There is a lack of clarity on the origins of cocktails, but it is clear people love them. The vast amount of recipes on the internet back that up. In this series, I am going to explore a variety of Texas whiskey cocktails that you can make at home.
To get started, I am going to cover some basics and the core cocktail that will help you on your journey. Remember the best cocktail is the one you like and how you make it. So do not be intimidated by making cocktails at home. The drinks do range in difficulty, but all of the whiskey cocktails we share can be made at home. Let’s get started.
Mixers and equipment
To make Texas Whiskey cocktails at home, you will need a few pieces of equipment and mixers. Don’t worry if you don’t have a specific item. Over time you will.
Some essential equipment you will need for making Texas Whiskey cocktails at home is a shaker, strainer, and muddler. Some optional items are bar spoon, large ice cube molds, and bar mat. For some of the advanced concoctions, you might need a blender.
I slowly built my set of mixers, bitters, vermouth, and liqueurs. Here is what I keep on hand.
- Simple syrup
- Liqueurs (optional)
Probably the most common ingredient needed for making cocktails at home. Luckily it is super easy to make. This mixer is equal parts of sugar and water. Pour both ingredients into a pot, slowly heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let cool down before use. Refrigerate after opening. A batch should last approximately two weeks.
Traditionally an alcoholic preparation flavored with botanical matter so that the end result is characterized by a bitter, sour, or bittersweet flavor (Wikipedia). You use bitters to balance and add complexity to the drink. There are tons of options available from grapefruit to chocolate, but there are three I recommend keeping in stock.
- Angostura or aromatic bitters
- Orange bitters
- Peychaud’s bitters
Are aromatized, fortified wine, flavored with various botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and spices) and sometimes colored (Wikipedia). The most popular are dry and sweet vermouth, but the most common for whiskey cocktails is the sweet or red vermouth.
It is common to utilize different fruits for mixed drinks. There are no rules on which ones you can use, but the most common for whiskey cocktails are lemons and oranges. So next time you are at the store, pick up some fresh produce for your bar.
These are alcoholic beverages bottled with added sugar and have flavors usually derived from fruits, herbs, or nuts. There are too many available to keep in stock, but here are a few that keep coming in handy while making cocktails at home.
- Coffee liqueur
- Velvet Farelnum
- elder flower liqueur
- Technically a spirit but needed for a sazerac, along with a few others.
The more you explore making cocktails at home, the larger your collection of equipment and mixers will get. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what you have at home.
My Five Core Whiskey Cocktails
Now that we have covered what you need to make cocktails at home let’s explore what I consider the be the core whiskey drinks. Over time I have noticed similarities and common themes among different cocktails. From my point of view, most whiskey cocktails are variations of five basic recipes.
The old fashioned is a cocktail made by muddling sugar with bitters, adding whiskey. The garnish is always optional. The core component of the old-fashioned is the muddling of sugar and bitters.
Most every bar I visit has its own take on the Old-Fashioned, but the main ingredients are a sugar cube or simple syrup and bitters. The variations include the whiskeys, type of bitters, and additional elements. An example is the Sazerac. It uses Peychaud Bitters, simple syrup or sugar cube but adds an absinthe rinse.
Here are some variations I have shared on social media and or as a blog; the Suburban, Vanilla Tea Old-Fashioned, Maple Old-Fashioned, and Bloody-Fashioned. Not a cocktail, but a smoked old-fashioned ice-cube is fun.
The Manhattan is the whiskey cocktail version of the martini. The key difference is most whiskey cocktail versions use a combination of bitters and vermouth. A martini only uses vermouth.
The variations can be as simple as changing the whiskey. Switch from a rye whiskey to scotch, and you have a Rob Roy. Add a splash of Absinthe, and you have a Blackthorn whiskey cocktail. Look at how you can combine different flavors of bitters and vermouths or add different liqueurs to create your unique cocktail.
I always thought this was a specific whiskey cocktail involving muddled fruit like blueberries. Through this journey, I learned that a smash is a concoction of spirits, sugar, and mint or fruit, either in the form of juice or garnish. The key takeaways are sugar, mint, or fruit ( can be juice).
That revelation changed how I viewed this whiskey cocktail. A smash covers the Mint Julep and Mojito to the Whiskey Cobbler. The variety of cocktails you can make with this many ingredients is endless.
The sour is probably my least favorite, but popular among the rest of the world. Sours are mixed drinks containing a base liquor, lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener (triple sec, simple syrup, or grenadine are typical.)
Cocktails include the whiskey sour, margarita, and sidecar, to name a few. When I am researching cocktails for the weekly release, I am amazed at how many recipes call for lemon juice. There are so many that I buy lemons every time I go to the store.
I believe this is the most well known of the five core whiskey cocktails, we just don’t call them highballs anymore. Most simply say I’ll take a Seven and Seven, Scotch and soda, or whiskey and Coke. A highball is a mixed alcoholic drink composed of an alcoholic base spirit and a more significant proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer. This drink is typically served over ice in a large straight-sided highball glass or Collins glass.
Some cocktails don’t fall into these categories and some that even cross into multiple. The goal of this series is to share the basics and give you a foundation to make Texas Whiskey cocktails at home.