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The Best Whiskey For Cocktails (+ 23 Easy 2-Ingredient Whiskey Cocktails)

If you’ve ever wondered what whiskey works best in cocktails, you’re not alone! Read on for the best whiskey to use in cocktails and the easiest 2-ingredient whiskey drinks you can make at home.

A Manhattan cocktail in a window sill with a city view in the background.

What Is Whiskey?

Whiskey is a distilled spirit made out of a fermented grain mash.

There are three ingredients that go into making whiskey: water, grain (wheat, rye, barley, or corn), and yeast.

Some classic and popular cocktails made with whiskey include the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, and Irish Coffee.

Whiskey Vs Whisky

People commonly ask what’s the difference between Whiskey and Whisky? The answer is that it greatly depends on its country of origin.

Generally, you see whiskey with an “e” in the United States and Ireland. Then, in Canada, Scotland, and Japan, whisk(e)y is spelled without the “e”.

This is because Scotland and Ireland were the first countries to seriously produce whiskey, and the Irish dialect added an “e”, while the Scottish dialect omitted the “e”.

Typically, other countries either kept or omitted the “e” based on if their whiskey was more influenced/inspired by Scotch or by Irish Whiskey.

As an example, there was a huge influx of Irish immigrants to the USA in the 1800s, which is a big reason why the USA spells whiskey with an “e”.

The Best Whiskey For Cocktails

While all whiskeys are distilled from grain and aged in barrels, there are several distinctive types of whiskeys.

Certain styles of whiskey (like single-malt) generally aren’t ideal for cocktails and are made for sipping alone or with a splash of water, while other styles of whiskey are more balanced, smooth, and play well with mixers.

The latter are what you should use in cocktails, and the most popular styles of whiskey for cocktails are the following.

1. Bourbon

To be called bourbon, the whiskey has to be made in the USA from at least 51% corn and contain no additives.

Bourbon is sweeter than most whiskeys, so it works really well in cocktails. Bourbons also often have notes of vanilla, oak, and caramel that add extra flavor and nuance to mixed drinks.

PS: If you love bourbon, here are the all-time best 2-ingredient bourbon cocktails!

2. Tennessee Whiskey

Tennessee whiskey must be produced in Tennessee and be made with 51% corn.

It tastes similar to bourbon, but is a bit sweeter and mellower, so it also works great with mixers in a cocktail. A popular example of Tennessee whiskey is Jack Daniel’s.

3. Rye Whiskey

In America, rye whiskey must be made from a mash that contains least 51% rye grain.

Tastewise, rye whiskey is spicy and peppery. It’s less sweet than bourbon, but it works great in cocktails if you like your drinks to have a stronger bite.

Canadian whiskey is also frequently referred to as rye whiskey for historical reasons, but it actually doesn’t have to contain rye, and corn is the most commonly used grain today. Super logical, eh?

That said, many Canadian whiskeys do use a grain blend that includes rye, and they work well in cocktails because they’re typically smooth and lighter than other styles of whiskey.

4. Blended Whiskey

Blended whiskeys are a combination of different types of whiskeys, and in some cases, neutral grain spirits and added flavorings.

While they vary greatly in where and how they’re produced and taste profile, blended whiskeys tend to be smooth in flavor, which makes them good for cocktails.

Usually when talking about blended whiskey, people are referring to scotch, but you’ll find blended whiskeys from all over the world.

5. Irish Whiskey

Ireland is considered the birthplace of whiskey, and there are just 3 distilleries in the country: Cork Distilleries Company, John Jameson & Son, and John Power & Son.

Irish whiskey is less sweet than bourbon, less smoky than scotch, and smooth in taste.

For an in-depth look at all of the whiskey styles and locations that produce whiskey, check out this awesome article on the different types of whiskey!

The Best Brands of Whiskey For Cocktails

With these style in mind, the following are the best whiskeys for cocktails that you can buy almost anywhere at a reasonable price point. Prices are for 750ml bottles and will vary based on where you live.

Best Bourbon For Cocktails

Best Tennessee Whiskey For Cocktails

Best Rye Whiskey For Cocktails

Best Blended Whiskey For Cocktails

Best Irish Whiskey For Cocktails

Other Considerations When Picking a Whiskey For Cocktails

There are a few other considerations aside from style to keep in mind when picking a whiskey for cocktails.

A good whiskey to use in cocktails is:

  1. Affordable. Get a bottle that’s $30 or less since you’re mixing it with other ingredients. Save the expensive premium bottles for sipping alone so the mixer doesn’t cover up the nuances of the whiskey.
  2. Light, but not watery. You want a bottle that’s not going to overpower your mixers, but at the same time, you don’t want the mixer to outshine the whiskey. A good rule of thumb is to look for a proof of 80 to 96, which would be an ABV of 40% to 48%.
  3. Balanced and smooth. Unless it’s for a very specific type of cocktail, you usually don’t want to pick a whiskey that’s extremely peaty, smoky, or inaccessible to inexperienced palates. Instead, opt for a whiskey that will blend seamlessly with mixers and goes down smooth.

What Can You Mix With Whiskey?

What mixers you use will vary based on the cocktail, but the following are some of the most popular mixers for whiskey:

  1. Sweet and Sour mix
  2. Lemonade
  3. Ginger Beer/Soda
  4. Tea
  5. Coffee
  6. Citrus Juices (Orange and Grapefruit)
  7. Fruit Juices (Apple and Cranberry)
  8. Soda (Coke, 7UP, and Club Soda)

These are just a few mixers that go with whiskey. For specific, easy cocktail recipes and more mixers that work well with whiskey, read on!

More 2-Ingredient Drink Recipes

23 Easy 2-Ingredient Whiskey Cocktails

From classic drinks you know and love to more unexpected, unique cocktails, there's a 2-ingredient whiskey drink for every occasion and taste palate!

1. Ginger Ale Highball

Starting off, we have a classic Ginger Ale Highball! While you can use any whiskey you like, this drink is best with rye whiskey since the spiciness of the rye and the ginger complement one another.

Put ice in a highball glass, pour in the whiskey, then top with ginger ale and serve.

Ingredients:

  • 1 part Rye Whiskey
  • 2 parts Ginger Ale

2. Rusty Nail

The Rusty Nail is likely the most popular cocktail that uses scotch, and you can feel free to use any type of scotch in this drink (blended, single-malt, etc).

If you're not familiar with Drambuie, it's a liqueur made with Scotch whiskey, honey, herbs and spices. The sweetness of the Drambuie perfectly balances the smoky and spicy qualities of the scotch.

To make it, pour the ingredients in an Old Fashioned glass with ice, stir, and serve.

Ingredients:
  • 1.5 ounces Scotch Whiskey
  • .5 ounce Drambuie

3. The Godfather

Here's another tried and true scotch cocktail that's best with a blended scotch.

Amaretto, which is an almond liqueur, adds sweetness and nutty notes that work great with the smoky, oaky scotch.

In an Old Fashioned glass, add ice cubes and the two ingredients, stir, and serve.

Ingredients:
  • 1.5 ounces blended Scotch Whiskey
  • .5 ounce Amaretto Liqueur (like Disaronno)

4. Whiskey and Orange Bitters

This cocktail is about as close to plain whiskey as you can get, so it's for anyone who like their drinks strong.

I recommend Tennessee whiskey, but Irish whiskey, bourbon, or your favorite whiskey that's on the smooth side of the spectrum would be just as good.

Pour the whiskey in a rocks glass with a large ice cube, add 3-4 drops of orange bitters, stir, and you're done.

Ingredients:
  • 1.5 ounces Whiskey
  • 3-4 drops Orange Bitters

5. Whiskey and Coke

For this cocktail, you can really use any whiskey you'd like. Rye, bourbon, Irish whiskey, and even scotch pair great with Coke (or a cola of your choice). It all comes down to what flavors you want to bring out in the drink.

Simply add the whiskey and Coke to a highball glass with ice, stir, and drink up.

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 2 parts Coke

6. Whiskey Soda

This is another drink that's great with any type of whiskey, but scotch is the most commonly used. The club soda opens up the whiskey and adds effervescence, which makes for a super refreshing drink.

All you have to do is add the whiskey to a highball glass with ice, pour in the club soda, and stir.

You can also adjust the ratio of whiskey to soda depending on your preference, but you can never go wrong with a 1 to 1 ratio.

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 1 part Club Soda

7. Whiskey and Coffee

If you need a boozy pick me up, there's no better option than a whiskey and coffee!

While Irish Coffee is traditionally made with sweetened coffee and cream, Irish whiskey goes well with ALL types of coffee, and you can really prepare your coffee however you'd like.

Even though it may be less traditional, you can use iced coffee, flavored coffee, or black coffee instead of coffee with cream.

Make your coffee the way you like it, add in Irish whiskey, and feel the luck of the Irish flow through you.

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Irish Whiskey
  • 3 parts Coffee

8. Whiskey Lemonade

Whiskey and lemonade is a classic and delicious combination in the summertime!

For this drink, you can use any flavor of lemonade (strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, etc) and any type of whiskey.

Different whiskeys will of course add different flavors to the drink. Use bourbon for notes of caramel and vanilla, rye for spicy notes, Irish whiskey for a lighter drink, and blended scotch for a malty or smokier drink.

Whatever you choose, add the ingredients to a rocks glass with ice, stir together, and sip away.

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 2 parts Lemonade (any flavor)

9. The Pickle Back

This drink can be made as a cocktail or as a shot, and is best with Irish whiskey.

For a cocktail, add the ingredients to a shaker with ice or stir them together in a highball glass.

For a shot, put the whiskey and pickle juice in their own shot glasses, and then shoot the whiskey followed by the pickle juice.

Though it might sound a little weird, this drink is delicious and ALWAYS a crowd-pleaser.

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Irish Whiskey
  • 1 part Pickle Juice

10. Whiskey and Ginger Beer

If you like a Ginger Ale Highball, you'll also love whiskey with ginger beer! Using ginger beer instead of soda makes the drink a little bit sharper and spicier.

Again, you can use any whiskey for this cocktail, but most people prefer it with rye, bourbon, or Irish whiskey.

Add the whiskey to a highball glass with ice cubes, pour the ginger beer on top, and serve.

Pro tip: if you use Irish whiskey and add in 1 part lime juice, you've made a delicious cocktail called an Irish Mule.

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 3 parts Ginger Beer

11. Whiskey and Grapefruit Juice

This is a great cocktail for warm weather and it's super easy to make in a big batch.

Use bourbon or Tennessee whiskey if you want a sweeter cocktail, and rye if you want it to have a spicy bite.

Combine the ingredients in a highball glass with ice, stir together, and serve.

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 2 parts Grapefruit Juice

12. The Boilermaker

The Boilermaker is both a drink and an experience, and you can do it several ways.

One way is to shoot the whiskey, then drink the beer. Another is to drop the whiskey shot directly into the beer. The final way is to pour the shot of whiskey into the beer without dropping in the shot glass.

Whatever way you prefer to consume the drink, you can use pretty much any whiskey and any beer as long as they pair well together.

Some favorite combinations are rye whiskey with an IPA, Irish whiskey with Guinness, and bourbon with a lager or pilsner.

Ingredients:
  • 1 ounce Whiskey
  • 1 Beer

13. Easiest Whiskey Sour

In the cocktail pantheon, it's hard to beat a whiskey sour. This is another cocktail that works with any type of whiskey.

Canadian whiskey, bourbon, Irish whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, and scotch all bring different flavors to the drink and you can't really go wrong.

To make it, add the ingredients to an Old Fashioned glass with ice, stir, and drink up.

Ingredients:

14. 7 & 7

The 7 & 7 is a classic cocktail made with 7Up and Seagram's 7, which is an American blended whiskey.

If you don't have Seagram's on hand though, any American whiskey or bourbon would also be totally acceptable.

Mix together the two ingredients in a highball glass with ice for a refreshing, slightly sweet drink.

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 4 parts 7UP

15. Whiskey and Tea

This is really 4 recipes in 1 since there are a ton of different variations on the whiskey and tea cocktail.

For the tea, you can use sweet tea, iced tea, fruited tea (i.e. peach), green tea, earl grey, etc.

For the whiskey, usually recipes call for bourbon, Irish whiskey, Japanese whiskey, or Tennessee whiskey.

Some popular combinations are:

  1. Bourbon and peach tea
  2. Japanese whiskey and green tea (like matcha tea)
  3. Irish whiskey and Irish breakfast tea
  4. Tennessee whiskey and sweet tea

Whatever your preference is, brew the tea and make it to your liking, then pour in the whiskey and stir it all together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 4 parts Tea

16. Whiskey and Orange Juice

This cocktail is simple, unpretentious, and always delicious. For the whiskey, you'll want to use Irish whiskey, rye, bourbon, or Tennessee whiskey.

Just add the ingredients to a glass with ice, stir together, and enjoy it on a hot day or with brunch!

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 2 parts Orange Juice

17. Whiskey and Pineapple Juice

Pineapple juice is a great mixer for people who like their drinks fruity and don't love the taste of alcohol.

You can mix it with any type of whiskey, but a smooth rye, bourbon, or Irish whiskey will work best, and you should avoid anything overly smoky or malty.

Add the ingredients to a glass with ice, stir together, and serve.

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 2 parts Pineapple Juice

18. Lynchburg Beer

The Lynchburg Beer is a tasty cocktail made with Tennessee whiskey (usually Jack Daniel's) and root beer. The sweet and herbal flavors of root beer complement whiskey so well and result in a really refreshing drink.

Add the ingredients to a highball glass with ice, stir together, and drink up!

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Tennessee Whiskey
  • 2 parts Root Beer

19. Whiskey and Cheerwine

If you're not familiar with Cheerwine, it's an incredibly delicious soda from North Carolina that tastes like cherries.

It goes so well with bourbon or Tennessee whiskey, and is a wonderful summertime drink. You can even serve it as a slushy if you freeze the Cheerwine in an ice cube tray and blend it with the whiskey.

Add the ingredients to a glass with ice, stir, and serve.

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 2 parts Cheerwine

20. Apple Cider and Whiskey Slush

This cocktail is perfect for the fall!

For the recipe, you'll want to use bourbon or Tennessee whiskey for the best result.

Stir together the apple cider and whiskey in a bowl, throw it in the freezer overnight, then take it out and stir for a minute or two before serving.

This recipe makes 4 servings and you can refreeze any leftovers if you somehow don't finish it in one sitting!

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup Whiskey
  • 4 cups Apple Cider

21. Frozen Whiskey Peach Cocktail

Another frozen cocktail that's so good in the summertime when peaches are in season! Again, for this cocktail bourbon or Tennessee whiskey are going to be your best option.

To make it, add diced peaches (skin on or off), whiskey, and 2 cups of ice to a blender. Blend it all up and you're done!

If the mixture is too thick, you can add water. And if your peaches aren't quite sweet enough, you can always add a bit of honey.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup Whiskey
  • 2 cups Diced Peaches

22. Whiskey and Cranberry Juice

If you haven't tried whiskey and cranberry juice together, you're missing out. The tartness and light sweetness of the cranberry juice balances out the spicy, booziness of the whiskey like a dream.

You can use any type of whiskey for this drink and you make it by adding the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice, shaking it all up, and serving in a glass with ice.

This is a great cocktail for the holidays that's super easy to make in a big batch!

Ingredients:
  • 1 part Whiskey
  • 2 parts Cranberry Juice

23. Half Manhattan

It's no secret that whiskey and sweet vermouth pair wonderfully together.

Traditionally a Manhattan is made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. This version of the drink drops the bitters, so it's likely not for Manhattan purists, but it's still a tasty drink if you don't have bitters on hand!

For the whiskey, you can use rye, Canadian, bourbon, blended, or Tennessee whiskey, but rye is my recommendation.

Add the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice, stir together, then pour into a chilled coup or martini glass.

Ingredients:
  • 2 parts Whiskey
  • 1 part Sweet Vermouth

And that’s a wrap! Though many sip whiskey neat, it’s a wonderful spirit to use in cocktails and goes well with so many mixers.

The above are my favorite 2-ingredient whiskey cocktails, but if you have one that wasn’t included, let me know in the comment section below and I’ll give it a try 🙂

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