In recent years, the interest in whiskey of all types has sky rocketed.
An always popular alcohol choice, the rise of male-centered, period piece television shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire has driven up sales and interest even more than usual.
And with the recent heightened interest in all things barrel aged, whiskey has truly begun to shine.
Whether quaffed straight, on the rocks, or in a cocktail, whiskey is a great alcohol option for anyone craving something smokier and deeper in taste than the other liquors out there.
The cocktails are classics, recalling traditions of decades passed with every pour. Take one sip and suddenly you're reminded of those drinkers before you, inadvertently gaining a sense of sophistication and class that though enjoyable, is more imagined than earned. But hey, that's where the real fun lies, isn't it?
So for when you're ready to don those whiskey goggles and become the more sophisticated version of yourself, here are the top five most popular whiskey cocktails and how to make them.
The invention of the drink is frequently (and probably inaccurately) credited to a bartender at the Pendennis Club, in Louisville, Kentucky, who around the turn of the 20th century reportedly made the drink for Colonel James E. Pepper, a member of the club and by some accounts a prominent bourbon distiller.
There's a strikingly similar cocktail in Jerry Thomas's 1862 How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon-Vivant's Companion, called the "Whiskey Cocktail." What probably happened at Pendennis, says Robert Hess, founder of drinkboy.com and cofounder of the Museum of the American Cocktail, was that the bartender served a Whiskey Cocktail made the old-fashioned way — that is, the spirit combined with sugar, bitters, and water, the way cocktails were made as early as 1806.
Time: 2.5 minutes.
A Sour is not so much a drink as it is a concept. Lemon or lime juice, almost any liquor, and sugar—in proper proportion—form a Sour. Don’t even think about using a packaged mix for this cocktail. A simple but magical blend, the Sour was first made with brandy in the middle of the 19th century. Bartenders have flirted with and still have their occasional flings with numerous other base alcohols, but whiskey was the liquor of choice by the end of the 19th century, with rye on equal footing with bourbon.
Always prepare Sours fresh. Here is a foolproof rule of thumb for making a perfect Sour every time: Mix 2 ounces of your chosen spirit with 1 teaspoon sugar and 3/4 ounce lemon or lime juice (the “sour” flavor), and shake with cracked ice. Shake a Sour well for a truly frothy drink, and serve it straight up in a cocktail glass, over the rocks in a hefty Old Fashioned glass, or in a Sour glass. Garnish with any assortment of seasonally fresh fruit.
Time: 2 minutes.
When properly built, the Manhattan is the only cocktail that can slug it out toe-to-toe with the martini. It's bold and fortifying, yet as relaxing as a deep massage. J.P. Morgan used to have one at the close of each trading day. It's that kind of drink.
"When properly built"—there's the problem. For a real Manhattan, you need rye whiskey. No amount of fiddling with the vermouth and bitters can save this drink if you've got bourbon in the foundations; it's just too sticky-sweet. But with rye, this venerable creation—its roots stretch back to the old Manhattan Club, in 1874—is as close to divine perfection as a cocktail can be. The harmony between the bitters, the sweet vermouth, and the sharp, musky whiskey rivals even that existing between gin and tonic water.
Time: 2 minutes
According to Rob Chirico, author of the Field Guide to Cocktails, this iconic New Orleans cocktail dates to the 1850s, when it was served at the Sazerac Coffee House. American whiskey eventually replaced the brandy of the original. Rinsing the glass with absinthe gives the cocktail the right touch of herbal perfume without upsetting the balance—you can always substitute Pernod if you don’t happen to have a bottle of absinthe.
Time: 3 minutes.
The mint julep originated in the southern United States, probably during the eighteenth century.
Several aspects of the mint julep combine to mark its provider out as of the elite, beyond the mere ability to offer a drink: firstly, to have ice meant either ownership of an ice house or wealth to buy ice, an expensive commodity in the American south. Second, the traditional silver (not silver-plated) cup is a mark of wealth. Thirdly, one needed a servant to make and serve the drink, a trusty servant who could have access to your ice house, your whiskey, and your silver, a skilled servant who could produce the properly frosted cup.
Time: 3 minutes.
Since you've read so much about whiskey cocktails and how to make them, right now you must have a pretty good idea on how to get started making cocktails like a bartender.
However, I know many people are more visual than others (ie. they need to watch something instead of read it).
Because of that, we're offering a short list of video tutorials that will show you step-by-step how to make each cocktail.
This is all included in our one-page PDF you can download by clicking the button below: