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

When John Walker, a young Victorian grocer in Kilmarnock, Scotland, first decided to blend and bottle local malts to ensure his customers a more consistent whisky, an enduring business model was born.

Today, his legacy has prevailed and the storied brand now offers a wide range of revered Scotches including Johnnie Walker Blue, Green, Red — and every bartender’s go-to — Black Label. For those unfamiliar, Johnnie Walker Black offers hints of white pepper and citrus on the nose, then transforms in the glass.

The liquid boasts a wide range of complex flavors, and when paired with the right ingredients, each flavor profile can be elevated. So whether you’re looking to build a cocktail with a spicy, fruity, or smoky backbone, look to versatile Johnnie Walker Black to reveal a new world of interesting cocktails.

This malleability is what has led the spirit to become every insider’s “go-to” and today, discovering new flavors is as easy as ordering your favorite drinks with Johnnie Walker Black Label. To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of classic cocktails you can find behind any bar,  each of which will reveal an artful riff when made with Johnnie Walker Black.

Keep It Simple.

Even if you’ve never heard of a highball, you’ve likely tasted one. Behind the bar, “highballs” are usually defined as simple cocktails made by combining a spirit with one non-alcoholic mixer. Garnishes are a great way to elevate these drinks — a lemon wedge will activate the flavors in a Whiskey and Soda, while a lime squeeze will brighten up a Whiskey and Coke — but more than anything, you’ll need a quality spirit to produce the perfect highball.

Acid from citrus will always provide a burst of unexpected flavor, but another hack is to order your classic Whiskey and Ginger Ale with ginger beer. Since ginger beer has a spicier taste than ginger ale, the ginger will play off the peppery notes in Johnnie Walker Black Label and take the drink up a notch. Adding lime to this combination not only gives it all the more flavor, but also transforms it into the easily recognizable Kentucky Whiskey Mule (another popular highball).

Kentucky Whisky Mule

Ingredients

● 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
● ½ ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
● Ginger beer, to top
● Mint sprig, for garnish

Directions

1. Add Scotch and lime juice to a copper mug or highball glass.
2. Fill the mug or glass with ice and top with ginger beer.
3. Garnish with the mint sprig.

Experiment With Your Favorite Cocktails.

For those who have tasted an Añejo Old Fashioned or learned what a rich, golden tequila can do to your Margarita, this Scotch solution may just change your world view. The toffee candy and glazed pecan notes in Johnnie Walker Black label will play off the Margarita’s classic combination of triple sec, simple syrup, and lime to further elevate these flavors and create a refreshing drink you’ll want to mix year round.

More than anything, this riff on the classic shows just how varied Johnnie Walker Black Label remains and will convert even the most dedicated tequila lover to team Scotch. Pro Tip: To really wield the Scotch’s candied notes to their full potential, add a float of orange-flavored liqueur right before serving.

Whisky Margarita

Ingredients

● 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
● Juice of 1 lime
● 1 ounce triple sec
● 3 ounces sweet and sour mix
● Salt, for rim
● Lime, for garnish

Directions

1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add whisky, lime juice, sweet & sour mix, and triple sec.
2. Shake until combined.
3. Pour, with the ice, into a highball or footed glass (if salting the rim, do this first).
4. Garnish with the lime wedge.

Do a Twist.

Another classic cocktail with a base that should be swapped for whisky is the Lemon Drop. Its recipe will stay roughly the same, but instead of using vodka, mix Johnnie Walker Black Label with lemon juice, an orange liqueur such as triple sec, and store-bought (or homemade!) sweet and sour to create your Lemon Drop. The Scotch’s burnt sugar notes will play off the cocktail’s usual flavors and complement a sugar rim for a truly delicious sip.

Lemon Drop

Ingredients

● 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
● ½ ounce triple sec
● 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
● 1 ounce simple syrup
● Sugar, for rim

Directions

1. Coat the rim of a cocktail glass with sugar and set aside (do this a few minutes ahead so the sugar can dry and adhere well to the glass).
2. Add Scotch, triple sec, lemon juice, and simple syrup to a shaker.
3. Shake until well chilled.
4. Strain into the prepared glass.

G&T? Meet the Scotch & Tonic.

The Gin and Tonic may just be the world’s most famous highball –– but that doesn’t mean there’s not still room for improvement. Try switching out the gin for Johnnie Walker Black Label to discover how the spirit’s signature smokiness and dark fruit notes can play off tonic water.

In truth, the success of every Gin and Tonic lies in the gin’s varied botanicals — meaning the cocktail is the perfect medium for fully tasting through everything Johnnie Walker Black has to offer. If you’re feeling adventurous, try using different flavored tonic waters to bring out different flavors in the spirit. For example, you may find a ginger- or vanilla- flavored tonic brings out caramel or honeyed notes while a tonic with a twist of lime may activate the spirit’s smokier flavors.

Whisky Tonic

Ingredients

● 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
● 4 ounces tonic water
● 2 lime wheels, for garnish

Directions

1. Fill a highball glass with ice
2. Add Scotch.
3. Top with tonic water and gently stir until combined.
4. Garnish with lime wheels.

Pack a Punch.

When it comes time to batch party-perfect cocktails, try replacing the rum in a rum punch with Johnnie Walker Black Label. The liquid’s vanilla and soft grape notes will play off the punch’s fruit juices while also lending honeyed hints of dried fruits. Mix the Scotch, some of your favorite juices ( think orange juice, pineapple juice, mango juice, guava juice, and strawberry juice) plus lime juice and Grenadine, and kick back and sip your new favorite serve: Whisky Punch.

Whisky Punch

Ingredients

● 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
● 1 ounce pineapple juice
● 1 ounce orange juice
● 1 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
● ½ ounce Grenadine
● Brandied or Maraschino cherry and orange wedge, for garnish

Directions

1. Add Johnnie Walker Black Label, pineapple, orange, and lime juice plus Grenadine into a shaker with ice.
2. Shake until well chilled.
3. Strain into a Hurricane glass over fresh ice.
4. Garnish with a brandied or Maraschino cherry and an orange wedge.

This article is sponsored by Johnnie Walker.