We are back with our 1 Bottle, 3 Ways series and turning our attention to the wonderful world of whisky. Whether bourbon or scotch, grain or malt whisky—true whisky lovers know one of the best ways to sip this liquid gold is simply on its own. But while you may not want to tamper too much with that bottle of rare cask Macallan, the versatile nature of this spirit makes it a great go-to base for a number of easy-to-make, quaffable cocktails that will help you (literally) mix up your at-home bartending game.
These much-loved, essential recipes come to you courtesy of our bar maestro at Taqueria Super Macho, Agustín Da Sambiagio. He shares his formula for three classic concoctions that have stood the test of time; requiring the bare minimum of ingredients, they come together in a pinch at home, smoothing out the flavours of a budget bottle, or even revealing new facets of the spirit to seasoned drammers. Of course, you can always enjoy your favourite whisky brand neat, straight up or on the rocks for pure, unadulterated sipping. Whatever your preference, there is no superior way to drink the ‘water of life’—as long as you have a glass in hand.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more classic, enduring drink than the Old Fashioned (the name says it all). This bar stalwart, composed of just a handful of ingredients, first accompanied the word ‘cocktail’ all the way back in 1806. More than two centuries later, it is still going strong as one of the most-ordered and beloved whisky drinks in the world, with both old-school and new-school boozers agreeing on its universal merits. Slightly sweet, smooth and spirit-forward, the Old Fashioned hits the spot every time.
• 60ml bourbon
• 3 dashes Angostura bitters
• 1 teaspoon demerara sugar syrup (or simple syrup)*
• Orange peel for garnish
In a mixing glass, add the bourbon, Angostura bitters and sugar syrup. Stir until very cold and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Squeeze an orange peel to release its oils on top of the drink and use for garnish. You can also try this recipe with a nice dark rum!
Another early recipe from the 1800s, the Manhattan is a cherished cocktail said to have first surfaced in New York City’s Manhattan Club. Since then, it has taken flight around the world and become a true cornerstone of cocktail culture that every aspiring mixologist should master. Like other drinks that follow a three-ingredient template, the devil is in the details: the method, measuring and quality of liquor used make all the difference between a clear, well-balanced concoction and what can sometimes turn into a cloudy mess (a Manhattan must always be stirred, not shaken!). While some enterprising bartenders have tinkered with the recipe over the years—resulting in variations such as the Perfect Manhattan, the Rob Roy and the Brooklyn—it is safe to say the classic recipe is just that for a reason.
• 60ml rye or bourbon
• 30ml sweet vermouth
• 3 dashes Angostura bitters
• Orange peel or maraschino cherry for garnish
In a mixing glass, pour in the rye or bourbon (rye will give the drink a slightly spicier, edgier profile), sweet vermouth and bitters. Stir until very cold and strain into a martini glass. Squeeze an orange peel on top before adding to the glass. You can toy with the ratio, adding more vermouth if you prefer sweeter, or less if you prefer drier. You can also try serving it on the rocks. If prepared with blended scotch whisky instead of bourbon, you have yourself a ‘Rob Roy’, one of many variations on the Manhattan.
A spicy, smoky riff on a Whisky Sour, this sweet-sour libation is a modern classic, created by Sam Ross of New York’s Milk & Honey in the early 2000s. Around for only two decades, its popularity has escalated to the point where any decent bartender worth their bitters should be able to produce an acceptable version, whether on the menu or off. Even better, learn to make it yourself at home with Agustin’s recipe below. Smokey on the nose, bright with lemon and rounded out with floral honey, the Penicillin, like its namesake, offers an instant cure for cold nights.
• 2 pieces of fresh ginger
• 30ml honey
• 30ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 60ml blended scotch whisky
• Lemon peel for garnish
In a shaker, muddle the fresh ginger together with the honey, lemon juice and blended scotch whisky. Shake with ice until it is very cold, then double strain into a rocks glass full of ice and garnish with a lemon peel. Before adding the peel to your drink, make sure you squeeze it first to release the oils!
Bonus Recipe: Sours
A simple ratio of 2:1:1 (what Agustin refers to as the ‘Holy Recipe’)—that is, 2 parts alcohol to 1 part citrus (either lemon or lime) and 1 part sweet (syrup, honey, etc.)—can be applied to an infinite number of recipes for sour cocktails, the family of mixed drinks that elegantly balances sweet and tart. This simple structure will yield any number of popular drinks, from the Margarita to the French 75, the Daiquiri and of course, the Whisky Sour.
The latter has long sated thirsty drinkers—one of the original recipes in the category of cocktail sours. Spiked with bourbon with a foamy egg white cap and an optional dash of bitters on top, the Whisky Sour is an easy one to impress guests while showing off some bartending flair. Once you have mastered this simple ratio, feel free to mix up the combo of liquor, sour and sweet to tackle other timeless tipples.
• 60ml rye or bourbon
• 30ml lemon juice
• 15ml simple syrup*
• 15ml egg white
• Lemon peel or maraschino cherry for garnish
Add bourbon, lemon juice, syrup and egg white to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well until it is very cold, about 20 seconds, then strain into a coupe glass or a rocks glass filled with ice. Squeeze lemon peel to release the scented oils, then garnish with lemon or maraschino cherry, and optional dash of aromatic bitters on top.
*To make simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil until the sugar is dissolved, and cool before using.