Whiskey 3 Ways: Three Go-To Cocktails

Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough. –Mark Twain

Whiskey is full of magic, or so we like to think. Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy “uisce beatha,” or “water of life,” that every home bartender should know. We show you three ways to make it—In The Glass, Stirred—Not Shaken, and Shake Hard.

In the Glass: The Old Fashioned

Speaking Easy Podcast Old Fashioned WhiskeyCan’t go wrong with this classic. An Old Fashioned is so-named because many bartenders would insist on putting in fruit to the drink, but fruit-shunning old-timers would request to have their whiskey cocktail “the old fashioned way.” The drink is fairly simple, but learning the right way to make this drink can help you create variations with different kinds of liquors, sugars, and bitters, as well as adding garnishes, be they lemon or orange peels, or some delicious Luxardo Maraschino Cherries. By mixing it in the glass that you’ll drink it in, you save yourself from having to clean anything extra.

The Classic Old Fashioned:

  • 2 oz. Rye Whiskey
  • 1 Sugar cube
  • 3-4 dashes of Angostura Bitters
  • Luxardo Cherry

Muddle sugar cube with bitters and a few drops of water. Add whiskey, and stir well. Then add one large or two medium ice cubes and stir well again. Garnish with cherry.

The Old Fashioned is just a starting point for a number of other great cocktails. As an example of how to evolve this cocktail, you can coat the glass with absinthe before pouring in the drink, add some Peychaud’s Bitters, and end up with the Sazerac, a New Orleans classic.

Check out our recipes for the Old Fashioned and a few variations. And, while we’re at it, our recipe for the Sazerac.

Stirred—Not Shaken: The Manhattan

Being named after the most powerful borough in America is a tall order, but this classic stands up and does it proud. Like its cousin the Martini, a Manhattan is a refined cocktail for a refined gent. Using sweet red vermouth, a wine fortified with botanicals and spices, and Angostura bitters, this drink brings a deep, rich flavor to your whiskey of choice. We suggest stirring it so as to not water down your Manhattan with chipped ice.

The Classic Manhattan:

  • 2 oz. Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz. Sweet Red Vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angustora Bitters
  • Twist of Lemon Peel

Add all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, and stir for 7-10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Twist a lemon peel over the poured cocktail, then rub the peel along the rim of the glass, and drop in.

Shake Hard: Whiskey Smash

Whiskey Smash - Speaking Easy Podcast - CocktailsAs we noted with the Manhattan, shaking a drink tends to water it down—and with a Kentucky Smash, that’s precisely the point. The acidity of the lemon needs to be cut just a bit to take the bite off and allow you to taste other flavors. We generally suggest to shake any cocktail that mixes non-alcoholic ingredients (lemon juice, lime juice, egg whites, etc.) with alcohol. A Sour (and we capitalize Sour because that’s a family of drinks, not just the flavor) drink like this is best when it’s in balance—so measuring out the ingredients is crucial.

The Classic Whiskey Smash:

  • 2 oz Bourbon
  • Half a Lemon, in wedges
  • .75 oz Simple Syrup (1:1 ratio of water: sugar)
  • 4-6 Mint Leaves

In a shaker, muddle the lemon. Add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice. Shake hard for over 10 seconds, and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice or one large ice chunk. Garnish with a mint sprig, and serve with a straw.

For an added kick, we like to top with a little ginger beer—and if you do that, add a little extra bourbon—you’ve earned it.


How do you like to make your whiskey cocktails? What variations do you enjoy? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!