The year 2022 is here, so cue up the deep and lengthy exhale. Yeah, we’re still operating in a brave new world but there’s optimism bubbling to the surface of our collective glass. The holidays, while special, bring on their own singular stresses and hangovers. And guess what? They’re behind us now.

Gone are the fourth servings of turkey, the oversized slice of pie, the eggnog in place of milk for your morning coffee. Farewell, advent calendar made of chocolate, Christmas cookies from the neighbors, and decadent mixed drinks like White Russians. We don’t blame you for capitalizing on the context of the most gluttonous season of the year. We’re all entitled to a bit of it, perhaps now more than ever. But while we recalibrate and recenter ourselves to take on a new revolution around the sun, we should do the same with our palates.

That translates to a drinks program that steps away from the candy-sweet and creamy and embraces both the bitter side of the spectrum and the spirit itself. Call it what you want — an affront to the holiday sugar rush, an about-face to your sweet tooth, a classy way to avoid increased dental bills. Whatever it goes by, the move is a much-needed one that will reactivate the taste buds we’ve neglected as of late. Hibernation comes naturally this time of year but it’s wakeup time for our palates — a fresh start made of lively cocktail flavors to toast a still-yawning year.

A good Scotch is perhaps the best spirit to guide you toward the bitter, earthy, and savory realm of the anti-holiday cocktail. Johnnie Walker Black Label is a safe pick for the task with its balanced build. The spirit’s smoky side is the perfect contrast to winter’s nip while the pie fruit and mild spice flavors welcome complementary ingredients like tea and fresh citrus.

Sunny Day in Kilmarnock

This cocktail grabs citrus season by the nape, taking advantage of the bitter punch of grapefruit alongside the kick of ginger. Playing moderator is the Scotch, adding some baking spice flavors that fuse together all sides evenly and enjoyably.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 1 ounce grapefruit juice
  • 2 ounces ginger ale
  • 1 dash gitters
  • Grapefruit wedge for garnish

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a shaker with ice.
  2. Garnish with a grapefruit slice.

Scottish Earl Grey

Earl Grey tea’s principle flavor, bergamot, works wonders with Scotch and lemon. The cocktail goes next-level with an easy-to-prepare syrup that doesn’t add sweetness so much as a zap of warmth and some welcome floral notes.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black
  • ½ ounce Earl Grey simple syrup*
  • 2 dashes Earl Grey bitters
  • 1 dash lemon bitters
  • Lemon or orange peel for garnish

*Earl Grey simple syrup: Brew 2-3 bags of Earl Grey tea in 1 cup of hot water. After removing the tea bags, add 1 cup of sugar and shake or stir until the sugar is dissolved. Store in a clean glass jar in the fridge.

Directions

  1. Combine Johnnie Walker Black Label, syrup, and lemon bitters in a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with ice.
  4. Garnish with citrus.

Scotch Negroni

The Negroni is an ever-trending drink with all kinds of riffs and adaptations. This version blends the earthiness of the Scotch with the zestiness of Italian bitters apéritif and some bittersweet goodness only chocolate can provide.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 ounce Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 1/4 ounce Italian bitters apéritif
  • 1/4 ounce white vermouth
  • 5 dashes chocolate bitters
  • 4 orange zests

Directions

  1. Squeeze 2 orange zests in a rocks glass, spraying the surface evenly, and put glasses in the freezer.
  2. Add Scotch, vermouth, Italian bitters apéritif, and chocolate bitters to the shaker.
  3. Fill the shaker up to the top with ice cubes and stir for approximately 45 seconds until an ice layer forms on the outside of the glass.
  4. Take the glasses out of the freezer, fill them with ice cubes, and strain in the cocktail through a sieve.
  5. Squeeze orange zest with the peel facing the drink to release the essential oils.
  6. Garnish with a strip of zest.

Morning Glory Fizz

Here, we throw in the herbaceousness of absinthe to the mix, giving you a hint of spring as we finish out winter. The egg white marries the many flavors at play, the seltzer adds some texture, and the Scotch remains at the fore — where it belongs.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 ounces cold seltzer
  • 4 dashes absinthe

Directions

  1. Add Scotch, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Absinthe to a shaker and add egg white.
  2. Seal and shake for 5 seconds.
  3. Open shaker, add ice, and seal again.
  4. Add half the seltzer to a glass.
  5. Shake the cocktail for another 10 seconds and double-strain into a rocks glass.
  6. Top with remaining seltzer.

Penicillin

The Penicillin became an instant classic when it was devised almost two decades ago — and it remains a wonder in the glass. If you’re feeling the bitter theme, consider halving either the liqueur or syrup additions (or adjusting your syrup ratio to taste).

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ ounces Johnnie Walker Black Label
  • ½ ounce ginger liqueur
  • ¾ ounce honey syrup (1:1 water to honey)
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters

Directions

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add Scotch, liqueur, honey syrup, and bitters.
  2. Shake hard for 5-7 seconds.
  3. Strain and serve into a tumbler with fresh ice.

This article is sponsored by Johnnie Walker.