Whisky cocktail classics

Up Your Cocktail Making Game

These 5 classic cocktails will never go out of style - elevate and upgrade your dram on World Whisky Day and beyond with a little practice.

Old Fashioned

The ultimate whisky cocktail. Beautifully balanced, simple to make and no fancy equipment needed! This is a classic Old Fashioned from the Craigellachie using Copper Dog. But you can substitute any whisky or bourbon, or even change the bitters, to suit any pallette.

  • 60ml Copper Dog
  • 1 tsp Granulated Sugar
  • 1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • A splash of water
  • Orange peel for garnish

Put the sugar, bitters and water in the glass. Mix until the sugar dissolves

Fill your glass with ice and stir in the whisky.

Add a splash of soda water if you like and mix.

Garnish with a sliver of orange peel (twist this a little over the mix first to perfume with some of the oils from the zest)

Mint Julep

There is nothing more refreshing than a Mint Julep, the tipple of choice in The Great Gatsby. Bourbon is recommended but you can experiment with any other whisk(e)y. Likewise if you don't want to make sugar syrup dissolve any sugar into some water first.

  • 65ml bourbon
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 2 tsp 2:1 sugar syrup (Dissolve 200g sugar in 100ml water over a low heat. Leave to cool, then bottle. Store in the fridge for up to one week.)
  • ice, cubes and crushed
  • a generous sprig of mint and a straw

Shake the bourbon, mint leaves and sugar syrup with ice and strain into a highball glass or julep tin filled with crushed ice.

Churn gently with a long-handled spoon and top with more crushed ice.

Garnish with mint sprig and serve.

Whisky Sour

You will need a shaker for this - the harder you shake (be careful!), the better the result will be. You can do this without the egg but the result won't be as silky, and you won't have as good a lovely foamy layer.

A bonus is that once you've made one type of sour, you can make a sour with any spirit you can think of (pisco or amaretto to name a few).

  • 50ml whisky
  • 35ml lemon juice
  • 2 tsp 2:1 sugar syrup (see note above)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • ½ fresh egg white
  • ice
  • slice of orange/ painterly splash of bitters across the top to garnish

Shake all of the ingredients hard with ice and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass or couope without ice.

Add the garnish and serve.


The off-duty bartender's cocktail of choice. Woefully under-represented but a real classic nonetheless. Look the absolute business in front of your friends once you've mastered this.

Traditionally Rye whiskey is called for here but feel free to experiment; this recipe is for two cocktails - it is less fiddly than making just one but you can half all ingredients to make one if you like.

  • 1 tsp absinthe
  • 25ml sugar syrup
  • 6 drops Peychaud's bitters
  • 4 drops Angostura bitters
  • 100ml rye whiskey
  • ice
  • 2 strips of orange zest

Take two tumblers and pour the absinthe into the first one. Swirl around to coat the inside of the glass then pour into the next glass.

Repeat with second glass. If there's any left, divide it equally between the two glasses.

Pour the sugar syrup, both types of bitters and whiskey into a large mixing glass or jug. Add 25ml cold water and a good handful of ice.

Stir until the outside of the vessel feels really cold. Taste - if it's too sweet or strong, keep stirring to dilute it further. Try not to rush this step.

Strain into your prepared glasses.

Twist a piece of orange zest over each glass to release a little of the citrus oils, then drop it in.


  • 50ml bourbon or rye whiskey
  • 25ml red vermouth
  • 5ml syrup from a jar of maraschino cherries
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • ice
  • a twist of lemon zest and maraschino cherry to garnish

Stir the ingredients with ice in a mixing glass, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish and serve.

The cherry is non-essential and in fact the cherry debate still rages between cocktail schools of thought - but we like it. If you leave it out use 5ml normal sugar syrup instead (but don't use glace cherries!)​.