15 Essential Whiskey Cocktails Everyone Should Try

Begin Exploring the World of Great Whiskey Drinks

Highball
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 have been enjoyed by enthusiasts for decades or longer. It is a perfect list for the beginner to explore everything that's possible with whiskey.

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  • 01 of 15

    Manhattan Cocktail

    Manhattan

    The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

    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 whiskey, or any other style and it's a splendid recipe to use when trying out any new-to-you brand.

  • 02 of 15

    Old-Fashioned

    Old-Fashioned

    The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

    The old-fashioned is a simple way to dress up whiskey. Made with bitters, sugar, an orange slice, and an optional splash of soda, 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 15

    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 15

    John Collins

    John Collins Cocktail

    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

    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 15

    Irish Coffee

    Original Irish Coffee Recipe

    The Spruce Eats

    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 whipped cream and proves that a great drink requires no fuss, just quality ingredients.

  • 06 of 15

    Mint Julep

    Mint Julep

    The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

    An essential to anyone's whiskey experience, the mint julep is one of the freshest cocktails you can find. Fresh mint, 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 15

    Algonquin Cocktail

    Classic Algonquin Cocktail

    The Spruce Eats / 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.

  • 08 of 15

    Vieux Carre

    Vieux Carre Cocktail

    matucha / Getty Images 

    This is 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, Benedictine, 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.

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  • 09 of 15

    Highball

    Highball

    The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

    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.

  • 10 of 15

    Pickleback

    Pickleback Shot Recipe

    The Spruce Eats

    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 Jameson Irish whiskey and pickle juice. It's an odd combination that's surprisingly easy to drink and even better with a beer chaser.

  • 11 of 15

    Lynchburg Lemonade

    Lynchburg lemonade in mason jars on a dark tabletop

    The Spruce Eats

    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 Jack Daniel's. This tall drink accents the Tennessee whiskey's robust profile with sweet and tart citrus and lemon-lime soda, creating the ultimate summer refreshment.

  • 12 of 15

    Fancy Whiskey Cocktail

    Fancy Whiskey Cocktail

    The Spruce Eats / 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 cocktail and is a perfect use for a good blended whiskey.

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  • 13 of 15

    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 late 1800s, a 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.

  • 14 of 15

    Sazerac

    Classic Sazerac Cocktail

    The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

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

  • 15 of 15

    Boulevardier Cocktail

    Boulevardier Cocktail

    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

    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 new depth of flavor and you can easily offer both drinks to please guests who prefer either liquor.