“Whiskey is liquid sunshine.” – George Bernard Shaw

In honor of everyone’s favorite bold spirit, we’re clarifying any confusion surrounding this gentleman’s staple and have curated a list of some of our favorite whiskey cocktails.

What exactly is the difference between bourbon, rye, whiskey, and scotch??? First, we must understand how whiskey is made. Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from a fermented grain mash that’s typically aged in wooden casks. The difference between rye, bourbon, scotch, and whiskey comprises of a variety of factors, including what the mash is comprised of, how it’s distilled, what type of cask is used, and how long it is aged for. We know that’s a lot to take in, so we’ve included a quick cheat sheet below: 

Bourbon: Bourbon whiskey is made from a mash consisting of at least 51% corn, and can only be called bourbon if it is made in the United States. Bourbon can be no more than 62.5% alcohol when it is placed inside wooden casks to age. 

Rye: According to Liquor.com, “rye whiskey is made from at least 51% rye, while bourbon is made from at least 51% corn. The higher percentage of corn makes the bourbon sweeter and smoother. (You can easily taste the difference if you make one Manhattan with bourbon and another with rye.) Both spirits are also aged in new, charred, American-oak barrels.”

Whiskey vs. Whisky:  The Scots spell it ‘whisky’ and the Irish spell it ‘whiskey,’ with an extra 'e'. Scotch is technically whisky that has been distilled and matured in Scotland and is made from malted barley aged in oak barrels for three years or more. Scotch is known for its smokiness and is often touted as an ‘acquired taste,’ while Irish Whiskey is known for a smoother taste and is more commonly triple distilled

Now that you’re a whiskey expert, here are some of our favorite whiskey libations: 

Old Fashioned

Is there any more iconic staple than a perfectly made old-fashioned? It’s the cocktail version of comfort food and it’s a bonafide classic. The drink’s origins stem from the mid-1800s when it was simply known as a Whiskey Cocktail. The mixed drink was simply made of sugar, ice, and a lemon twist. The recipe still remains mostly the same, but with a dash of Angostura bitters to add depth and counteract the sugar. 

Recipe: 

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 ounces bourbon or Scotch Whiskey
  • Orange peel
  • Add the sugar, bitters, and water into a rocks glass, and stir until sugar is nearly dissolved.
  • Fill the glass with ice cubes, add the scotch whiskey or bourbon, and gently stir to combine.
  • Garnish with an orange peel.

Mint Julep 

This classic cocktail, which many tout as the unofficial drink of the South, brings visions of horses, big hats, and fancy gatherings. It was originally viewed as a primarily upper-class drink due to the silver or pewter cup it was always served in and it’s synonymous with the Kentucky Derby (it became the official drink of the event in 1938). The refreshing libation consists primarily of bourbon, sugar, water, crushed or shaved ice, and fresh mint, and even though it’s a must every September, we like to enjoy it all-year-round. 

Recipe: 

  • 1.3 oz Bourbon
  • .75 oz simple syrup or 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3-4 fresh mint leaves and a sprig of mint for garnish
  • Crushed ice (not cubed)
  • Bruise the mint leaves in the bottom of a julep cup with the sugar or simple syrup. Add crushed ice and half of the bourbon. Stir to chill the julep cup. Top with additional ice and the remaining bourbon and continue to stir until the outside of the cup begins to freeze. Garnish with the mint sprig.  

Irish Coffee

Rumored to be first created by Joe Sheridan in 1942, this hot beverage is the perfect pick me up on a chilly evening. The legend goes that Mr. Sheridan was a chef at Foynes Port, an airbase for transatlantic flights that was a stopover for longer flights to refuel. Due to weather conditions,  passengers would have to stay for the night and a restaurant was created to cater to these passengers, who were often Hollywood legends and politicians. One night, Mr. Sheridan wanted to create something for the cold, tired passengers, and the first Irish coffee was born. The perfect blend of rich coffee and smooth Irish whiskey, it’s a drink that combines two of our favorite vices: caffeine and whiskey. 

Recipe

  • 4-ounces of rich, fresh-brewed coffee 
  • 1.5-ounce ​Irish whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1-ounce heavy cream (lightly whipped)
  • Place the sugar into a warmed glass. Add the hot coffee and stir until dissolved. Add the Irish whiskey and stir again. Float the lightly whipped heavy cream on top by pouring it over the back of a spoon.

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