20 Essential Whiskey Cocktails Everyone Should Try

Begin Exploring the World of Great Whiskey Drinks

Highball

The Spruce / Claire Cohen

The world of whiskey is vast and constantly expanding. Likewise, the list of great whiskey cocktails continues to grow. There are, however, a few tried and true recipes that are essential to creating a well-rounded whiskey experience.

These drinks showcase the versatility of whiskey. They include some of the most popular whiskey cocktails that enthusiasts have enjoyed for decades (or far longer). It is a perfect list for the beginner to explore everything possible with whiskey.

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Watch Now: Get Inspired by our Favorite Whiskey Cocktails

  • 01 of 20

    Manhattan Cocktail

    Classic Manhattan cocktail recipe

    ​The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    With its traditional combination of rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, the Manhattan is an icon in the whiskey world. It is to whiskey what the martini is to gin and the base for countless cocktails. You can make it with bourbon, Canadian whisky, or any other style, and it's a splendid recipe to use when trying out any new-to-you brand.

  • 02 of 20

    Old-Fashioned

    Old fashioned cocktail recipe

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    The old-fashioned is a simple way to dress up whiskey. Made with bitters, sugar, and an orange slice, it's an excellent way to experiment with any style of whiskey. Plus, this recipe has served as inspiration for a myriad of modern old-fashioneds, which are equally fascinating.

  • 03 of 20

    Whiskey Sour

    Whiskey Sour

    The Spruce Eats

    The whiskey sour is a timeless recipe that's too good to pass up. You'll enjoy how the tart lemon plays off some of the sweeter notes in whiskey (backed up by a touch of simple syrup). Adding an egg white to the shaker gives it an intriguing mouthfeel, though you can skip it if you like.

  • 04 of 20

    John Collins

    John Collins Bourbon Whiskey Highball

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    When you top your whiskey sour with club soda, you have the John Collins. It's brilliantly refreshing and a wonderful happy hour drink. Once you learn this recipe, you can take the formula and pour any liquor—from gin to tequila—to explore the entire collins family of cocktails.

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  • 05 of 20

    Irish Coffee

    Original Irish Coffee Recipe

    The Spruce

    The original Irish coffee is one of the best ways to spike your coffee on a cold winter night or after a meal. It's simply coffee, Irish whiskey, brown sugar, and a touch of freshly whipped cream. This classic proves that a great drink requires no fuss, just quality ingredients.

  • 06 of 20

    Mint Julep

    Classic mint julep recipe

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    An essential to anyone's whiskey experience, the mint julep is one of the freshest cocktails you will find. Fresh mint, sugar, your favorite bourbon, and a little work with the muddler, and it's done. This one is also so popular that the basic recipe has inspired countless julep variations, which are equally delightful.

  • 07 of 20

    Vieux Carre

    Vieux carre cocktail recipe

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    It may be a legendary New Orleans cocktail but you don't have to travel to the "Big Easy" to enjoy it. Made with rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, and two styles of bitters, the Vieux Carre is divinely complex. Stick to the recipe and measure it out carefully to ensure you maintain the ideal balance of flavors.

  • 08 of 20

    Highball

    Classic highball cocktail recipe

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    The highball is a simple two-ingredient mixed drink and a tall, refreshing way to enjoy your favorite whiskey. Blended whiskeys, rye whiskey, and bourbons all go perfectly with the ginger ale, so it's hard to make a bad drink. You can lighten it up with club soda if you prefer, too.

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  • 09 of 20

    Pickleback

    Pickleback Shot Recipe

    The Spruce

    The pickleback is a modern sensation that quickly grabbed whiskey drinkers' attention when it was popularized in Brooklyn. It's nothing more than a shot each of Irish whiskey and pickle juice. While it sounds like an odd combination, it's surprisingly tasty, easy to drink, and even better with a beer chaser.

  • 10 of 20

    Lynchburg Lemonade

    Lynchburg lemonade in mason jars on a dark tabletop

    The Spruce

    This one's been around for a while and is often unnecessarily simplified. However, a taste of the original Lynchburg lemonade is one of the best ways to drink Tennessee whiskey. This tall drink accents the whiskey's robust profile with sweet and tart citrus and lemon-lime soda, creating the ultimate summer refreshment.

  • 11 of 20

    Fancy Whiskey Cocktail

    Fancy Whiskey Cocktail

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

    It's hard to believe that sugar, orange liqueur, and bitters were once considered "fancy" cocktail ingredients. And yet, one taste of this delightful classic will give a good sense of why it has been enjoyed for over a century. The fancy whiskey cocktail rivals any modern drink recipe and is perfect for a good blended whiskey.

  • 12 of 20

    Sazerac

    Classic Sazerac Cocktail

    The Spruce / Claire Cohen

    The Sazerac offers a unique flavor experience for rye whiskey. The recipe is simple, accenting the spicy rye with sugar, bitters, and an anise liqueur, such as absinthe. That last ingredient makes this drink special, and it's even better with the new crop of amazing ryes on the market today.

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  • 13 of 20

    Rusty Nail

    Rusty Nail

    The Spruce

     

    A cocktail intended for scotch drinkers, mixing up a rusty nail is incredibly easy. This recipe combines Scotch whisky with the herbal honey taste of Drambuie. Changing up the flavor profile is as simple as pouring a blended whisky or your favorite single malt.

  • 14 of 20

    Whiskey Cobbler

    Brandy or Whiskey Cobbler With Seasonal Fruits

    Ivan / Getty Images

    The best way to use up that bounty of fruit in the fridge? Mix up a whiskey cobbler, of course. A recipe straight out of the 1800s, the mix of seasonal fruit dresses up a sweetened whiskey. Add club soda if you like or enjoy it as is; it's fabulous either way.

  • 15 of 20

    Algonquin Cocktail

    Classic Algonquin Cocktail

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

    Pineapple and whiskey rarely find a place together, but the Algonquin cocktail demonstrates how well the duo can work. This tropical whiskey martini adds dry vermouth to the mix, which marries the two distinct flavors. Enjoy it with a summer meal, and you're sure to enjoy its complex beauty.

  • 16 of 20

    Boulevardier Cocktail

    The Boulevardier Cocktail

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

    In the whiskey world, the Boulevardier is the ultimate before-dinner drink. It's whiskey's answer to the Negroni and a stimulating mix of bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Adding the darker spirit to the background gives it a fascinating depth of flavor, and you can easily offer both drinks to please guests who prefer either liquor.

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  • 17 of 20

    New York Sour

    New York Sour Cocktail

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

    Choose bourbon or rye whiskey to enjoy in the New York sour. The cocktail's base mirrors the whiskey sour by accenting the whiskey with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. It's the red wine float that makes it extra special in both taste and appearance.

  • 18 of 20

    Ward Eight

    Ward Eight Cocktail

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Serve it tall or short, up or on the rocks, make it sweeter, or keep it on the sour side... There's really no wrong way to mix up a Ward Eight cocktail. This recipe has been delighting whiskey drinkers since 1898 and offers many options to tailor it to your mood, taste, or current whiskey fascination.

  • 19 of 20

    Whiskey Tonic

    Whiskey Tonic

    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

    All varieties of soda water are popular in simple whiskey mixed drinks, but tonic water is often overlooked. The dry soda actually works very well, especially with Irish whiskey. The whiskey tonic is a palate-cleansing dinner drink worthy of any meal.

  • 20 of 20

    Millionaire Cocktail

    Classic Millionaire Cocktail With a Strawberry Garnish

    James Baigrie / Getty Images

    Many drinks have taken on the name over the years, though this millionaire recipe is particularly fascinating. The cocktail mixes rye or bourbon with orange curaçao, grenadine, and raspberry liqueur. Like many classics, the sweet, fruity mix gets its luxurious texture with a single egg white.