It would appear there are many misconceptions about whisky, most especially where its place in cocktails, outside of the classics, is concerned. Quite often you’ll find people are quick to conclude whisky is their least favourite spirit and that it “all tastes the same”. However, the variety of whiskies to work with is extensive and with the sheer abundance of gin cocktails saturating menus, now’s the time to start exploring ways to work with this diverse category. Let’s face it, gin has had its moment – now it’s time for whisky.
The idea that whisky is not a fantastic mixing liquid couldn’t be further from the truth. The creativity in the bartending world, recent releases in the whisky spirit category coupled with the evolution of flavour profiles and bartending techniques means people on both sides of the bar are opening their eyes to what is possible. Let’s explore;
The Daquiri, Rum instead of American Whiskey
The high corn content of whiskey (over 51%) makes it sweeter than scotch. An ideal starting point for mixing, however, whiskey doesn’t possess some of the clawing sweetness that you might get with a rum, especially spiced rums. As far as I’m concerned, 100% corn whiskey put into a daiquiri is a sublime creation, for example swapping rum for Mellowcorn elevates what was already a perfect drink.
Furthermore, on the subject of daiquiri’s (my absolute favourite, in case you hadn’t noticed) I have been playing around with rum finished whiskies as they make an excellent alternative to rum. In fact, I’d love for you to try our Irish Daquiri, a delicate and well-balanced iteration of the classic using Tullamore Dew Caribbean Cask, which is available on our latest cocktail list.
The Beauty of Rye
Moving on to rye whiskey, the inherent spiciness works very well in a Bloody Mary twist, a cocktail with an absurd number of variations. Another interesting thing about rye whiskey is that, unlike bourbon, it isn’t constrained by location. There are rye whiskies being made all over the world, resulting in such a diversity of flavour a Scotch or Irish Rye is very different to an American or Canadian Rye. An Irish Rye could be spicier & cleaner because of the triple distillation commonly used. This means a dry Manhattan has a lovely bite to it that you might omit with a different liquid.
Guidelines, not rules
The Old Fashioned, a classic and a ‘go-to’ yet there are numerous ways to play with flavour, in fact, there are so many variables to this one drink that the world of possibility becomes immense. The original recipe would call for American whiskey, sugar, bitters and citrus (typically orange) garnish. But who’s to say you can’t rework a classic? Who is to say you must use American Whiskey at all? You can even reach new dimensions by altering the sugar, it could be demerara or cane sugar or a simple syrup and there are many bars designing their own Old-Fashioned syrups to match their own recipe. The world of bitters is much the same, do you choose; Aromatic? Lemon? Orange? Cucumber? Black Walnut? Chocolate? The list goes on. The citrus element? Maybe switch it out a for a grapefruit? Or a lemon if you are going light. And if you’re changing some of it you might as well change it all, I’m talking about the garnish. This all stems from one simple basic recipe. Not so old-fashioned anymore is it?!
“I don’t drink whisky”
For non-whisky drinkers we maintain the following ethos: You either haven’t found the whisky for you or haven’t found a way to drink it and as you can see there are many. Our number one selling cocktail is a Strawberry and Cucumber cup. A combination of lemon & apple juice, strawberry jam, 50% ABV bourbon, topped with cucumber and watermelon soda. Is this drink going to win any awards? I would hope so but in my right mind absolutely not, is it going to open people’s eyes that we can use whisky to create refreshing long & unusual drinks? Hell. Yes.
The thing to remember when ordering cocktails is that if you tell a bartender what flavours/spirits or style you like you will end up in familiar territory again and again. While there is nothing wrong with this, if you tell them what you don’t like, chances are a well-crafted spirit that avoids these elements will take you somewhere new, exciting and to a place you have (probably) never been before – which for me is the whole point.
By :: Arron Smallman