieve works just as well. Bartenders also use a ‘muddler’ which is a pestle-like object used for squashing

You’ll also need a few core ingredients in the store cupboard (other than whisky), such as Angostura bitters, sugar syrup, fruit juice, sodas, lots of ice and other spirits such as vermouth. It can be expensive to go out and buy all the different spirits and liqueurs required for cocktails, but everybody has a few flavoured liqueurs gathering dust at the back of the drinks cabinet.

Whisky drinkers know more than anyone the importance of the right glass, and it’s just as important for a cocktail.

Basically, a glass with a small surface area (such as the Highball) will keep a fizzy cocktail fizzy, while a large glass (an Old Fashioned or Goblet) can help flavours to develop. The recipe you use will state what kind of glass to use.

The garnish is crucial to a cocktail – a good cocktail should stimulate the eye as well as the palate.

You won’t find sparklers, multi-coloured straws and paper umbrellas cocktails (unless you’re at an 80s party or a poolside bar on the Costa del Sol). Modern garnishes are not just used for decoration but as an ingredient (the cherry in a Manhattan for example), and they also give you an indication as to the nature of the cocktail – a strawberry says ‘I’m sweet,’ a lemon says ‘I’m sour’ and so on.

If you’re new to cocktails, why not start with a simple recipe such as the Whisky Mac (whisky and ginger wine) or the faultless Whisky Sour (whisky, lemon juice, caster sugar, Angostura bitters and ice).

The ingredients are simple and measurements not too strict.

The sheer variety of whisky based cocktails means that you’re sure to find one that appeals to you.

Try one of these on for size:

The cocktails

Sweet Gold Manhattan


  • 2 drops Angostura bitters

  • 50ml Johnnie Walker Gold Label

  • 20ml Sweet Vermouth

  • 10 ml Bianco Vermouth

  • 2.5ml Maraschino juice

Shake the ingredients together then double strain into a frozen Martini glass.

A fresh stalked cherry.

Bailie Blazer


  • 50ml BNJ

  • 5ml Chambord

  • 5ml Créme de Mures

  • 2 fresh raspberries

  • 1 fresh blackberry

  • 1 orange zest

  • 1 lemon zest

  • 1tsp demerara sugar

Pour all the ingredients into a large balloon glass.Rest the glass on top of a rocks glass filled with boiling water.
Once it has warmed, light the contents of the balloon glass.
As the alcohol burns and caramelises the fruit and sugar, stir carefully with a long bar spoon to mix the ingredients.
Wait for the flame to go out before serving.

Frisky Sour


  • 50ml BNJ

  • 15ml frangelico

  • 10ml orange blossom honey

  • 15ml lemon juice

Shake and strain over ice into a rocks glass.

An edible flower.

Crimson Crush


  • 6 fresh raspberries

  • 25ml fresh lemon juice

  • Dash sugar syrup (optional)

  • 10ml runny honey

  • 10ml BOLS Raspberry

  • 10ml Plymouth Damson

  • 35ml The Famous Grouse

  • Ginger beer

Shake ingredients with ice, strain and top with ginger beer.
Serve in a Highball glass filled with crushed ice.

Garnish with a fresh raspberry and a mint leaf.

Rob Roy


  • 50ml The Famous Grouse

  • 25ml sweet vermouth

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • snap of orange peel

  • maraschino cherry

Build in order: Angostura bitters, The Famous Grouse, sweet vermouth.
Stir ingredients in mixing glass and strain into cocktail glass.

Garnish with maraschino cherry, spray, rim and discard snap of orange peel.

Blood & Sand


  • 25ml The Famous Grouse

  • 25ml Bols cherry brandy

  • 25ml sweet vermouth

  • 25ml orange juice

  • snap lemon peel

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Spray and rim with snap of lemon peel.

Game Bird


  • 50ml The Famous Grouse

  • 25ml Sourz Apple

  • 10ml elderflower cordial

  • 15ml fresh lemon juice

  • 50ml ginger ale

  • one wedge of lemon

  • dash sugar syrup

  • 1 slice of green apple

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a Champagne flute.
Top with ginger ale.

Garnish with slice of green apple

Honey and Marmalade Dram’tini


  • 50ml Glenfarclas 15 years old

  • 1tsp honey

  • Dash fresh lemon juice

  • Dash fresh orange Juice


Glenfarclas 25 Years Old
Fresh lemon
Sugar syrup

Monkey Alexander


  • 50ml Monkey Shoulder

  • 15ml cinnamon liqueur

  • 15ml heavy double cream

  • 15ml milk

Shake and then strain into a Champagne coupe.Garnish with crumbled shortbread.

Monkey Julep


  • 50ml Monkey Shoulder

  • 20ml gomme (sugar syrup)

  • 25ml lime juice

  • 10/12 mint leaves

  • Dash of Angostura

Muddle mint between gomme, add other ingredients, pour into a high ball on crushed ice.

Garnish with mint.

Passionate Monkey


  • 50ml Monkey Shoulder

  • 15ml lime juice

  • 5ml agave syrup

  • 10ml passion syrup

  • 10ml ginger ale

  • 1 whole passion fruit

Shake all ingredients but not the ginger ale. Strain into sling ball on crushed ice. Top with ginger ale.

Garnish with half a passion fruit.

Grumpy Scotsman


  • 50ml Smokehead

  • 4 slices of fresh ginger

  • 25ml lemon juice

  • 12.5ml gomme (sugar syrup) Ground ginger

Muddle fresh ginger in the bottom of the shaker, then add all the other ingredients and shake hard.
Serve in an old fashioned glass full of cubed ice.
Dust the finished drink with ground ginger.



  • 50ml Smokehead

  • 100ml Hot cider

  • 12.5ml Gomme syrup (sugar syrup)

Boil the cider to evaporate the alcohol (can be done in the microwave).
Add the smokehead and gomme syrup and stir.

Fresh apple.

Islay Pear


  • 25ml Smokehead

  • 25ml Xante Pear Cognac

  • 10ml vanilla schnapps

  • 12.5ml fresh lime juice

  • 75ml apple juice

Shake all the ingredients and strain into a 12oz glass filled with cubed ice.

Fresh pear.

Talisker Sour Cocktail


  • 50ml Talisker

  • 25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice 15ml gomme (sugar syrup)

  • a dash of Angostura bitters

  • a spoonful of fresh egg white

Shake vigorously with ice.
Serve over ice in a rocks glass, with a short straw.

A slice of lemon (optional).

The Classic Special (Manhattan)


  • 50ml Something Special whisky

  • 10ml dry vermouth

  • 10ml sweet vermouth

  • Few drops of Angostura bitters

  • A dash of apricot brandy

Stir all ingredients in a Boston glass full with ice/stain into a chilled martini glass.

Orange zest/peel.

Caracas Special


  • 50ml Something Special

  • 2-3 chunks fresh water melon

  • 25ml passion fruit puree

  • 1/2 fresh passion fruit

  • Dash of lemon juice

  • 1tsp vanilla sugar

Fill a sling glass/Catalina with crushed ice half way, add watermelon chunks, passion fruit puree and fruit, lemon juice, sugar and finally Something Special.
Stir steadily and repeatedly add more crushed ice, stir, top up with crushed ice, crown with a dash of amaretto.

A watermelon passion fruit fan.

Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned


  • 50ml Woodford Reserve

  • 1tsp white sugar

  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

  • 25ml soda water

Muddle the sugar with the bitters, then add the soda.
Pack a tumbler with ice, add the whiskey, then stir in the rest of the ingredients.

A lemon twist, orange slice and maraschino cherry.

Old Woodfordian


  • 50ml Woodford Reserve

  • Ginger ale

  • Lime wedge

Fill a highball glass with ice and pour in the Woodford Reserve.
Top with ginger ale, squeeze the lime and drop it in the glass.

Frisky Head Banger


  • 50ml Frisky Whisky

  • Green ginger wine

  • A dash of Tabasco sauce

  • Small stick of celery

Serve in a tumbler with ice.

Garnish with the celery.
You can chew it between sips to cool the palate.

Pink Barley


  • 50ml Silver Barley

  • A generous dash of Crème de Cassis A dash of Tabasco sauce

  • One black olive

Serve in a Martini glass with ice and a small straw.

Smokey Sour


  • 2 shots JMR’s Smokey Peaty One

  • 4 small lemon segments

  • 1 shot fresh squeezed orange juice

  • 1/2 shot vanilla syrup

Crush the lemon segments in a Boston shaker, add ice and the rest of the ingredients and shake well. Double strain and serve in a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with flamed orange peel.

Rich Spicy Sparkle


  • 1 shot JMR’s Rich & Spicy One

  • Lemonade

  • 1 sliver of lemon peel

Fill a 12oz highball with ice then build up the ingredients & gently stir.