Scotch fans have a lot to love in this list of cocktails both modern and classic.
The first half of this list is “bartender’s choice” cocktails, contemporary creations that come straight from the cocktail shakers of today’s top bartenders. The second half is classics, both pre-Prohibition standards and more modern ones that have achieved worldwide acclaim. You’re sure to find something for every palate among these 20 drinks.
Known for its status as the ultimate neat sipper, Scotch whisky is surprisingly versatile in cocktails, too, when paired with the right ingredients. Whether you’re keeping it simple with a Rob Roy, looking to try something new and fruity like the Cunningham, or want a spin on a classic like the Rusty Compass, there’s a scotch cocktail to please every drinker’s wishes.
1. North Sea Oil
You might not think to pair Islay scotch with the herbaceous Scandinavian spirit aquavit, but that’s exactly what bar pro Leo Robitschek did to create this unexpected combination of the two ingredients, plus Cocchi Americano and triple sec. The resulting drink is spirit-forward, smoky, and complex.
2. Prophet in Plain Clothes
This smoky, bittersweet, and undeniably bold Rob Roy riff combines Laphroaig single malt scotch, Fernet-Branca, sweet vermouth, and Amaro Cinpatrazzo. “It hides the glorious message of Fernet inside,” says creator Kraig Rovensky of the drink’s name.
3. Royal Balmoral Punch
This inventive cocktail from bartending vet Charlotte Voisey is indeed fit for a royal. She combines Glenfiddich single malt scotch, Granny Smith apple juice, an English breakfast tea syrup, sparkling lemonade, and Champagne to produce a festive and fizzy drink.
Also, check out this article 21 Bourbon Cocktails to Try Right Now
4. Mint Green Old Fashioned
The bright green hue of this new Old Fashioned is ideal for St. Patrick’s Day, but its refreshing minty flavors are perfect for any time you’re looking for something with pizazz. It was developed by iconic bartender Dale DeGroff for a cocktail-pairing dinner, where DeGroff surprised guests who’d ordered the lamb course with the stunning combination of mint, scotch, and bitters.
5. Rusty Compass
The recipe features smoky and bold The Peat Monster from Compass Box whisky, which is paired with a dash of Drambuie in a 2-to-1 ratio that nods to the classic Rusty Nail. Add a bit of Heering cherry liqueur and you have an intense spirit-forward drink that’s perfect for fans of bold flavors and bracing sips.
6. South by Southwest
Cocktail pioneer Gary Regan revived this recipe from Benny McKew for his book The Negroni. The drink itself, essentially a scotch Negroni, is easy to make: Just stir scotch, Campari, and sweet vermouth with ice, then strain into a glass sprayed with orange blossom water. One sip will show you just how rich and complex a drink can be that plays the smokiness of scotch off Campari’s bitter sweetness.
7. She’s No Gentleman
The classic combination of raspberries and cream doesn’t have to be relegated to after-dinner treats. It’s proven to work just as well in a cocktail glass as it does in a bowl; add in some booze and you have an ideal anytime sip. This one pairs scotch with Chambord, cream, and Earl Grey syrup to make a lightly sweet drink that’s best enjoyed in front of a roaring fire but delicious any time of year.
Also check out this article 5 Mint Cocktails to Try Right Now
8. Dreamy Dorini Smoky Martini
This cocktail by bar pro Audrey Saunders of the late Pegu Club and other seminal cocktail bars is essentially an upgraded Smoky Martini. Saunders’ version is a riff on a Vodka Martini, replacing the usual dry vermouth with an Islay scotch whisky and adding a dash of Pernod. It’s a dreamy Martini variation, indeed.
Turn your usual Scotch Sour on its head with this inventive drink. Created by San Francisco bartender Marco Dionysos, it’s a nod to the Blood & Sand with notes of scotch, cherry Heering, and orange juice, plus a hint of the Bobby Burns combination of scotch and Benedictine. It’s all brought together with blood orange and lemon juices, then garnished with a brandied cherry and a flamed blood orange twist.
10. Sin Cyn
Simple yet sophisticated, this modern classic will take you from before-dinner drinks straight through your final nightcap. Just combine single malt scotch, Cynar amaro, and Carpano Antica Formula vermouth in equal parts to give the Negroni format a scotch spin.
11. Blood & Sand
This classic cocktail has been a mainstay since it was invented in 1930. Smooth scotch (be careful to choose one that’s not too smoky) and sweet vermouth get their blood color from Heering cherry liqueur; orange juice represents the sand. Shake it all together and then strain and garnish with an orange peel.
Also, check out this article French Connection Cocktail
12. Rob Roy
The Scottish folk hero was the inspiration for this drink, as well as the source of its name. The recipe itself is a nod to the classic Manhattan, with its sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, but here scotch replaces the traditional rye whiskey. Garnish with two speared brandied cherries for a timeless presentation.
It’s a cocktail you can’t refuse: This simple two-part combination of blended Scotch whisky and amaretto became an instant classic, just like the movie that inspired it, when it debuted in the 1970s.
Get the recipe.
14. The Modern
At one time, Scotch whisky and sloe gin were the trendiest ingredients around. Created by famed New York City bartender Charlie Mahoney in the first decade of the 20th century, The Modern employs both, alongside lemon juice, sugar, and dashes of absinthe and orange bitters. While its name might not exactly be timeless, the resulting drink certainly is.
Though it has only been around since the mid-2000s, this riff on the Gold Rush has become a true modern classic. Blended scotch forms the backbone for lemon juice and homemade honey-ginger syrup, all coming together when shaken with ice, strained, and then topped with Islay single malt scotch. Garnish with a piece of candied ginger to finish it all off.