Enjoying a perfectly crafted cocktail is a fitting way to close the day-to-day drama of daddyhood. From beer to bourbon to wine, we don’t discriminate here at DaddyMindTricks (although, we tend to prefer our brown liquor). But sometimes, our routine gets a little stale or we just want to mix things up on fave mixed drinks with some cocktail variations to help take things to the next level.
Cue fellow father and bougie bourbonista, Jason Schneider, to make his return just in time to drop some more brown liquor knowledge.
You may know Jason from such classics as teaching us all how to get started with drinking bourbon, whiskey and scotch; then he came back to show us all how to stock our bar with some more affordable options.
Now he’s back to show us how to spice up our routines with some new twists on old classics. It’s a great way to find some more variety for those getting a little thirsty for cocktail variation with a new taste.
9 Cocktail Variations for Bourbon, Scotch and Whiskey Drinkers
By Jason Schneider
We all have our go-tos. The reliable option that always satisfies. The answer to the question of “Whada ya’ll have?” when you really don’t know the answer.
A perfectly balanced Manhattan.
A simple scotch rocks or bourbon neat.
Or vice versa.
Hell, even James Bond had his go-to-drink, though ordering a martini shaken not stirred is not very suave. But even Bond needs to shake things up from time.
Here are some alternatives and interesting cocktail variations to some of those standards that should meet your fix – and maybe even become a go-to drink.
Cocktail Variations on the classic Manhattan
Vieux Carre – The French Creole cousin of the Manhattan.
Hailing from the Big Easy, the Vieux Carre not only sounds sophisticated when you order it, the addition of cognac and Benedictine give this drink a different and distinct flavor profile.
But because of the rye whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters, it’ll be familiar. Most versions call for equal parts whiskey, vermouth, cognac with the variable being the amount of Benedictine.
Learn how to make the Vieux Carre here.
Rob Roy – The Scottish branch of the family.
More of a brother to the Manhattan than a cousin. The Rob Roy swaps out scotch for the rye whiskey.
The usual Rob Roy calls for blended scotch and because scotch – even the blended stuff – has a stronger smoke profile, a Rob Roy can be a more assertive drink.
The fun part of experimenting with the Rob Roy is using single malt to find just the right Rob Roy for you.
Learn how to make the Rob Roy here.
Martinez – What if a Manhattan and a Martini had love child? Behold the Martinez.
It’s either a Martini with sweet vermouth or a Manhattan with gin. Either way, it’s something to try.
There really isn’t a consensus on the right recipe (my wife likes them heavier towards sweet vermouth and I like them more gin forward) but it’s gin, sweet vermouth, Luxardo maraschino liquor, bitters and either a cherry garnish or citrus twist (orange or lemon).
This drink really lends itself to personalization so, like the previous two drinks, the fun is finding the combination of vermouth and gin, as well as trying different gins.
Learn how to make the Martinez here.
Cocktail Variations on the Negroni
Boulevardier – Spring days are made for the Negroni, the classic and refreshing Italian gin drink. But spring nights call for something a little more, well … more.
The answer is a Boulevardier which swaps out whiskey for gin.
Like a Manhattan, I like rye whiskey which has enough oomph to stand up to the bitterness of Campari.
A Boulevardier, like a Negroni, should be finished by squeezing a fresh twist of orange peel over the drink to release the oils in the skin.
A great home hack is to use Regan’s Orange Bitters instead of the standard Angostura because who keeps fresh oranges in the fridge all the time? Exactly.
Learn how to make the Boulevardier here.
Cocktail Variations on your Whiskey Neat
Anejo mezcal – Mezcal is becoming a hip drink these days and for good reason.
It, like wine and whiskey, has a terrior as each producer uses a different type or blend of agave and has their own different tweaks to the process.
Most widely available mezcals are young (aka joven) which can be sipped but make for better cocktails.
For sipping, find a good aged mezcal (anejo) which should be sipped neat. The aging process mellows the alcohol and the wood imparts some sweet notes – mezcal brings its own smokiness because of the process in which it’s distilled.
I’m a fan of Ilegal Mezcal because it’s fairly easy to find stateside, the booze is great and because the bar in Guatemala in which it became famous, Café No Se, is one of the best bars in the world.
Barrel-aged Gin – Gin probably has a reputation as being a limited liquor.
Sure, each gin has its own flavor profile based on whatever it’s infused with, but the delicate nature of gin means it easily gets overpowered in cocktails and its herbal – sometimes medicinal – qualities means it’s not great as a sipper.
Solution? Age that MF’er!
There are now gins that have been aged in barrels previously used to age wine, rum, brandy and (of course) whiskey.
The result is more layered, nuanced and assertive drink that not only can provide a great twist on classic cocktails but even call for a few ice cubes and nothing else.
There are too many cocktail variations out there to list but I think gins aged in whiskey barrels lend to sipping more than others.
Cocktail Variations on the Old Fashioned
Rock & Rye – This is the drink I go to when I’m feeling really lazy.
Take rye whiskey and infuse it with a blend citrus and dried spices (think clove, star anise, etc.) and add a sweetener – either rock candy (traditional and hence the ‘rock’ or honey).
Let sit and then serve. It’s essentially a cocktail in a bottle and needs nothing but a glass.
During prohibition it was passed off as a medicinal drink. Today it’s the cure for wanting a drink in the face inescapable apathy.
The best part is that you don’t even need to do all the work. There are several really good, widely available brands out there.
Personally, I’m a fan of Hochstadter’s (which also sells cans which takes lazy drinking to the next level).
Learn how to make the Rock & Rye here.
Oaxacan Old-Fashioned – This one is kind of a cheat (but less of a Rock & Rye cheat) because it’s a specific drink thanks to a specific mixer from a specific company but it is well worth it for a different take on an Old Fashioned.
Bittermilk is a Charleston, S.C.-based company that makes drink mixes but calling these drink mixes is like calling LeBron James just an ordinary basketball player.
There are seven blends but my favorite is the Oaxacan Old-Fashioned which calls for mezcal instead of whiskey. It’s smoky yet light version of a classic.
The Tom Collins and Whiskey Sour mixes are also on point.
For the record, I’m just a Bittermilk fan with no industry disclosures. But, please, I’d love to have something to disclose.
Learn how to make the Oaxacan Old-Fashioned here.
Penicillin – If the previous two drinks are for the lazy mixer, the Penicillin is not.
There’s some prep work that needs to be done. But it’s worth it.
You’ll need some honey simple syrup (equal parts honey and water), fresh squeezed lemon juice and some fresh ginger, peeled and sliced.
Muddle the ginger, add ice, honey simple syrup, lemon juice and blended scotch. Shake.
Strain – double strain if you want to avoid tiny pieces of ginger – into a rocks glass with a big honkin’ ice cube (this is where having a silicon ice mold pays off).
And then float some Islay scotch on top (Laphroaig is the standard) using the back of a bar spoon.
And don’t screw up the float.
Learn how to make the Penicillin here.
What do you drink? Do you have any new takes on old classics with some cocktail variations of your own? Chime in below with your comments.
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