Some “international days” are far more important than others: Donut Day, which falls on the first first Friday of June and again on Nov. 5; Pie Day, which, contrary to popular belief, is Jan. 23, not March 14; and, of course, International Scotch Day on Feb. 8. In Scotland, whisky dates back over 500 years when monks were distilling “aqua vitae” or “usquabae” — the “water of life.” Today, Johnnie Walker is the most widely distributed blended Scotch whisky in the world and can trace its origins to grocer John Walker, who entered the whisky business in the early 1800s.

By the mid-1800s, Johnnie Walker had quickly expanded and introduced several expressions of whisky in the first decade of the 20th century, including the earliest version of the 12-year blended Scotch now known as Johnnie Walker Black Label. Today, Johnnie Walker Black Label is still aged a minimum of 12 years and is a carefully crafted blend of over 40 different single malt and grain whiskies from distilleries around the country. In this aromatic Scotch, you’ll get hints of honey, apricot, heather, and just a touch of smoke and brine.

While it’s perfectly acceptable to celebrate the day with a dram of whisky poured neat or over ice, remember that Johnnie Walker Black Label works beautifully in cocktails. No matter if you’re celebrating with friends (whether for International Scotch Day, a big game day, or simply a casual get-together), you can create a wide variety of mixed drinks that will appeal to most any palate, and you may even create a new whisky fan or two.

Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is possibly the oldest mixed drink we still enjoy today that fits the technical definition of a cocktail (spirit, sweetener, citrus, water). Though originally likely made with Cognac or rum and most popularly with bourbon, blended Scotch whisky is a great option. The spirit really shines through and the nuances of ripe stone fruit, smoke, and oak can be savored. This cocktail is perfect as an after-work drink before dinner, or while socializing among friends.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 2-3 dashes aromatic bitters (we suggest traditional, grapefruit here)
  • 1 sugar cube*
  • Grapefruit peel (about 2 or 3 inches)

Directions:

  1. Place sugar cube in an Old Fashioned glass.
  2. Dash with bitters and muddle till mixed (you can also add a small splash of water here).
  3. Add 2 or 3 ice cubes (or 1 large one) and whisky, stir lightly to blend and chill.
  4. Squeeze grapefruit peel to express oils over the drink and add as garnish.

*Consider playing with the sweetener: use a Demerara (brown sugar) cube, or a rich honey syrup instead.

Johnnie Collins

A riff on the classic Jock (or Sandy) Collins, this is the sort of refreshing sipper that can move effortlessly from poolside to dinner table. It’s been described as a sparkling lemonade with spirit, and is a great introduction for people new to the world of blended Scotch whiskies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla honey syrup*
  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 3 ounces club soda (to top)

Directions:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine ice, honey syrup, and Scotch.
  2. Shake well and strain into a Collins or highball glass filled with fresh ice.
  3. Top with club soda and stir gently.
  4. Garnish with fresh lavender sprigs or a Maraschino cherry and orange.

*For the vanilla honey syrup, combine 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 warm or hot water. Add 3 drops of real vanilla extract. Stir until blended and cool.

Johnnie & Hibiscus

Floral cordials and sodas work particularly well with Black Label, with its hints of vanilla, honey, and heather. Hibiscus has become increasingly popular in the past year or two as a mixer and flavoring in both food and drink. The result is a highball that’s deeper and more engaging than a simple Scotch & Soda, perfect for a backyard barbecue or grilling party in honor of the Scotch holiday. It pairs well with meats, smoky cheeses, and grilled fruit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 1 ounce hibiscus cordial, syrup or soda*
  • 3 ounces club soda (to top)

Directions:

  1. In a shaker, combine whisky and hibiscus (unless it’s a soda) with ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a highball glass filled with ice.
  3. Top with club soda or hibiscus soda and stir lightly.
  4. Garnish with a blood orange slice.

*If using hibiscus soda, build the entire cocktail in the highball glass rather than in a shaker. You can also brew hibiscus tea and combine it with honey or orgeat syrup, stir till dissolved, and bring to room temperature.

Rusty Nail

Considered by some to be the sine qua non of blended Scotch whisky cocktails, it’s also a classic après-ski drink by the fire if you’re slope-side on International Scotch Day this year. This one dates from the mid-20th century and was popular with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and the rest of the swingin’ Rat Pack. The combination of sweet and smoky pairs beautifully with Nat King Cole records and snowy nights.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • ½ ounce Scotch-based liqueur
  • 2-3 dashes aromatic bitters

Directions:

  1. Fill an Old Fashioned or rocks glass with ice.
  2. Add whisky and liqueur, stir to blend and chill, and dash with bitters.
  3. Garnish with a lemon wedge or slice.

This article is sponsored by Johnnie Walker.