How should you drink your whiskey? Well, there's no right answer to that; but, if you are looking for a way to enjoy your whiskey in the context of a mixed drink/cocktail a la Old-Fashioned or Manhattan, read on....
One of the most prevalent whiskey-based cocktails served in bars across the U.S. these days is an Old-fashioned. An Old-Fashioned is comprised of just three ingredients: whiskey (rye or bourbon), sugar, and Angostura bitters. This simple formula is the classic cocktail recipe; in fact, if you so desire, you can substitute any number of various spirits in the place of Whiskey to make, for example, a Rum Old-Fashioned or (as they do in Wisconsin) a Brandy Old-Fashioned. One of my favorite riffs on this classic cocktail is the Oaxaca Old-Fashioned, which combines tequila (1.5 oz), mezcal (0.5 oz), agave nectar (1 tsp.) and bitters (dash) - along with a flamed orange peel to make a smoky drink.
2 oz whiskey (rye or bourbon)
1 tsp. sugar
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 orange peel
add to an old-fashioned glass: one sugar cube (approximately 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar or an equivalent amount of simple syrup); shake out two dashes of bitters to coat the sugar cube and add a tsp. of water; stir the contents of the glass (to dissolve the sugar as much as possible) and add a large ice cube* + 2 ounces/60 ml of your preferred whiskey (bourbon or rye are typically used); stir gently and, using a vegetable peeler (we've found that a Y-peeler works really well) peel a band-aid size piece of orange peel and rub the inside part ("pith") around the inside rim of the glass and plop it on in!
*using a single large cube rather than a handful of small ice cubes allows for minimal melting/dilution of the drink (obviously, use smaller ice if you desire more dilution)
Another classic whiskey-based cocktail is the Manhattan. A Manhattan is traditionally served "up," meaning that it is shaken or stirred with ice and then strained into a cocktail glass (not containing ice). It contains just three ingredients: whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters and it is commonly garnished with a cherry and/or orange peel. The recipe is quite simple...
Ingredients: Whiskey (traditionally rye whiskey, but bourbon is good too); sweet/red vermouth, Angostura bitters
In a mixing glass/cocktail shaker tin, combine: 2 ounces/60 ml whiskey, 3/4 ounce/40 ml red vermouth* and one dash of bitters; fill the glass with cubed-ice and stir for 30 seconds to chill the beverage and incorporate all of the ingredients; using a strainer, strain the contents of your mixing glass into a cocktail glass (you're not going to be adding ice, so you can use one of those fancy-shmancy martini glasses if you have one); garnish with a maraschino cherry and, optionally, an orange peel (as in an old-fashioned).
*Some recipes will call for a full ounce, some will call for just a half-ounce (which is why I just put 3/4 oz here).
The last recipe is for a Whiskey Sour. What makes a Whiskey Sour unique is the addition of egg white, which gives it the "frothy top". If you've had a Pisco Sour, you'll know what I am referring to... Whiskey Sours are also, like the Manhattan, served "up" in a coupe or cocktail glass.
The Whiskey Sour:
Ingredients: whiskey, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, lemon peel
add 2 ounces whiskey, 3/4 ounce lemon juice, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, one egg white to a cocktail shaker; cover and... "shake, shake, shake"; take the cover off and add ice to the mixture; cover, once again, and shake (this time with ice); strain into a rocks glass or coupe and garnish with lemon peel.
a homemade whiskey sour
So, there you have it -- three simple enough recipes that you can use to spice up your whiskey drinking a bit. There is, of course, nothing wrong with just sipping it neat or on the rocks, but with these recipes you can have fun experimenting and maybe even impress your guests!