Scotch isn't the most common spirit for cocktails—with a mix of peaty, smoky, and malty flavors it can be tricky to pair with other ingredients. Add to that the high price tag of a good single malt and it's no wonder that most people choose to drink their Scotch with nothing more than a little water. But with ingredients that complement the whisky's peat, smoke, and herbal character there's no reason you can't make delicious cocktails with it. We've rounded up 14 recipes to give you an introduction to Scotch cocktails, from a classic Rob Roy and a summery frozen Blood and Sand to a chai-infused punch.
Note: Scotch can get pricey quick, but for mixing you shouldn't feel the need to reach for your best bottle. Check out our guide to affordable Scotch for some solid options.
Let's start with the most famous Scotch cocktail around: the Rob Roy. This classic drink is made just like a Manhattan—two parts whisky, one part sweet vermouth, and a couple dashes of Angostura bitters—but with Scotch replacing the rye or bourbon. A maraschino cherry is the most traditional garnish, but we think that an orange twist plays especially well with Scotch.
This smoky, spirituous cocktail pairs peaty Islay Scotch with bittersweet, vegetal Cynar and sweet, citrusy vermouth. We go with Martini & Rossi Bianco, which balances out the assertive Cynar without overpowering the whisky. Garnish with a grapefruit twist to highlight the citrusy notes of the vermouth.
This drink has a somewhat intimidating ingredient list, but everything comes together just right. Honeyed Bénédictine sweetens the aged rum, an absinthe rinse brings out the herbal side of the Cynar, and a mix of Cynar and Scotch (use something peaty like Laphroaig) give the drink a savory, almost leathery flavor.
Improved Scotch Cocktail
We turn to Bénédictine to sweeten this cocktail, too, along with caramelly demerrara syrup. The recipe only calls for 1/8 ounce of each for 2 ounces of Scotch, which is enough for their flavors to come out without the sweetness getting out of hand. We'd recommend a moderately smoky Scotch here, but you can use something more or less intense depending on your own taste.
Rabarbaro Zucca is a fairly sweet amaro with a slightly smoky flavor that pairs well with Scotch. We use mild blended Scotch in this highball (too much peat will overwhelm the amaro), plus grapefruit bitters and bitter lemon soda. You might not be able to find bitter lemon soda, in which case you can use a mixture of tonic and fresh lemon juice instead.
Scotch plays a supporting role in this cocktail as well, giving a daiquiri a savory edge. That's not the only change to the classic recipe—we sweeten the cocktail with maple syrup instead of sugar to give it a deeper, richer flavor. You can use your choice of golden rum here—we're partial to Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva, which has a dark flavor that works wonderfully with the syrup.
9 Ladies Dancing Punch
Malty, smoky blended Scotch is a great base for a cold-weather punch. Here we pair the whisky with spicy chai tea, nutty Lustau East India Solera Sherry, and an aromatic vanilla cinnamon syrup. For even more spice we mix in a healthy dose of Angostura bitters.
Sweater Weather Punch
We mix blended Scotch and sherry again for this punch, pairing the spirits with an herbal Czech liqueur called Becherovka. This is a great option for people who don't think they like Scotch—the whisky adds a malty backbone to the punch without being overly assertive.
Scotch, Sherry, and Concord Cocktail
Don't put that bottle of oloroso sherry away without making this cocktail, which mixes it with Scotch and Concord grape syrup. All three ingredients here are on the assertive side but blend together remarkably well—the jammy syrup stands up to the whisky and the nutty sherry ties everything together.
Frozen Blood and Sand
Scotch is probably the last spirit you associate with blender drink, but this refreshing twist on the old-school Blood and Sand might just change that. The cocktail is traditionally made with orange juice, Cherry Heering, and sweet vermouth, but because blending a drink with ice dilutes the ingredients, we replace the Cherry Heering with rich Luxardo cherry syrup and reinforce the orange juice with Grand Marnier.
Cocktails don't get much simpler than the Rusty Nail—the recipe is nothing more than a mix of blended Scotch and Drambuie (a honey liqueur itself made from Scotch), plus a dash of Angostura bitters if you want to go crazy. You'll often find the drink made with equal parts Scotch and Drambuie, but we like to use a much drier 4:1 ratio typical in older recipes for the drink.
The Godfather is a close relative to the Rusty Nail—it's made with just Scotch and amaretto. As with the Rusty Nail we think the drink can easily become too sweet, so we dial back the almond-flavored amaretto and use the same 4:1 ratio.
Vasco de Gama
For a taste of fall, try this cocktail that combines bourbon, Scotch, and a garam masala-spiced apple syrup made with a variety of toasted spices. We love mixing bourbon and Scotch because you get a little bit of smoke and peat without the drink being too intense.
This recipe takes the Penicillin—a classic Scotch cocktail flavored with lemon and ginger—and adds a shot of earthy beet juice. The ginger comes in the form of Domaine de Canton liqueur, which also sweetens the drink.