Scotch Cocktails: Ways to Enjoy Your Scotch of the Month
Scotch: the transcendent sipping liquor, best served any way you want whether in cocktails, neat, or on the rocks. Whether you prefer the classics like a Manhattan or a Scotch & Soda, or you’re looking for intrigue in your drink, there’s a scotch cocktail perfect for any occasion.
How to Choose the Best Taster's Club Scotch for Cocktails
- Pick your area. There are different areas in Scotland that produce Scotch. The Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, and Islay.
- Highland scotches are full-bodied, with a hint of peat or smoke. Within the Highland regions, there’s a northern region and a southern region. The southern region has a fruitier, juicier flavor while the northern region has more spice.
- Lowland scotches are light-bodied and smooth.
- Speyside scotches are named after the river Spey. Distilleries in this area get their water from there. They’re a little more aromatic and sweeter.
- Islay scotches are peaty, smokey, and strong.
- Check the age. Older doesn’t always mean better, but the longer a scotch ages, the more flavorful they are from the barrels. There are plenty of scotches aged between 12 to 15 years.
- Check for additives. Don’t judge a scotch by its color. Many malt scotches have added caramel colors to deepen the color. This alters the flavor. If it says “natural color,” then there are no additives present.
Purchase Taster's Club Scotch for Cocktails
Easy, try Taster’s Club. Choose your own bottle from our bottle shop or let us choose for you with a monthly subscription.
We at Taster’s Club pair you with one exceptional expression 750ml bottle of Scotch. If you’re a part of our Scotch Pro Club, we’ll pair you with a bottle even more extravagant (bet you didn’t think that was possible). Not only that, but we go above and beyond to teach you all there is to know about scotch including:
- Tasting notes for every bottle
- How to taste and evaluate a fine scotch
- The different styles of scotch
- Distilleries of Scotland
- And much more!
Once you pick your favorite bottle of scotch, now you’re ready to make a scotch cocktail.
Classic Scotch Cocktails
ROB ROY (SCOTCH MANHATTAN) COCKTAIL
The Rob Roy was created in 1894 by a bartender at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. The cocktail was named after an operetta by composer Reginald De Koven called Rob Roy, somewhat based upon the Scottish Folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor.
A Rob Roy is a form of Manhattan, but made exclusively with Scotch whiskey, while a traditional Manhattan is either made with rye, bourbon, or whiskey.
Just like a Manhattan, the Rob Roy has options: you can make it sweet, dry, or perfect. You’ll never call a Rob Roy a “sweet” Rob Roy, and that’s because the original Rob Roy is sweet, made with sweet vermouth. However, a “dry” Rob Roy is made using dry vermouth in place of sweet. Equal parts sweet and dry vermouth comprise the “perfect” Rob Roy.
In this recipe, use either blended or single malt Scotch, though we recommend blended whiskey. Either way, the whiskey flavor shines through in this simple recipe, so even premium scotch won’t go to waste.
- 2 ounces Scotch whiskey, preferably blended Scotch
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Garnish: Maraschino cherry
- In a mixing glass half-filled with ice, pour in the Scotch whiskey, vermouth, and Angostura bitters.
- Strain into a chilled rocks glass.
- Garnish with your maraschino cherry.
SCOTCH OLD FASHIONED
An old fashioned is one of the earlier versions of a cocktail, invented before the development of bartending as we know it today.
Throughout the 1800s, cocktails became increasingly complex and by the 1860s, cocktail lovers longed for the days of the simpler cocktail aka the “old-fashioned.” The most popular “old-fashioned” cocktails consisted of whiskey, with rye being a more popular choice than bourbon.
Like most stories in relation to whiskey, the true origins of the old fashioned remain unknown. The Pendennis Club, a gentlemen’s club founded in 1881 in Louisville, Kentucky, claims the old fashioned was invented there by a bartender in honor of Colonel James E. Pepper, a prominent bourbon distiller, who later brought it to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel bar in Manhattan. However, this is hotly disputed.
Louisville still likes to believe the cocktail’s conception is rooted in their history, so in 2015, the city named the old fashioned as its official cocktail. Each year, the city celebrates “Old Fashioned Fortnight” during the first two weeks of June. During the celebration, there are bourbon and cocktail events and National Bourbon Day, which is always on June 14th.
- 2 ounces Scotch whiskey
- 1 tsp Simple Syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- Garnish: orange peel
- Add simple syrup to a rocks glass.
- Stir with 2 dashes of bitters (or more to your liking).
- Add 1 ounce of whiskey, then stir.
- Add two large ice cubes.
- Stir, and add in the remaining 1 ounces of whiskey.
- Garnish with an orange peel dropped into the glass.
This is the Scotch adaptation to the popular gin drink, the Tom Collins. Once again, the origin of the Tom Collins is uncertain, debated, and produced curious anecdotes. Hazy origin stories are common for alcohol. In the case of the Tom Collins, there are various mythologies.
DEBATE #1: IS IT FROM THE UNITED STATES OR ENGLAND?
The first mention of the Tom Collins appeared in the 10th century. The mystery of its country origin hasn’t been solved. Both sides claim the drink as their own (much like the history of bourbon).
DEBATE #2: DID IT ORIGINATE FROM A JOKE?
Some assert the Tom Collins originated from a viral joke told in New York City in 1874. A group of friends started telling bar patrons that a man named Tom Collins was walking around the city, spreading rumors in his wake. Then, others went bar to bar in search of said slanderer. Bartenders were enchanted by this tale so much they created a drink with his name, the Tom Collins.
DEBATE #3: WHO INVENTED THE DRINK?
Jerry Thomas is widely considered the father of American mixology. In 1862, Thomas published The Bar-Tender’s Guide, an authentic bible of drinking. This was the first book ever published in the United States about alcohol. In the second edition of 1876, it lists the first official Tom Collins recipe. Naturally, this increased controversy on its country origins, and used as evidence supporting American origin.
Interestingly, there’s no official recipe from the International Bartender’s Association. Often, the Tom Collins consists of lemon juice, gin, and a half tablespoon of sugar prepared in a shaker. The Scotch counterpart is a fizzy drink, a type of drink with added soda.
- 2 ounces Scotch whiskey
- ¾ ounces lemon or lime juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- Club soda
- Garnish: citrus wheel
- Place Scotch, citrus juice, and simple syrup in a shaker.
- Fill half of the shaker with ice.
- Shake vigorously.
- Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice.
- Top with soda.
- Garnish with a citrus wheel.
The Bobby Burns is a Scotch whiskey cocktail named for the Scottish poet Robert Burns. It’s composed of scotch, vermouth, and Bénédictine liqueur and served in a 4.5 fluid ounce cocktail glass.
The original recipe comes from the publication Cat Fancy. In their Spring 1900 edition, it’s called the “Bobby Bodacious.” The name “Robert Burns” doesn’t appear until 1910, the name later morphing into “Bobby Burns.”
- 1 ½ ounces single malt Scotch
- 1 ½ ounces sweet Vermouth
- ¾ ounce Bénédictine
- Garnish: Lemon peel
- Chill a cocktail glass.
- In a shaker, combine Scotch, Vermouth and Bénédictine.
- Add the ice and shake vigorously.
- Strain into a chilled glass.
- Garnish with the lemon peel.
THE RUSTY NAIL
Last on our list of classic cocktails is the famed Rusty Nail cocktail. It consists of Drambuie and Scotch whiskey. Typically, it’s served in an old-fashioned glass on the rocks, neat, or “up” in a stemmed glass (“up” means you’d like your drink chilled, but don’t want to have ice in your glass).
There are variations on the Rusty Nail including:
- The Rusty Bob, substitutes Scotch for Bourbon.
- Rusty Ale, a shot of Drambuie is added to any beer, served neat.
- Smoky Nail, uses Islay Scotch (which has a peaty flavor).
- Clavo Ahumade (Spanish meaning “smoky nail”), using mezcal in place of Scotch.
- Railroad Spike, served at brunch, made with four parts cold brewed coffee to one part Drambuie.
- The Donald Sutherland, yep, he has his own drink, substitutes Canadian rye whiskey for blended Scotch.
This cocktail first appeared in 1937 but is later credited to bartenders at the 21 Club in Manhattan in the early 1960s. In 1963, the name was settled by Gina MacKinnon, the chairwoman of the Drambuie Liqueur Company, who gave the Rusty Nail her praises in The New York Times.
- 1 ounce Drambuie
- 1 ounce Scotch, preferably blended
- Garnish: lemon wedge or peel
- Combine the Drambuie and Scotch in a rocks glass.
- Add the ice and stir.
- Garnish with a lemon wedge or peel.
Modern Scotch Cocktails
The Penicillin cocktail burst on the scene in 2005 by Australian bartender Sam Ross. During this time, the modern cocktail revolution revived classic cocktails, and gave them a modern twist. One night, Sam Ross experimented with the Gold Rush cocktail (a classic, pre-Prohibition era cocktail). He decided to use a more mellow flavor palate by substituting Scotch for Bourbon–the ginger in the drink perfectly complemented the malty notes in the Scotch. He then topped it off with a dollop of Scotch on top of the drink so that you smell the smoke from the Scotch before you taste the drink. The drink was an instant hit; extraordinarily complex, standing apart from the basic Manhattans found in most bars in the era.
To be clear, there’s no penicillin in the drink. The name nods to the comforting properties of ginger and honey. Eventually, this cocktail gained popularity, eventually becoming “the most well-traveled and renowned new cocktail of the 21st century,” according to cocktail historian Robert Simonson.
Today, the Penicillin is adapted into various cocktail forms from fizzy highballs to frozen cocktails.
- 3 slices fresh ginger root
- ¾ ounces simple syrup
- ¾ ounces lemon juice (freshly squeezed preferred)
- 2 ounces blended Scotch
- ¼ ounce smoky single-malt Scotch
- Muddle the ginger root and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
- Add the lemon juice and blended Scotch.
- Add ice and shake vigorously to chill.
- Strain over ice in a rocks glass.
- Pour the single malt over the back of a spoon to float on the top of the drink.
How this cocktail got its name remains a mystery in bartending circles. There isn’t a lot of information online either. Some accounts suggest it was originally a temperance cocktail. If scotch is your religion, the Presbyterian is the drink for you. “The classic Presbyterian is similar to the Moscow Mule and the Dark and Stormy, being simply spirit combined with ginger ale,” write Death & Co owners Alex Day and David Kaplan.
- 1 ½ ounces Scotch whiskey
- 2 ounces club soda
- 2 ounces ginger ale
- Garnish: Lemon twist
- Pour the Scotch whiskey into a highball glass filled with ice.
- Fill with club soda and ginger ale.
- Stir vigorously.
- Garnish: Lemon wedge or twist.
WHISKEY IN CHURCH
We’re going back to the church pews again with this drink. The Whiskey in Church cocktail comes from Erik Reichborn-Kjennerud and Todd Smith of Dalva in San Francisco. It’s a twist on the classic Rob Roy, but in this drink the sweet vermouth is replaced with oloroso sherry and a dark Grade B maple syrup, rich and intense flavors balancing the smokiness of the Islay scotch. Smoked cherry bitters replace the usual Angostura bitters for a tart sweetness rounding out the flavor.
- 2 ounces Islay scotch
- ¾ ounce oloroso sherry
- 1 tablespoon grade B maple syrup
- 6 dashes smoked cherry bitters
- Garnish: lemon twist or wedge
- Add all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice.
- Stir until chilled.
- Strain into a rocks glass over two large ice cubes.
- Garnish with a lemon twist or wedge.