Unforgettable Classics

An intertwined relationship to history
By Charles Montanaro
I can still remember picking up my first cocktail books: Imbibe! by David Wondrich and Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh. The books that inspired me to start my career in the spirits industry. I discovered a world full of mystery, history and romanticism.

In this topic, through three great cocktails that are considered epitomes of whisky cocktails, we explore the intricacy and complex relationship cocktails and history have had. From the birth of the notion of a cocktail to random discoveries, we discover how our classic cocktails can have diverse origins and, more importantly, showcase how simplicity is often the founding block to a classic cocktail.

The Sazerac is renowned to allegedly be one of the first cocktail to have ever been made and is also one of the two trademarked cocktails in the world. A classic New Orleans cocktail, created around 1850 at the house of Sazerac, this drink was a medicinal tonic. Made with Sazerac de Forge et Fils cognac, and later changed to Sazerac Rye due to the phylloxera epidemic hitting France. This gorgeous drink of red/amber colour has a medicinal aroma from the bitters and absinthe, the palate is soft and voluptuous with a long finish reminiscent of sipping a complex piece of history. If ordered at a bar, I would ask for Maxime Trijol VSOP and a high ABV spicy rye such as Rittenhouse 100, equal measure of both as the soft complex cognac complements the spicy and robust rye whisky while the bitters finish the drink, offering a complexity that no other combination of ingredients can offer.

Scotch has always had a reputation of being temperamental when mixed, being the main reason it remains one of the few staple spirits to not be accompanied by a myriad of classic cocktails. The Blood & Sand isn't one of those being a blend of Scotch, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy and freshly pressed orange juice. The only information we have on this classic cocktail is its inspiration: the movie The Blood & Sand (1922) starring Rudolph Valentino, a story of a matador and his complex relationship with a widow. To lead this drink, I chose to use Glenlossie 10 Years Old, a spicy dram with underlying notes of smoked oak and slight peaty undertones that is perfect marriage with the freshness of orange, herbs and cherry. From its light smoke to the perfectly balanced sweet bitterness, this has always been one of my all-time favourites.

The infamous Irish coffee is up next; this simple tipple is known by all and has a great 'spur of the moment' piece of cocktail history. Created by Joe Sheridan, a head chef, this drink, made of coffee, cream, whiskey and sugar, requires the cream to be layered at the top of the glass to allow the alcoholic coffee to be sipped through the soft layer of cream. Even though any good quality Irish whiskey can be used, I opted for Teeling Small Batch whiskey - with its high ABV and strong tones of vanilla, it manages to shine through the already powerful flavours.

The cocktails



  • 30ml Rittenhouse 100

  • 30ml Maxime Trijol VSOP

  • 5ml sugar syrup

  • 8-10 dashes Peychaud bitters

  • 2 dashes Absinthe

Ice a rocks glass with crushed ice and leave aside. In a separate mixing glass, add the rye, cognac, sugar and bitters, ice and stir for 30 seconds. When sufficiently diluted leave to rest as you prepare the rocks glass. Empty the crushed ice, add a couple dashes of absinthe and rinse the glass. Don’t forget to empty out the remaining absinthe. Pour the drink in and add lemon twist on top and along the rim and then discard the twist.

Freshly cut lemon twist.

Blood and Sand


  • 35ml Glenlossie 10

  • 20ml Cocchi Torino/Punt’o’Mes

  • 20ml Cherry Heering

  • 20ml Freshly squeezed orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake well. Strain in a cocktail glass and garnish with two maraschino cherries.

Cocktail maraschino cherry.

Irish Coffee


  • 40ml Teeling Small Batch

  • 100ml freshly brewed coffee

  • 40ml double cream

  • 15ml sugar syrup

Start by combining in a coffee glass the whiskey, sugar and coffee, and stir. Position a spoon just at the top of the liquid and slowly pour the double cream on top of the spoon to layer the cream. Garnish with a few coffee beans on top. Please note that if the coffee is not sweetened, the cream will sink to the bottom of the glass.

Four coffee beans.