5 Great Whisky Cocktails to Pair with Cigars – Part 2

During covid I was bored. So I watched a lot of television and a lot of old episodes of Bar Rescue, where ‘the Gordon Ramsey of the bar industry’, Jon Taffer rescues failing bars. A concept that Gordon Ramsey also uses in Kitchen Nightmares and I remember watching Hotel Impossible many moons ago where failing hotels were rescued by a hotel expert. But Kitchen Nightmares and Hotel Impossible aside, while watching Bar Rescue I noticed they created cocktails in every episode. That looked delicious and fun to do, so I got myself a cocktail kit and started experimenting. It quickly became a hobby and I love making cocktails for my wife and my friends.

But there is a downside to becoming a amateur mixologist. Most cocktails at bars are not up to my standards anymore as I know how to improve them, and taste when they use poor quality ingredients such as commercial bottled juices instead of freshly squeezed juice. Plus the liquor cabinet explodes, as you will need ingredients that you don’t use often but those bottles (like absinth, Chartreuse, bitters and other liqueurs) take up a lot of space.

Often people ask me “what is your favourite cocktail” or “what is the best cocktail to pair with a cigar”. These questions seem similar but aren’t. Some of my favourite cocktails are citrus forward and citrus forward cocktails are hard to pair with cigars. I also like the Miami Vice, but it’s not a cocktail I will recommend here as it’s quite some work. Plus it’s also a personal taste thing. I am not a fan of spirit forward cocktails, where all of the ingredients are spirits. So don’t expect me to answer Martini, Negroni, Manhattan of something similar while there are others who swear by a negroni with their cigar.

So here are 5 more recommendations of whisky based cocktails to try with a cigar. Recommendations are in random order by the way. Let us know in the comments what your favourite whisky based cocktail is from this list or if you have any recommendations for me to try.

Kentucky Buck

Now this is an interesting cocktail as it involves fresh fruit, a strawberry to be exact. It is a modern classic, created in 2008 by bartender Erick Castro while he was creating a spring cocktail menu for the Bourbon & Branch cocktail bar in San Francisco. According to Castro, he was inspired to make this cocktail for two reasons, the lack of bourbon cocktails in classic cocktail books and the quality of the strawberries he was tasting in San Francisco. It took him months to create the right recipe but if you ask me, it was worth the wait.

On the nose this cocktail gives you ginger and strawberry with a little spice. The cocktail tastes fresh, sweet and tart with some ginger spiciness. It is refreshing and balanced, complex yet very approachable. There is all around sweetness with lemon and an undertone of strawberry. Usually, I say that citrus forward cocktails aren’t a good match with cigars, but the balance in this cocktail makes the lemon no problem at all. I bet any cigar will be good with this cocktail, from a sweet and mild Connecticut to a strong and full-bodied peppery cigar. This cocktail uses the same spirit, yet it so different from the old fashioned. This is a summer cocktail for sure, unlike the winter cocktail.

And now for the Kentucky Buck Recipe:

1 chopped and muddled strawberry
1 ounce or 30ml of lemon juice
½ ounce of 15ml of simple syrup
2 ounces of 60ml of whisky
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 ounces or 60ml ginger beer
Garnish: strawberry
Add strawberry, lime juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker and softly muddle. Add the whisky, 2 dashes bitters, and ice. Shake and strain into a tall glass filled with ice leaving some room to top off with ginger beer. Garnish with a strawberry before serving.

Lynchburg Lemonade

Named after the town where Jack Daniels is distilled. But when Jack Daniels posted the recipe on its website, the barkeeper that invented the cocktail, Tony Mason, sued Jack Daniels claiming $13 million. The judge ruled in his favour but didn’t award him a dime. Mason appealed and lost the appeal. That only makes this drink more interesting in my humble opinion. On the nose there is just a lot of lemon, due to the lemon juice and the lemon wedge garnish. The lemon-lime soda, I used Sprite, is dominant but it’s not tangy. There is a nice sweetness with a little bit of an orange taste. In the beginning there is no trace of alcohol but the alcohol appears later. This is a nice summer drink, as can be expected with a lemonade. Just like when drinking Jack Daniels Old #7 neat, you can pair almost any cigar with this although I would steer away from sweetened cigars.

And now for the Lynchburg Lemonade recipe:

1 ounce or 30ml of Jack Daniels Old #7
1 ounce or 30ml of Cointreau
½ ounce or 15ml of lemon juice, freshly squeezed
½ ounce or 15ml of simple syrup
4 ounces or 120ml of lemon-lime soda (I used Sprite)
Garnish: lemon wedge
Add all the ingredients except the Sprite into a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until well-chilled. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice and add the soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Revolver

Over the course of the years I found out that spirit forward cocktails aren’t my preferred drinks, but the combination of the Revolver is very interesting. It is a riff on a classic Manhattan but with a coffee liqueur instead of sweet vermouth. And I happen to have a bottle of the Marsette Monsoon Coffee Liqueur in my possession, courtesy of Dominique London, so why not try a Revolver.

On the nose the cocktail has a nutty aroma that comes from the Hibiki whisky that I used, but with coffee and orange from the coffee liqueur and the flamed orange peel. The first sip gives me a strong whisky flavour, stronger than the neat version but then the coffee comes rolling in. It is quite strong and a lot less friendly than a neat Hibiki or an Old Fashioned. But once you are used to the combination, it is very pleasant, slightly bitter because of the orange bitters but earthy because of the coffee with nuts, orange and leather. The sweetness and bitterness are in a perfect balance like professional ballroom dancers. And my first impression, that the cocktail was too strong, has changed by the time I got to the last sip. This isn’t the last time I am making myself, and my lovely wife, a revolver. This cocktail goes well with a stronger cigar that has a sweet profile, or a profile with leather, pepper or wood. I wouldn’t pick a cigar with earthy of coffee notes to go with this cocktail, although I must admit, I smoked a Quesada Oktoberfest 2022 while drinking. That cigar has a bit of a coffee profile and it only enhanced the experience.

And now for the Revolver recipe:

2 ounces or 60ml of Whisky
½ ounce or 15ml of coffee liqueur
2 dashes of orange bitters
Garnish: flamed orange peel
Add the whisky, coffee liqueur and bitters in a mixing glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Flame an orange peel over the top of the drink to express its oils and use the peel to garnish the cocktail.

Spiked Southern Tea

I never made this cocktail before, but I love ice tea. Warm tea is not my thing, unless it’s a nice Chinese Pu-Erh tea, but on a warm day there is no better beverage than a cold Ice Lemon Tea or Ice Lime Tea. So, when I read about this cocktail, I knew I had to try it. The only difference I made was changing the glassware. Instead of the Collins glass from the recipe, I went with a copper mule mug. Copper mugs hold the cold temperature better, but that’s the only advantage of this switch.

The aroma is smoky and peaty due to the Islay I used, the Stalla Dhu Islay Single Malt, with a hint of the tea. This is a very nice summer cocktail; it combines best of both worlds. Sweetness and smoke. The sweetness of the tea and the simply syrup mask the peat yet the smokiness still shines through. The alcohol feels mellow and smooth. This is a great cocktail to pair with many cigars. Go for a medium to full bodied cigar and you’ll be happy. It doesn’t matter if the flavour profile of the cigar is earthy, woody, nutty or chocolate forward, it will all go well. I would however be hesitant to pair the Stalla Dhu Islay Single Malt Spiked Southern Tea with a very peppery cigar though.

And now for the Spiked Southern Tea recipe:
2 ounces or 60ml of Stalla Dhu Islay Single Malt
4 ounces or 120ml of Iced Tea
1 ounce or 30ml of Simple Syrup
Stir all ingredients with plenty of ice in a Collins glass.

Whisky Smash

The Whisky Smash is a cousin of the Mint Julep and has been around since the 1880s. Or maybe even longer, but the first written recipe comes from a book published in 1887. I like this cocktail not just for the flavour, but also the technique that you need to make it. Muddling a cocktail makes it always a bit more special for me, more special than a stirred or shaken cocktail.

The aroma has sweetness, there is some alcohol, the aroma of the whisky is still there. Even though the cocktail doesn’t score high in the looks department, it’s a winner when it comes to flavour. The Whisky Smash is a perfect mixture of sweetness, tangy lime, with some mild freshness of the mint and the delicate flavour of the whisky. There are notes of fruit such as a slightly sour apple. I used a fantastic whisky, the Stalla Dhu Auchroisk 1997 for this cocktail, and on forehand I felt like a barbarian for using whisky in a cocktail but in this cocktail the whisky is the star. So please, use a great whisky, it will be worth it.
This cocktail is refined and deserves a refined cigar. Something not overpowering, something that elevates this even further.

And now for the Whisky Smash recipe:

3 lemon wedges
2 ounces or 60ml of Stalla Dhu Auchroisk 1997
¾ ounce or 22½ml of simple syrup
4 mint leaves
Garnish: mint sprig
Muddle the lemon wedges in a shaker. Add bourbon, simple syrup, mint leaves and ice, and shake until well-chilled. Double-strain into an Old-Fashioned glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

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