Whiskey, and whisky, is an overwhelmingly huge category of spirits. From Scotch to blended scotch to bourbon to rye (and don’t forget Irish), there are a lot of golden-hued liquors perched on the store shelf. So to make buying whiskey for your home bar easier, we chose eight of our favorite whiskies to mix in eight of our favorite whiskey cocktails. Not only are these spirits delectable in these classic cocktails, they’re versatile enough to use in just about any whiskey-based libation.
Sorry bourbon lovers—Manhattans are meant to be made with peppery rye whiskey, and this iconic brand is our absolute favorite. Distilled by Heaven Hill Distillery, Rittenhouse’s distinct, piquant flavor is the perfect contrast to bittersweet vermouth. Bottled-in-bond, Rittenhouse rye packs a boozy wallop, giving the spirit enough backbone to stand up to the other ingredients in the drink. Ultra smooth and full bodied, this rye whiskey has notes of cacao, bitter orange peel, vanilla oakiness and a long, spicy finish that leaves your palate wanting more. Mix your next Manhattan with Rittenhouse, and you’ll see there’s no better way to make the stirred-and-strong classic.
An Old Fashioned is made with only three ingredients—bitters, bourbon and sugar—and each should be of the utmost quality. Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon, made by Heaven Hill Distillery, is a blended bourbon composed of the Master Distiller’s favorite barrels in the rickhouse. The copper-hued spirit is lively and rich, with flavors of maple syrup, allspice, clove, nougat and a warm, woody spice. It harmonizes with the other two ingredients to create an Old Fashioned that’s perfectly balanced.
A drink as classy and refined as the Boulevardier deserves a spirit to match. While traditionalists would argue that this classic cocktail should be made with rye whiskey, Basil Hayden’s higher-than-average rye content and decadently smooth corn-sweetness is the perfect foil to the bitterness of Campari. In the cocktail, the spicy, gentle-bite of the bourbon—and its rich vanilla maltiness—creates a velvety smooth concoction that’s exceptionally balanced. One sip of this Boulevardier and you’ll never drink a Negroni again.
With a cocktail as sharp as a Whiskey Sour, the base spirit must be sweet enough to balance the puckery tartness of fresh lemon juice. With a vivacious honeyed sweetness, Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon has just the right amount of body and sugar to battle the citrus without being cloyingly sweet. Four Roses Bourbon also lends a subtle floral note, touches of pear and stone fruits, and flourishes of baking spices to the drink. If you want your next Whiskey Sour to be refreshingly crisp and downright chuggable, look no further than this bottle.
As the cocktail’s name implies, an Irish Coffee must be made with Irish Whiskey—but no two Irish Whiskies are made in the same way. Powers Gold Label, a blend of triple-distilled (on their signature pot still) 12-year-old Irish whiskies, is our go-to spirit for the Emerald Isle’s signature coffee. The spirit has a distinctly rich, full-bodied flavor with bright bursts of orange zest, white pepper and a long-lasting, honeyed finish. Unlike other Irish whiskies, Powers doesn’t get lost in the coffee cocktail. The spirit retains its boozy bite and manages to shine through the coffee’s bitterness and the heaviness of freshly whipped cream.
Anyone who regularly drinks this spicy, effervescent Highball knows that the only suitable whiskey is Jameson. Luxuriously smooth, Jameson’s Original is a blend of pot still and fine grain whiskies that are triple distilled and aged up to four years in barrels. Bright and pleasantly spicy with an almond-esque nuttiness, it has notes of vanilla, honeycomb and sherry cask flourishes on the finish. Its softness and complex palate tame the heat of a crisp, craft ginger beer.
Toki, a blend of Japanese whiskies from the Hakushu, Yamazaki and Chita distilleries, was made specifically for this traditional spritz. On the palate, the whisky is light, playful and complex. There are notes of green apple, crisp Bartlett pear, Honey Nut Cheerios, vanilla and genmaicha green tea. With ice and dilution, Toki whisky opens up to reveal its softer, sweeter side, unveiling flavors of juicy peaches, tart nectarines and a touch of burnt marshmallow on the finish. Once you’ve had one Toki Highball, you’ll never drink your whisky soda another way.
Teetering the line between bitter, sweet and smoky, the Rob Roy cocktail can easily become unbalanced. Johnnie Walker Black—a blended scotch made with whiskies that are aged for a minimum of 12 years—has touches of peat, but it’s not so overwhelming that it’ll throw this cocktail out of whack. Silky and smooth with flourishes of vanilla, a heady malty-sweetness and notes of orange rind and raisins, Johnnie Walker Black is the perfect accompaniment to spice-rich Angostura and an herbaceous, bittersweet vermouth (try Antica Formula).