9 Cocktail Styles That Scotch Improves

This article is part of a series, Art of the Riff, sponsored by Johnnie Walker. Discover more about Scotch cocktails here!

Still convinced that a good Scotch can’t, or shouldn’t, be mixed into cocktails? It’s time to rethink your boundaries. Live a little — grab a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label and start experimenting.

Blended from single-malt Scotch whiskys sourced from the four corners of Scotland, Johnnie Walker Black Label is crafted to be as diverse as the people who drink it. This dynamic Scotch can wield a variety of different flavors and flux from sweet to spicy to smoky depending on the ingredients you use. Today, it’s become a fan favorite, as the Scotch is just as enjoyable whether it’s poured into a glass neat, on the rocks, or served shaken or stirred in cocktails.

And while it’s true that classic cocktails will never go out of style, there’s no reason why you can’t shake them up a bit. To test just how versatile the spirit really is, try ordering it in any classic drink to discover what flavors reveal themselves. In truth, you may find that every pour of Johnnie Walker Black Label unveils something even more exciting, so read on for our guide to putting a twist on your usual pours.

Sweet, sour, spicy, and savory — there’s nary a cocktail profile that can’t be improved by adding Johnnie Walker Black Label. Don’t believe us? Here are nine cocktail profiles that reach their maximum potential when made with Scotch.


Loyal Scotch drinkers know sipping a good Scotch whisky can be an outright decadent experience. However, adding a splash of Scotch will impart a little extra style and oomph to chocolate-forward drinks. In particular, fruity and spicy Scotches like Johnnie Walker Black Label make dark chocolate profiles sing. Feeling extra experimental? Push the boundaries a little further by adding a dash of orange to really bring out the Scotch’s sweet smokiness.


It’s hard to go wrong when it comes to improving a sweet cocktail with Johnnie Walker Black. The blended Scotch’s soft apple and toffee notes harmonize with the sweetness of the drink, while its inherent spiciness and smokiness add depth and balance. Next time you’re whipping up — or ordering — a dessert cocktail, consider subbing a pour of Johnnie Walker Black Label for the drink’s usual Cognac, bourbon, or brandy component.


Looking for a way to really brighten up sour drinks without causing your face to pucker? Sour mixed drinks, particularly those with a fresh citrus component as their base, instantly gain a new dimension with the addition of Scotch. Consider the smokiness of a good mezcal Margarita or the punch of a Paloma — but with the citrus flavors supported by the slightly sweet, caramelized, and smoky notes of a blended Scotch instead. Johnnie Walker Black Label is a great way to soften some of the natural astringency of a sour cocktail without taking away any brightness.


It’s time to reevaluate the reflexive practice of grabbing a bottle of whiskey, bourbon, or brandy to use in popular warm-profiled drinks. Sure, they work just fine, but beautifully blended Scotch whiskies like Johnnie Walker Black Label make for a much more interesting and complex cocktail. The Scotch’s creamy vanilla and butterscotch notes offer a familiar complement to traditional warming spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger. However, with Johnnie Walker Black Label, most of the sweetness — toffee candy and candied pecans — comes through on the nose instead of the spirit itself. Plus, the peaty smoke finish of the Scotch will add even more depth to the drink.


Spicy may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a Scotch cocktail, but sometimes the road less taken ends up making all the difference. Chilis, peppers, and jalapeños are no problem for diverse Scotches like Johnnie Walker Black Label. This Scotch whisky will tackle the heat head on, tame it, and dress it up with a hint of smokiness. Reinvent your next spicy Jalapeño Margarita, Serrano, and Lime Daiquiri, or hibiscus-habanero mixed drink.


Already perfect when sipped neat or on ice, Johnnie Walker Black Label is a natural fit when it comes to improving any booze-forward (often called “hot”) drink. The trick here is to pair it with simple drink components that enhance the balanced flavors of the Scotch and make them shine even brighter; think bitters, dry vermouth, and simple fruit garnishes. With that in mind, riffs on classic cocktails work best — your Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and Sazeracs. After all, is there any better complement to a classic cocktail than a classic Scotch?


Walking a straight line is never as fun as taking a detour — and Johnnie Walker Black Label knows sometimes you’ve got to play into your nuttier side. Pump up the personality of nutty drinks like Amaretto Sours and Hazelnut Martinis with the sweet and smoky nose and warming spice notes of Johnnie Walker Black Label. The Scotch will also add a swift kick to sweet and nutty after-dinner drinks such as a Frangelico on ice or black coffee.


Anyone who subscribes to the common misconception that Scotch doesn’t work in low-ABV (or “light”) drinks is missing out. Truly well-balanced, blended Scotch whiskies are an excellent component in fruity low-ABV punches, effervescent summer cocktails with fresh citrus slices, and pitchers of party-friendly drinks. Concerned the smokiness of the Scotch may ruin your long-haul vibe? Don’t be. The same smokiness can easily be toned down to a sessionable level by simply lengthening the drink — which will also keep it light.


Once you start using Scotch in your umami drinks, you may never go back. For starters, the smoke finish that rounds out Johnnie Walker Black Label is the perfect way to add complexity to an existing umami profile without adding weight — no easy feat. At the same time, the Scotch’s dark fruit and vanilla notes will add delicate sweet tones and even more dimension to the drink. Try it out by mixing up a Bloody Scotsman: Swap out the vodka in your next Bloody Mary for Johnnie Walker Black Label — it just might become your newest obsession.

This article is sponsored by Johnnie Walker.