While some whiskies are meant to be savored, others play well in mixed drinks. Some brands provide great options for both! The best whiskey for cocktails adds complexity to mixed drinks by introducing robust spirits with plenty of character.
Many of the recommended whiskies for cocktails provide spicy options made from rye mash. Bourbons are another popular choice for added sweetness. Each of these whiskies brings something unique to the table and will up your cocktail game!
This example of the best whiskey for cocktails contains rye spiciness with distinct sweet notes resulting from aging in rum barrels. The 18-month aging process introduces woody undertones in the spirit, creating a smooth consistency and intense flavors that hold up to other strong-tasting cocktail ingredients, like bitters.
Unlike other types, single-barrel whiskeys are never blended, giving each batch a unique character. Four Rose ages its rye whiskey for seven to nine years, resulting in a spirit with fruity notes. A lasting, smooth finish and a sweet nose make this whiskey an enticing choice for many cocktails calling for whiskey.
This spirit’s amber color makes it an attractive and tasty choice for cocktails like the Old Fashioned. Rich flavors characterize this whiskey with sweet notes like chocolate and toffee and a touch of bright citrus. The bourbon has the unique distinction of being made at Woodford Reserve Distillery, a National Historic Landmark in Kentucky.
Monkey Shoulder distillers blended its spirit with mixing in mind, making it one of the best whiskey for cocktails. The blend contains several types of malt scotch whiskey, creating numerous sweet flavors like vanilla and honey. Prominent fruity notes and hints of bold spice help this whiskey stand out in any cocktail.
Another rye whiskey highlighting spicy characteristics, this spirit goes through a chilled charcoal filtration process that helps mellow the taste. While the grain mash contains mainly rye, it also has a small amount of malted barley, giving the whiskey a spiciness paired with a smooth finish. These traits make it a superior mixing option.
Produced in the oldest continuously operating distillery in the US, this whiskey is a bourbon-style award winner. The reddish tones of the spirit hint at the complex notes of dark fruit and oak. Sweetness also characterizes the whiskey with brown sugar and toffee undertones. These flavors carry through the lingering finish.
Many favorite choices for making cocktails are rye varieties, including this one. Bulleit uses a similar blend of grain mash to others on this list, with rye as the main component and malted barley. Unlike similar varieties, this whiskey has less of a fruity taste. Instead, the whiskey showcases bright, clean notes with hints of vanilla and honey.
Part of what makes Michter’s brand so popular is the range of spirits they offer. They produce bourbon and rye whiskey, as well as limited production bottles aged between 10 and 20 years. Try their Sour Mash for a whiskey that starts sweet like bourbon with smokey fruit notes but finishes like spicy rye.
Laphroaig offers several varieties of whiskey as well. The brand is Scottish, so all of these options are scotch, aged for different periods, and produced in small batches. The distillery producing these distinctive whiskies is close to the sea. Using peat from the area to smoke the grain mash imbues a certain smokiness with hints of the ocean.
Like several others on this list, the Elijah Craig brand produces spirits in Kentucky. This small batch bourbon wins awards for its warming complexity and combination of wood and spice in its flavor profile. The bourbon presents an aroma of fruit and vanilla and finishes sweet, lingering with hints of smokey undertones.
The pleasant yellow-amber color of this blended Japanese whiskey is lighter than most on this list. This spirit has a unique character as well. While many types of these whiskies showcase dark fruit notes, Suntory features crisp green apple and citrus flavors. White pepper and ginger tones create a spicy finish to the whiskey.
This spirit contains spices notes, despite being a bourbon variety rather than rye. You’ll notice hints of nutmeg along with other baking spices. These robust flavors meld with sweeter tones in the whiskey, like honey and caramel, creating a sweet balance perfect for mixing in cocktails. Since another single-barrel bourbon, you can expect slight differences in each batch.
The mahogany color of this rye suggests the rich flavors of this spicy whiskey. Expect notes of cocoa and cinnamon paired with bright citrus tones. A four-year aging process creates a long-lasting, spicy finish with a maple flavor. These characteristics make it another excellent option for Old Fashioned cocktails.
This bourbon brand produces spirits with various proofs. While the 114 proof is best served neat, their 80 proof option pairs perfectly in whiskey cocktails. The golden color of the whiskey results from barrel aging, creating an oaky taste. Sweeter notes, like caramel, vanilla, and a hint of dried fruit, are also present.
FEW makes whiskey using techniques standard in the southern US while utilizing a mix of grains, including spicy northern rye. The resulting bourbon takes on a dark amber color. Like other varieties, this bourbon is aged in charred oak barrels, imparting notes of woody smoke into the sweet and spicy whiskey.
Whether you’re looking for the best whiskey for cocktails or to sip it straight, Knob Creek offers excellent options. Their rye ranked at the top as the World’s Best Rye at the International Wine and Spirits competition in 2016. This whiskey combines the best characteristics of bourbon with the spiciness of rye.
This spirit hails from Kentucky, like many others on this list. The whiskey is 100-proof, giving it a powerful kick. An amber-gold color hints at the notes of vanilla and citrus in the bourbon. The whiskey presents peppery undertones and a caramel-scented nose. Warming and dry, the finish of this bourbon is remarkably smooth.
Weller’s produces another higher-proof whiskey, creating a product with bold spirit with 107-proof. The award winner contains floral notes unique to the brand. This bourbon balances sweet with spicy, showcasing flavors like vanilla and cinnamon. The heat of the spices lingers through the finish for the perfect sip.
Like other brands, Widow Jane provides a wide selection of spirits to match the flavor profile of any cocktail. From unique rye aged in apple wood and oak to their collection of heirloom bourbons, there are delicious options for pairings. The brand prepares its whiskey in small batches, ensuring each spirit is flavorful.
Larceny crafts wheated bourbons pairing the sweetness from corn heavy grain mashes by introducing wheat for smoothness. The brand boasts a softer sipping experience than other whiskies from their blend of grains, making it an excellent option for mixing. The small batch option smells like freshly baked bread and sweet butterscotch notes.
This malt whiskey hails from India, using barley indigenous to the area and fresh water from melting Himalayan glaciers. The spirits go through the aging process in three types of barrel aging to create the unique flavor of this whiskey. Bourbon, sherry, and wine casks impart woody notes with luscious fruity undertones.
This spirit celebrates American whiskey traditions dating back centuries, using a classic grain mash with rye and malted barley. The resulting rye has almost herbal spiciness, with mint notes complementing the sweetness of the whiskey. This spice builds through the finish, allowing this spirit to leave a lasting impression, sure to improve any cocktail.
Teeling makes an Irish blended whiskey using grain and malt varieties. The two whiskies age separately in former bourbon barrels, imparting oaky notes. After the spirits are blended, they age for an additional period in rum casks. The final product showcases fruity characteristics after the one-year aging process.
Despite this whiskey’s Scottish origin, the makers were inspired by the American prohibition era. The golden color hints at the layered complexity of this blended spirit, with sweet honey and citrus notes. The creamy, lingering texture of the whiskey makes it an excellent option for creating strong cocktails that go down smooth.
High West crafts its spirit using a blend of bourbon, scotch, and rye whiskies. While the combination is unconventional, it also helps to create uniqueness. Notes of stone fruit and blueberries paired with citrus and spice characterize the blend. This unusual combination ends with a gentle smokey flavor, perfect for putting a new spin on your favorite cocktails.
Our top picks for whiskey to make cocktails comes in wide varieties. Whether you’re looking for the perfect pairing for a sweet drink or adding some spice to a standard recipe, there are suitable options on this list of recommendations.
If we missed your favorite whiskey to incorporate into cocktails, let us know in the comments below! If the taste is there, you may see it added to this list!
I have always had a deep interest in the restaurant and bar industry. My restaurant experience began in 1997 at the age of 14 as a bus boy. By the time I turned 17 I was serving tables, and by 19 I was bartending/bar managing 6-7 nights a week.
In 2012, after a decade and a half of learning all facets of the industry, I opened my first restaurant/bar. In 2015, a second location followed, the latter being featured on The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.