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15 Best Whiskeys for Mixed Drinks & Cocktails

Last Updated on September 28, 2023 by Lydia Martin

If you’re tired of subpar mixed beverages, you’re in the right place. We’ve tried the best whiskeys for various whiskey cocktails, and we’re here to share the best options for crafting exceptional drinks.

From classic bourbons to spicy ryes and even a charm of Irish whiskey or single malt, we’ve curated this list of the best whiskey for mixed drinks that will transform your cocktails from ordinary to extraordinary.

Are you ready to take your cocktail to the next level? Read on!

Top 15 Whiskeys To Elevate Whiskey Cocktails

1. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel-Proof Bourbon

Close Up Image of Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel-Proof Bourbon

Average Price: Around $56.99/750ml

Alcohol Content: 58.4% ABV

Nose: Bold and spicy with hints of toffee and vanilla

Palate: Full-bodied and rich, with notes of dark fruit and caramel

Star Rating: ★★★★★

Why We Like It: For a powerful punch of flavor in cocktails like the Kentucky Buck or the Barrel-Aged Manhattan, Wild Turkey Rare Breed is the way to go.

It blends well with other ingredients like ginger ale or ginger beer (in a Kentucky Buck), providing an enhanced cocktail experience.

This is one of the best whiskeys for those seeking a distinctive blend with complexity yet an exceptionally smooth and flavorful profile. For that, we prefer this over the Wild Turkey 101.

2. High West Campfire

Woman Drinking High West Campfire

Average Price: Around $73.69/750ml

Alcohol Content: 46% ABV

Nose: Smoky, with hints of honey and stone fruit

Palate: Sweet and smoky with a touch of spice

Star Rating: ★★★★★

Why We Like It: If you want a mixed cocktail with a smoky twist, we suggest High West Campfire due to its unique profile. It’s a good whiskey for crafting a smoky Campfire Manhattan or Rusty Nail.

“Whiskey is the key to unlocking the alchemy of unforgettable cocktails and timeless sipping pleasures.” – Liquor Laboratory

This blend is unconventional since it’s made from mixing bourbon, rye, and Scotch whiskey. We like the unique combination of flavors, delivering an exciting twist to your preferred cocktails.

3. Maker’s Mark Straight Bourbon

Bottle of Maker's Mark Straight Bourbon

Average Price: Around $59.39/750ml

Alcohol Content: 45% ABV

Nose: Caramel and vanilla

Palate: Sweet and smooth, with hints of spice

Star Rating: ★★★★★

Why We Like It: Maker’s Mark’s approachable sweetness and smoothness make it an excellent base for classic cocktails like the Mint Julep or a Bourbon and Ginger Beer.

It’s our favorite whiskey for its distinctively smooth and mellow character, without any bitterness or harshness. So, it mixes well with bourbon cocktails.

4. Four Roses Single-Barrel

Man Drinking Four Roses Single-Barrel

Average Price: Around $45.99/750ml

Alcohol Content: 50% ABV

Nose: Floral and fruity notes

Palate: Complex, with notes of honey, pear, and baking spices

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: This so-called bourbon stands out in cocktails (beating Old Grand Dad), especially the classic Old Fashioned cocktails, where its complexity and depth shine.

This high-rye whiskey is aged seven to nine years, providing a long-lasting, mellow finish. We like this whiskey for mixing stirred drinks since it has a smooth taste – not overpowering.

Bartender Tip: As an alternative, you can try the Four Roses Yellow Label if you prefer a sweeter taste. 

5. Jack Daniel’s Bonded

Bottle of Jack Daniel's Bonded

Average Price: Around $38.49/750ml

Alcohol Content: 50% ABV

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, and oak

Palate: Rich and full-bodied with spicy notes

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Jack Daniel’s Bonded imparts a bolder to any whiskey cocktail. This Tennessee whiskey elevates classics like the Lynchburg Lemonade with its robust flavor.

So, if you want to savor drinks with complexity and richness, Jack Daniel’s is one of the best whiskeys for cocktails, which gives (almost) the same complexity as Wild Turkey 101.

6. Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey

Bottle of Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey and a Glass

Average Price: Around $39.99/750ml

Alcohol Content: 46% ABV

Nose: Floral and fruity with spice hints

Palate: Smooth and creamy, with notes of caramel and dried fruit

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Teeling Irish whiskey is the best whiskey for cocktails if you seek something oaky, particularly for Irish Coffee, Whiskey Smash, or Hot Toddy. Plus, its rum notes add a delightful twist to the cocktails.

The combination of malted barley and other grains during the making process creates oaky nuances, making it one of the top Irish whiskeys.

7. Suntory Toki Japanese Whisky

Bottle and a Glass of Suntory Toki Japanese Whisky

Average Price: Around $40.58% ABV

Alcohol Content: 43% ABV

Nose: Delicate with hints of green apple and basil

Palate: Light and crisp, with notes of honey and white pepper

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Suntory Toki’s elegance and lightness make it perfect for any lighter drink, like the Japanese-inspired cocktail Toki Martini.

If you want to deviate from the usual American whiskey, this Japanese whiskey is a must-try, which is lighter than most others mentioned here.

Also Read:

8. Knob Creek Rye Whiskey 

Knob Creek Rye Whiskey  on Top of Wooden Barrel

Average Price: Around $39.19/750ml

Alcohol Content: 50% ABV

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, and oak

Palate: Full-bodied, with notes of toffee and nuts

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: This expression is the finest whiskey for mixing into cocktails or savoring neat if you prefer the classic rye profile. Actually, it won the “The Best Rye Whiskey” at the 2016 IWSC.

Its high-proof and rich flavor elevates cocktails like the Whiskey Smash or a simple Highball with ginger ale. This whiskey combines the superb qualities of bourbon with the zesty and spicy elements of rye.

9. Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch

Man Drinking Monkey Shoulder Blended Scotch

Average Price: Around $37.70/750ml

Alcohol Content: 40% ABV

Nose: Malty with hints of orange zest and brown sugar

Palate: Creamy and well-balanced with notes of toffee and baking spices

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Monkey Shoulder’s blend of malt whiskies adds depth and complexity to cocktails like the Penicillin.

We like the fruity undertones and touch of robust spice, making this expression a standout addition to whiskey cocktails.

10. Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Bottle of Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Average Price: Around $34.99/750ml

Alcohol Content: 45% ABV

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, and spice

Palate: Sweet notes with hints of toffee and pepper

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Buffalo Trace’s balanced sweetness and spice make it a versatile whiskey for cocktails. Its reddish hues provide a glimpse into the intricate flavors of dark fruit and oak that grace the spirit.

We like how it adds depth and character to classics like the Old Fashioned and Whiskey Sour.

11. Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon

Bottle of Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon

Average Price: Around $34.99/750ml

Alcohol Content: 47% ABV

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, and oak

Palate: Rich and oaky with a touch of dark fruit

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: This bourbon’s higher proof and deep flavor profile make it an excellent whiskey for spirit-forward drinks like the Boulevardier or an elevated Old Fashioned.

We like this small batch bourbon for its rich complexity and the mix of wood and spice in its flavor. The bourbon smells good, with sweet notes on the finish.

12. Bulleit Rye Whiskey

Hand Holding Bottle of Bulleit Rye Whiskey

Average Price: Around $32.99/750ml

Alcohol Content: 45% ABV

Nose: Spicy with a touch of sweet honey

Palate: Bold, with notes of cinnamon and rye spiciness

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Bulleit Rye’s bold flavor profile shines in cocktails like the Manhattan, where its spiciness and complexity complement vermouth and bitters perfectly.

Despite the spicy rye notes, it maintains a pleasant, velvety, and approachable profile. Besides making cocktails, it’s best enjoyed on the rocks.

13. Old Forester 100-Proof Rye

Bottle of Old Forester 100-Proof Rye and a Glasses

Average Price: Around $27.59/750ml

Alcohol Content: 50% ABV

Nose: Rich and oaky with caramel notes

Palate: Full-bodied with notes of dark chocolate and spice

Star Rating: ★★★☆☆

Why We Like It: Both the bourbon and rye variations are a great base for a delicious cocktail. But, we prefer the rye whiskey for its robust flavor, especially for cocktails like the Sazerac or Kentucky Buck.

We like Old Forester Rye’s distinctive, moderately spicy, and flavorful profile, which is well-suited for crafting bold and spicy cocktails. Actually, this is a good substitute for Wild Turkey 101.

14. Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey

Person Holding Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey

Average Price: Around $29.69/750ml

Alcohol Content: 50% ABV

Nose: Spicy with hints of orange peel and cinnamon candy

Palate: Bold and peppery with notes of caramel

Star Rating: ★★★☆☆

Why We Like It: Rittenhouse Rye’s spicy character shines in cocktails like the Whiskey Sour or the Vieux Carré, where it adds a delightful kick.

We like the flavor combination with bright citrus undertones. Since it’s aged four years, it delivers a persistent and spicy finish, accented by a touch of maple.

15. Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond

Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond Bottle Label

Average Price: Around $19.99/750ml

Alcohol Content: 50% ABV

Nose: Caramel, toasted oak, citrus notes

Palate: Classic bourbon sweetness with a hint of spice

Star Rating: ★★★☆☆

Why We Like It: Evan Williams BiB is the best bourbon for the budget (same price range as the Old Grand Dad) that still delivers excellent flavor, ideal for mixing cocktails like the Mint Julep or Pisco Sour.

“The light music of whiskey falling into a glass—an agreeable interlude.” – James Joyce, Irish Novelist and Poet

It’s a robust 100-proof whiskey, delivering a strong punch. You’ll notice a warming and dry quality when sipped neat, but the bourbon’s finish is exceptionally smooth.

Note: Average prices are based on Drizly online. The star rating was determined based on a blind test, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. Each product was evaluated on its overall quality, flavor profile, complexity, smoothness, and overall enjoyment.

FAQs

What proof of whiskey is best for cocktails?

The ideal whiskey proof for cocktails varies depending on the drink. However, whiskeys with a proof range of 45%-50% ABV often strike the right balance, offering flavor without overwhelming the cocktail.

What straight bourbon whiskey is used for cocktails?

Bourbons like Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, and Knob Creek are excellent choices for cocktails [1] due to their balanced flavors and versatility.

What’s the best whiskey to mix with Coke?

The best whiskeys to mix with Coke could be Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey or Evan Williams, as their caramel and vanilla notes complement the cola [2] perfectly.

Can you use any whiskey to make mixed drinks?

Yes, you can use any whiskey for cocktail drinks, be it Irish whiskey, Single Malt, Tennessee whiskey, Scotch [3], or even some Canadian whiskeys.

However, some are better suited than others due to their flavor profiles. So, it’s best to choose a whiskey that complements the flavors in your cocktail of choice.

Final Say

Upon trying various expressions, we highly recommend Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Bourbon Whiskey for making cocktails due to its exceptional flavor, complexity, and versatility.

It’s an excellent whiskey for cocktails, enhancing classics like the Manhattan, Kentucky Buck, and other whiskey-based cocktails. However, the finest whiskey will depend on your personal preference.

So, try different whiskeys [4] from our list and explore your preferences. Choose what suits your palate and elevates your cocktail to new heights. Cheers!

References:

  1. https://recipes.howstuffworks.com/5-things-you-didnt-know-cocktails-bartending.htm
  2. https://www.businessinsider.com/facts-about-coca-cola-2011-6
  3. https://www.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/shows/2013/01/10-facts-about-scotch-whisky
  4. https://www.britannica.com/topic/whiskey

Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.

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