Whisky is one of the most popular and versatile spirits in the world. And it’s warming, sweet flavours have inspired a ton of delicious cocktails. From smooth sipping drinks to traditional recipes, there is a whisky cocktail for every occasion and taste. All of which are easy enough to make at home and perfect for impressing your pals with.
Here’s our shortlist of the top 10 classic whisky drinks, each with a deliciously rich flavour profile and origin story.
1. Old Fashioned
The Old Fashioned is as classic as it sounds. This drink’s long and storied history is believed to have begun in 19th century America when it was known simply as the ‘whisky cocktail’ and was a way for whisky drinkers to enjoy the spirit neat with a sweet and spiced twist.
Today it remains a staple of cocktail culture and is one of the best classic whisky drinks you can order. Traditionally the Old Fashioned calls for bourbon but as with many cocktail recipes, its ingredients have evolved. We make ours the Ballantine’s way, stirring our smooth scotch into sweetened bitters with an orange peel garnish.
2. Atholl Brose
This oats-so-simple cocktail is a classic Scottish drink that combines the country’s love of good whisky with creamy sweetness. No one’s really sure how the Atholl Brose came to be, but rumour has it that the recipe is named after the Earl of Atholl who spiked his enemy’s drinking well to inebriate the men before fighting.
Whilst the cocktail’s origin is up for debate, its deliciousness is not. Scotch whisky, Drambuie and honey are mixed with oatmeal water and a dash of cream to create a dessert-worthy drink you can whip up for Burns Night, Hogmanay or any special occasion.
This Scottish classic is oats-so-simple. Whip this up after a dinner party to really up your hosting game.
When you think of a whisky cocktail, you’ll likely think of a Hot Toddy. Especially if winter warmers are your vibe. This classic cup of warm liquid is a centuries-old creation and is the ultimate accompaniment to chilly nights.
The ultimate combo of whisky, honey and lemon juice melts into boiling water to make this seriously soothing drink. Topped with a cinnamon stick and cloves for extra spice.
4. Whisky Sour
Whisky Sours have appeared in every cocktail menu for the last 150 years. And they’re not going out of style anytime soon. A classic Prohibition drink, the sour mixes lemon and sugar to lighten up what was once less delicious whisky. But today, it elevates the smoothness and sweetness of Ballantine’s scotch and can be found in the trendiest bars across every city.
The classic recipe can be adjusted to suit individual tastes, making it sweeter or more sour. There are also tons of whisky sour variations in almost every flavour. Why not give our Passion Sour a go, made with the tang of passion fruit puree. Or get wild with our cherry whisky sour that bursts with tart sweetness.
This cocktail is 150 years old, yet you’ll still find it in the trendiest bars. Give it a go with your favourite Ballantine’s!
Fans of the Negroni listen up. This variation is a classic cocktail among whisky drinkers and is soon to be your go-to order. The Boulevardier is a Parisian concoction from the Prohibition era that originated as the signature drink of American writer Erskine Gwynne. Gwynne was a local at the renowned Harry’s Bar and worked at a publication called, you guessed it, Boulevardier.
The traditional recipe calls for whisky, sweet vermouth and Campari, creating an elegant balance of bitter and sweet flavours over ice. Garnish with orange peel and voila!
6. Bobby Burns
Another recipe to thank the Scots for. The Bobby Burns is a Burns Night must, drunk in honour of the national poet’s heritage. Beloved for its balance of sweet, herbal and smoky notes, it’s a rich cocktail with a number of variations. However you’ll most likely find it combining equal parts scotch and sweet vermouth with an essential addition of Bénédictine liqueur.
Stir yours over ice and serve neat in a chilled glass with a twist of lemon. And don’t forget to enjoy a few of Robert’s words with each sip.
A relatively recent addition to the list, the Penicillin is a 21st century creation that quickly gained popularity and is now considered one of the world’s best loved whisky drinks. The perfect blend of honey, ginger, and lemon are shaken with whisky before being topped with a float of peat scotch. This creates a truly unique smoky layer that intensifies every sip. The Penicillin’s fiery flavours make it a powerful cocktail, so only order if you’re up for something spicy!
Prescribe yourself the Penicillin, a fiery Scotch classic to kick off your weekend in style. No doctors necessary.
Like a Manhattan? You’ll love a Rob Roy. Another of Scotland’s heroes gets a shoutout with this scotch take on the Manhattan recipe – and we reckon it’s better. Named after the beloved outlaw Robert Roy MacGregor, this cocktail dates back to the late 1800s and is now one of the top classic whisky drinks.
Scotch, sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters make up the classic recipe, served with a maraschino cherry for good measure. Whether you’re a fan of whisky cocktails or fancy raising a glass to a Scottish folk hero, the Rob Roy is a solid choice.
The Sazerac is a close relation of the Old Fashioned, with a strong and smoky twist. The addition of Absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters add extra kick, paying homage to its origins in New Orleans.
Our Sazerac recipe gets a citrusy update, highlighting the bold and spicy notes of Ballantine’s 17 Year Old with an extra pop of flavour from the addition of orange. Enjoy this elevated take on this classic whisky cocktail.
Ballantine’s 17 Year Old has both a richness and complex spicy notes, so naturally works fantastically well in a Sazerac-style serve.
Our list of the top 10 classic whisky drinks wouldn’t be complete without featuring the highball. This simple serve traditionally combines whisky with sparkling soda over ice and is seriously light and refreshing. However today the highball comes in various forms.
You don’t have to go out to a bar to enjoy a classic whisky cocktail. All you need is your favourite bottle of Ballantine’s and the necessary ingredients, and you can create your own drink at home. Take a look at our collection of whisky cocktails for ideas on what to mix up or order the next time you’re out.
How to order scotch at a bar like a seasoned pro
There’s no wrong way to order scotch, but if you want a drink you’ll love, it helps to know the lingo. Get our simple tips on how to order whisky with ease.
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