There’s a pretty low threshold for the requirement of quality whiskey when it comes to cocktails. I mean, don’t use crap whiskey just because it’s cheap. At the same time, don’t use top-shelf whiskey in a cocktail. If you feel the need to mix a top shelf whiskey so that it’s palatable to you, you’re overpaying for your drink and you probably should look for something that meets your taste requirements at a lower cost.
That said, there are some whiskeys I wouldn’t ever drink straight but work great in a cocktail. You get that nice, oaky taste in your drink for less cost and without the bad parts of the cheap whiskeys. Being that it’s a nice, hot summer day, I decided to go with some fresh and crisp cocktails. Flavors like apple, lemon, ginger, and marionberry are all fairly seasonal and pair great with oak.
(Specs) Age N/A| 30% or 60 proof | 750 ML $24.95
(Distiller) Eastside Distillery, Portland, OR
(Notes) Marionberry is a type of blackberry native to Oregon. In my opinion, it tastes the exact same as other blackberries. I like them though, and they go great in a cocktail. The marionberry whiskey doesn’t really hold any whiskey taste. At 30% ABV, it might as well be a liqueur that got some time in oak at some point. Not that I don’t like it, it’s nice. It’s just not much of a whiskey.
The Marion Collins
2 oz marionberry whiskey
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
Mix all ingredients into a shaker. Shake, then strain into a glass.
This cocktail was well-received, but it was missing something. We all felt that some lemon to balance out the sweetness helped. I probably wouldn’t go through the effort of making it again as a single cocktail. We all decided this would be a great drink if you were up for buying 2 bottles and putting it in a pitcher to share.
(Specs) Age N/A| 35% or 70 proof | 750 ML $17.95
(Distiller) Beam Suntory Inc., Chicago, IL
(Notes) Jim beam apple is so sweet it makes Betty White look bitter. We had one member who enjoys mimosas at brunch tell us that she loved it, but the rest of us didn’t care much for it by itself. It’s labeled as ‘apple whiskey’, and it definitely is. Sweet, green apples and that peanut-oak flavor you expect from Jim Beam whiskey is about all we could pick out.
3 oz apple bourbon whiskey
4 mint leaves
2 oz apple cider
Put the whiskey and cider into a shaker. Shake thoroughly and strain over ice in a Moscow mule mug. Muddle mint leaves with the heel of your palm to express the oils in the mint and add to the drink. Finally, top off with ginger beer.
This cocktail was great. The one thing a couple people disagreed about was the ratio of ginger beer to the rest of the cocktail. Some liked a little more and some liked a little less. My recommendation, if you’re going to serve this one, is to just give the bottle to whomever you shake the drink for and let them decide how much ginger they want in the drink.
(Specs) Age N/A| 35% or 70 proof | 750 ML $19.95
(Distiller) Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Lynchburg, TN
(Notes) I’m not a huge fan of Jack Daniel’s or overly sweet flavored whiskeys. This one is an exception because it holds more of the honey flavor without all the honey sweetness. It’s a surprisingly good compliment to the charcoal-filtered whiskey and very well-balanced.
1.5 parts jack daniel’s honey whiskey
6 parts lemonade
The synopsis – meh.
I didn’t manage to snap a picture of this one, and it’s not technically a cocktail since it only has 2 ingredients, that makes it a mixer. This is the recipe on the Jack Daniel’s website, and it’s just alright. It seems like a really good start, but there’s definitely something missing here. If you decide to try it, get creative with something to balance out the sweetness and acidity of the lemonade.
(Specs) Age N/A| 35% or 70 proof | 750 ML $22.95
(Distiller) George A. Dickel & Co., Tullahoma, TN
(Notes) This was by far the most surprising and polarizing of our tastings today. I’m not a fan at all of George Dickel whiskey, but this was delicious. From what I understand, George Dickel takes barrels that have had Tabasco brand peppercorn in them and then puts their whiskey in the barrels for a couple days after its normal process. This causes the liquor to absorb the flavor of the peppercorn creating a savory, not overly-spicy taste. It’s like a premixed bloody Mary without the nasty vodka and overpowering tomatoes. The split between people who loved it or hated it was about 50/50.
Celery Dickel Cooler
1 muddled celery stalk
1.5 oz Hot Dickel
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
Put the whiskey in the shaker and then squeeze about half a lemon over the top of it. Shake well, and strain into a glass over ice. Muddle a celery stalk between the heels of your palms to express the oils in the celery and place the muddled end into the drink. Stir a bit with the celery and enjoy.
While the whiskey itself was hit or miss for some people, this cocktail was the big success story for our meet. It was a great blend of sweet, sour, spicy, and savory. It was perfect for a hot day and exotic enough to impress everyone. This is a drink I will continue to make during the summer when I host some friends with a game of horseshoes in my back yard.
For the Foodies
I decided the best thing to go with whiskey-based cocktails is smoked pork. I smoked this one over bourbon-barrel wood chips and added a can of 10 Barrel’s Pray For Snow beer to the water basin. A little trick for those of you who care, if you go past the ‘done’ point when you’re smoking pork (145 degrees Fahrenheit) and make it closer to 185, you’ll start to melt the collagen. This makes for the most moist, tender pork you’ll ever eat.