Renowned as the first whisky of the world, Scotch gets its fair share of praise, but what it doesn’t get is used in a lot of cocktails. Purists think it’s too precious to dilute. Others find it too curmudgeonly in a mixing situation compared with outgoing Bourbon and gin. But an elite coterie of concoctions prove that Scotch—once coaxed—can be a cocktail’s friend for life.
You’ll recognize the Rob Roy as the Scots’ take on the Yankee Manhattan, only made with Scotch whisky in place of rye or Bourbon. Sure it’s a knockoff, but one that is distinctive enough to deserve its own name. The Rob Roy offers at least as many variations as there are single-malt and blended Scotches to be tried. Adjust the vermouth ratio to reflect the relative proof and body of the whisky, adding more aperitif with bolder expressions and backing off on the lighter ones. With precious drams you also may want to spare the vermouth. Start by stirring it in with an eyedropper and testing it until you have it just right.
2 1/2 oz. Scotch whisky
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
Shake or stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or maraschino cherry.
Anyone who thinks Scotch can’t play well with strangers should try the Blood & Sand, one of the seemingly strangest cocktails around. Almost nine decades ago The Savoy Cocktail Book introduced this menagerie of a drink. With whisky, orange juice, cherry liqueur and vermouth, it sounds like kid’s stuff—a Zombie. But it works to perfection. The Scotch brings character and class to a mixture that would otherwise be simply cloying. The other ingredients give youthful brightness to the whisky.
Blood & Sand
1/4 part Scotch whisky
1/4 part blood orange juice
1/4 part cherry liqueur
1/4 part sweet vermouth
Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. No garnish.
The ’60s brought us the Rat Pack craze for The Rusty Nail (Scotch mixed with the Scotch liqueur Drambuie), but it wasn’t until the turn of this century that we got a Caledonian cocktail that was another real game changer. The Penicillin introduces Scotch to ginger, lemon and honey and includes two different whiskies in one glass. The first is a blended Scotch, and the finish is a floater of peaty whisky to put smoke on the nose without overwhelming the palate. This affirms the concept that special care should be taken in choosing Scotch types and regions for use in cocktails. Despite its name and perceived palliative effects, it shouldn’t be mistaken for your doctor’s prescription of the same name.
2 oz. blended scotch whisky
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. honey syrup
1/4 oz. smoky islay single-malt scotch whisky
2-3 quarter-size slices fresh ginger
Muddle fresh ginger in a mixing glass and add the blended Scotch, lemon juice and honey syrup. Fill the shaker with ice and shake; strain into an ice-filled Old-Fashioned glass. Float the Islay malt on top and garnish with candied ginger.