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5 simple and surprising swaps to your favorite classic whiskey drinks

5 simple and surprising swaps to your favorite classic whiskey drinks

Even though a few bartenders would say some of the classic whiskey cocktails are overrated, there’s a reason they’re tried and true favorites. They’ve been around for ages, people love them and they add to a well-rounded whiskey experience. So rather than mess with an already good thing, why not try a creative variation to mix things up? Here are five simple and surprising swaps to your favorite classic whiskey drinks. We’ve saved the original recipe and highlighted our favorite variations below. 

The Old Fashioned

Did you know the Old Fashioned is the country’s very first cocktail? It was born way back in the early 1800s in Louisville, Kentucky. However you like to enjoy yours (bourbon or rye, sugar or syrup, fruit or no fruit), the recipe has a boozy, whiskey flavor with the right hint of sweetness. 

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Dash of water or club soda
  • Slice  and/or peel of orange

Directions: Combine the rye, simple syrup, bitters, water or club soda. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass, twist the orange peel over the drink and then lightly brush the rim before dropping it in.

Simple swap: Instead of Angostura bitters, try a grapefruit bitters and garnish with a slice of the fruit. They tie the drink together almost better than the original. 

The Boulevardier

No stranger to a Negroni? Then this recipe will look familiar. You’ll swap out gin in favor of bourbon and have the exact same drink. If you don’t enjoy an aggressively boozy cocktail, then you might want to sit this one out as a Boulevardier is assertive (and delicious). 

  • 1 oz. bourbon
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 1 oz. campari

Directions: Combine all three parts into a mixing glass with ice. Stir thoroughly. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass and serve either neat or over ice.

Simple swap: Add ¼ oz. honey liqueur to this classic whiskey cocktail to bring out the natural honey notes. Bonus points for incorporating local honey into the recipe.  

The Whiskey Sour

If you’re new to whiskey, a whiskey sour is a great drink to start with. The lemon juice and syrup mellows out this beginner-friendly concoction, making it a crowd favorite when it comes to acquiring a taste for whiskey. The egg white adds texture vs. strong flavor making it optional for this whiskey cocktail recipe.  

  • 3 oz. bourbon
  • 2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • Dash of egg white 

Directions: Pour all ingredients into a shaker with plenty of ice. Give it a good shake. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Pro tip: Add two ounces of club soda and you’ve got a John Collins cocktail. 

Simple swap: Add 1 oz. of red wine and muddle one maraschino cherry with one tablespoon of maple syrup before mixing the rest of the ingredients together for a delightful take on the original.   

The Manhattan

This classic whiskey cocktail originated in, where else, New York. Winston Churchill’s mom was hosting a political party at the Manhattan Club in the 1870s when a guest suggested this genius mixture of spirits, or so the story goes. All we know is the Manhattan is the perfect recipe for beginners to learn the whiskey-soaked ropes. Plus, the recipe itself couldn’t be simpler: two ounces whiskey, one ounce sweet vermouth and two dashes of bitters. 

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Directions: Pour all ingredients in a mixing glass with plenty of ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass, neat, or into an Old Fashioned glass with ice. Garnish with a cherry (optional). 

Simple swap: Take out the sweet vermouth and swap it for amaro, a bitter liqueur with Italian roots for a Black Manhattan.   

The Sazerac

A Sazerac is the New Orleans version of an Old Fashioned. Louisiana’s state senator even filed a bill to make it the state’s official cocktail. What makes the drink special is the last ingredient, which adds a very subtle new flavor to the mix. Pro tip: this whiskey cocktail recipe is even better with the crop of amazing ryes that are on the market today. 

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 3-4 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
  • A splash of absinthe
  • 1 sugar cube

Directions: Take two Old Fashioned glasses and fill one with ice. In the other one, muddle the bitters, sugar and a small splash of water. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the rye, fill with ice and stir. Discard the ice from the first glass. Add the absinthe, swirl it around to coat the glass and then discard the excess. Strain the contents of the muddling glass into the absinthe-rinsed glass. Twist a lemon peel over the drink to garnish. 

Simple swap: Love it or hate it, pumpkin spice season is here to stay. Add ½ oz. pumpkin syrup to this traditional Sazerac recipe for a drink that will work well any time of year.