Regardless of your predilections, there is always a time and place for whiskey cocktails. We caught up with eight New York City bartenders to learn which drinks reign above all others, and which you should order the next time you’re out.
“I love an Old fashioned as a pure expression of whiskey in a cocktail. A little bit of bitters and sugar to round it out, served over a large cube of ice. You can still taste the nuance of the base spirit, also the cocktail changes so much over time.” — Jesse Vida, bar manager at BlackTail
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“Bourbon’s reply to the Negroni’s call, the Boulevardier, is easily one of my favorite whiskey cocktails. In this classic, bourbon’s replacement of gin brings a touch of warmth and depth to the familiar Negroni. Notes of oak, vanilla, toasted nuts and caramel dance with the bitter nuances of Campari and the richness of vermouth, which makes for an indulging drinking experience.” — Josh Campbell, bartender at Leyenda and The NoMad
“My favorite whiskey drink is a drink called Black Rose (aromatic bitters, cane syrup, walnut liqueur, Curaçao, and Tullamore Dew infused with Earl Grey tea). We had it on the 3rd edition menu and it was one of my first drinks I created for Dead Rabbit. Call me sentimental, eh? It’s not on our menu anymore, but we keep it around for those old-fashioned drinkers that want to try something a bit different and hopefully get them on board with Irish whiskey cocktails.” — Jillian Vose, beverage director at The Dead Rabbit
“The Quilty is essentially a take on a Manhattan, which is my go-to, all-time favorite cocktail. It contains some of my favorite ingredients, including amontillado sherry, mezcal, Islay Scotch, bourbon, and coffee liqueur. The flavor is reminiscent of coffee and cigarettes, a combination of which, as a smoker, I used to be quite fond. The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Frank Langella’s performance in Adrian Lynne’s “Lolita,” in which Langella, as Quilty, eats a cigarette.” — Jim Kearns, beverage director and partner at Slowly Shirley
“My favorite whiskey drink would have to a Boulevardier, cousin to the Negroni. Swap the gin for whiskey. It’s bittersweet from the Campari and sweet vermouth. Adding rye makes it round and rich. It’s the perfect cocktail for the colder months!” — Jenny Castillo, head bartender at Empire Diner
“A proper Vieux Carre cocktail is part of my essential drinking regimen this time of year; it combines two of my faves: whiskey and Cognac. The cocktail was created in the famed Carousel Bar in New Orleans by the bartender Walter Bergeron sometime in the 1930s, a true classic cocktail that when made properly can evoke pure decadence.” — Kenneth McCoy, chief creative officer at Public House Collective
“The Triumph (1.5 oz Elijah Craig Bourbon, 0.5 oz Pedro Ximenez Sherry, 2 dashes of Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters). The chocolate bitters accentuate the sweet, nutty, and fruity quality of Pedro Ximenez, whereas the Elijah Craig has spiciness which is tamed by the other spirits. This three-ingredient cocktail is very balanced and has many layers without being too spirit-forward. The cocktail can be enjoyed by bourbon lovers, chocolate lovers, and sherry enthusiasts without any components overpowered by the other flavors.” — Young Kim, beverage director at Flatiron Room
“The Old Barrel made with Angostura, 1/2 ounce Benedictine, 1/2 ounce amontillado, and 2 ounces of rye. Stir and serve on large rock with an orange twist garnish. You can’t beat the combination of sherry and brown liquor, especially when the sherry is dry and oxidized and the liquor is American whiskey. This is one of those drinks that I’ll never forget having for the first time. — Thomas Spaeth, bartender at Dear Irving