Enjoying good whiskey is not restricted to any one time of the year, but there’s something about the colder months that make a whiskey cocktail sound all the more satisfying. Whether you’re looking for a warm cocktail to enjoy outside by a fire, or just a simple, spirit-forward nightcap to sip at home on the couch, reaching for a quality bottle of whiskey seems like the natural choice.
You also don’t need to learn a bunch of new techniques or purchase unnecessary bar equipment to take your winter cocktail game up a few notches. Instead of grabbing your usual go-to bottle of bourbon or blended whiskey, consider using a single malt whiskey for crafting a more elevated cocktail. Single malt whiskies are the product of a single distillery versus many other less expensive whiskey options that may contain liquid produced from multiple distilleries, which are blended together. Single malt whiskies are typically enjoyed on their own, given their higher price tag and more complex flavor profiles, but they actually make for exciting experimentation for well-thought-out cocktails. For comparison, think about cooking with inexpensive vegetable oil versus an extra virgin olive oil — it may feel more indulgent, but the difference in cost is easily justified once you experience the difference in depth and flavor.
Many single malt whiskies possess various flavors and aromas that pair especially well with fall and winter ingredients — like apple cider, orange zest or dried fruit, brown sugar, and all manner of baking spices. Of course, each single malt has its own taste profile, and it’s certainly worth taking the time to first enjoy and appreciate a single malt whiskey on its own before mixing it with other ingredients. When it comes to making cocktails with single malts, try using the whiskey’s flavor profile to inform your recipe by selecting ingredients that complement or enhance the whiskey’s existing tasting notes. No need to get too complicated, either. For example, many single malts have subtle spice flavors, so consider using a spice-infused syrup, or bitters, to further emphasize those flavors.
Here are three different cocktails, all using different single malt whiskies as their base spirit, to help get you started.
This first cocktail features Bushmills Single Malt 10 Year Irish Whiskey. Bushmills Irish Whiskey is made at the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery, which also has the most awarded single malt portfolio in Ireland. Its whiskey is crafted in small batches, and is triple-distilled from 100 percent malted barley in copper pot stills. With over 400 years of whiskey-making experience, Bushmills is renowned for its incredible level of craftsmanship and expertise.
Its Single Malt 10 Year Irish Whiskey has a subtly fruity, almost banana-like aroma, with honey-sweetness on the palate, along with notes of chocolate and cinnamon. This lighter, shaken cocktail recipe was built around Bushmills 10 Year’s specific taste profile using cinnamon syrup, a few dashes of cacao bitters, and freshly grated nutmeg, to further punctuate those specific characteristics of the whiskey.
“North Coast Holiday”
- 1½ ounces Bushmills 10 Year
- ¾ ounce fresh lemon
- ¾ ounce cinnamon syrup
- 2 dashes cacao bitters
- 2 dashes aromatic bitters
- Lemon twist and fresh grated nutmeg
- Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
- Add ice and shake.
- Fine strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
- Garnish with a lemon twist and freshly grated nutmeg.
- Combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a pan and heat on low.
- Gently stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add 5-6 whole cinnamon sticks to the pan and lightly simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool.
- Add to a resealable container and store in the refrigerator for up to 14 days.
Our next cocktail highlights Stranahan’s Colorado Original Single Malt Whiskey. Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey was born from a barn fire. Volunteer firefighter Jess Graber responded to a nearby fire at the property of a local brewer, George Stranahan. The two ended up discovering a shared passion for quality whiskey and ended up founding what many consider to be the first craft whiskey distillery in the U.S. Stranahan’s produces its whiskey “from barley to bottle,” ensuring quality in every step of the whiskey-making process. The brand states that it only use four ingredients in its whiskey: 100 percent malted barley, yeast, Rocky Mountain water, and time in the barrel.
Stranahan’s Original Single Malt Whiskey has a strong and rich aroma of spices and roasted nuts. On the palate you’ll notice flavors of caramel, maple syrup, dried citrus, and a hint of smoke. This single malt is perfect for a warm wintertime beverage like this Hot Apple Toddy. You’ll find that fresh apple cider and tannic Chamomile tea syrup complement this whiskey’s taste profile especially well.
“Hot Apple Toddy”
- 1½ ounces Stranahan’s Original
- ¾ ounce apple cider
- ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
- ½ ounce Chamomile tea syrup
- Hot water
- Cloves and lemon wheel garnish
- Fill a mug with hot water and let stand for a minute to heat the vessel.
- Empty the glass.
- Add a fresh 3 ounces of hot water.
- Add the Chamomile tea syrup and gently stir.
- Add whiskey, lemon juice, and allspice dram and stir again.
- Garnish with lemon wheel and cloves.
Chamomile Tea Syrup:
- Boil one cup of water then pour into a tempered measuring cup.
- Place 2-3 Chamomile tea bags in the hot water to steep.
- Once steeped, remove the tea bags and add 1 cup of sugar.
- Stir until sugar is completely dissolved in the tea concentrate.
- Wait until fully cooled, then add to a resealable container and store in the refrigerator for up to 14 days.
The third and final cocktail features The Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey. Inspired by the long tradition of whiskey-making in Ireland, as well as more modern-day aging techniques, The Sexton represents both tradition and innovation. It’s aged only four years, which is unexpectedly young in the world of single malt whiskey. However, The Sexton uses ex-Oloroso sherry butts for maturing its whiskey, which imparts a rich character and depth of flavor normally not found in whiskey of this age.
On the nose, you’ll notice both toasted grain and fresh citrus. With flavors of rich, dried fruit and subtle oak, The Sexton makes an incredibly balanced and enjoyable single malt that’s perfect for a spirit-forward nightcap like the Stovepipe Hat. The Sexton’s sweet and fruity profile is nicely complemented by the dry nuttiness of amontillado sherry in this cocktail. It’s balanced with a touch of simple syrup and seasoned with Blackstrap bitters to bring out notes of varying baking spices, making this the perfect evening libation to enjoy by the fireplace on a cold, winter evening.
- 1½ ounces Sexton Single Malt Irish Whiskey
- ¾ ounce amontillado sherry
- 1 teaspoon rich simple syrup
- 3 dashes Blackstrap bitters
- Orange twist
- Combine ingredients in a mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir until chilled.
- Strain into a Nick & Nora glass.
- Garnish with an orange twist.
You have a single life. Drink a single malt. Click below to bring The Sexton home.