If you're not sure what to mix with whiskey, find some easy and delicious inspiration here! Whiskey is a versatile drink that can be paired with many different options and a good mixer can help its flavor shine!
What is whiskey and why is it so popular?
Understanding what whiskey is and what makes this liquor so special is key to being able to create delicious mixed whiskey drinks. And elevating your favorite whiskey with a range of whiskey mixers is easy to do.
So what is whiskey? Whiskey is one of the world’s most well-loved, popular alcoholic drinks and has been the drink of choice for many for centuries.
Whiskey is an alcoholic liquor that is made by ageing fermented and distilled grains in wooden barrels. It is a delicious distilled spirit that contains a wide variety of flavors and aromas.
There are various types of whiskey available each with its own unique characteristics and flavors.
What are the different types of whiskey?
- Bourbon - The most famous American whiskey, this type of whiskey is made with at least 51% corn. It's typically sweeter, traditionally distilled in Kentucky, and has a sweet and smoky flavor profile. We've got a whole post about What To Mix With Bourbon.
- Scotch - The Scottish have been making whisky for at least 500 years and have carefully refined their craft over this time to produce a flavorful and complex whiskey. Scotch is made from barley, commonly refined in Scotland, and it has a peaty flavour. This type of whiskey is commonly spelt without the “e” when referring to Scotch whisky. This is the traditional spelling in Scotland and helps to differentiate it from other whiskeys.
- Irish - Most Irish whiskies are blended, combining several malt or grain whiskeys such as corn, barley, and rye. Modern-day Irish whiskeys are usually triple distilled using column stills. This produces a smooth and subtle whiskey.
- Japanese - Japanese whisky makers have been heavily influenced by Scotch producers, hence the use of the same spelling (“whisky”). These highly refined whiskies with a smooth flavor are blended whiskies made in Japan.
- Rye - This type of whiskey is produced from rye grain. Made in the United States and has a strong, spicy flavor of rye. It is also often quite dry.
- Moonshine - This slang term is used for any strong spirit that is produced illicitly. But in the United States, moonshine is often used to describe corn whiskey that is not aged or aged for a short period of time. Most moonshine whiskeys will have a mash containing 80% or more corn, and this combined with its short ageing period produces a harsh whiskey with an extremely strong flavor.
Check out our post about The Best Mixers For Vodka
How is whiskey made?
Whiskey is made by distilling fermented grain mash. It is a simple process that can produce a vast range of flavors and aromas.
The type of grain used determines the type of whiskey that is being made and influences its final flavor profile. The grain mash is placed in a large container called a washback, where it is mixed with water and yeast. This mixture is then left to ferment, typically around 48 hours.
Once the grain mash has fermented, the liquid is then transferred to a still. This is where the whiskey is distilled. The length of time that the liquid spends in the still determines the final alcohol content.
After the distillation process, the whiskey is then aged in oak barrels. The length of time that it spends ageing will also affect its final flavor and aroma.
The five-step whiskey-making process:
- Malting - Malted barley is barley that has been moistened to allow germination to occur. Malting the barley is an important part of the whiskey-making process because it creates enzymes that make it easier to extract sugars during the mashing stage.
- Mashing - The processed malted grains are added to warm water and gently agitated for several hours. This process extracts sugar from the grains.
- Fermentation - Once the sugar-rich water has been drained off and cooled slightly, yeast is added. The yeast converts the sugars into alcohol over a period of at least 48 hours.
- Distillation - The liquid is then placed into a large still and heated. The alcohol vapors travel upwards where they condense before draining. While most whiskeys will be distilled at least twice, some will be distilled three times or more to obtain a smoother flavor
- Maturation - The whiskey is placed into oak casks and stored. While in the cask, the whiskey changes color loses some alcohol content and takes on additional flavors.
What to mix with whiskey
You might be surprised to find that whiskey can mix well with a variety of different mixers and ingredients. It can be used in a wide variety of classic cocktails such as An Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and a Whiskey Sour, or simply mixed with a singular mixer.
While whiskey is easily enjoyed alone or on the rocks, it is a delicious addition to a cocktail or can be enjoyed with a simple mixer. It can be used as the main ingredient in a cocktail or alternatively, a small amount can be used to add a hint of flavor to a drink.
Whiskey can be enjoyed all year round in varying ways. Due to it being such a flavorsome spirit, you may think there are a limited number of mixers that go with it. But surprisingly you will find that whiskey can mix well with a variety of mixers.
Below we will explore some of the best mixers for Whiskey so you can enhance your whiskey-drinking experience for yourself and for friends and family.
1. Soda Water / Water
Whiskey is a strong liquor - it contains 40% alcohol. At this strength, the alcohol and dominant flavors in whiskey can mask the more subtle flavors that are present.
A way to bring out these flavors is to add a splash of room-temperature water to your drink. The water separates the ethanol and guaiacol molecules in the drink which makes the whiskey more flavorsome and palatable.
Using water or soda water as a whiskey mixer is simple but effective. You can use any amount of water to whiskey ratio that you prefer. Gradually add water to your whiskey until you reach the point where you are happy with the levels of flavors of the drink.
Another option is to mix your whiskey with club soda for a similar end result to a soda water mixer. Or for a tropical, coconut twist try mixing your whiskey with some coconut water!
Coca-Cola’s sweet earthiness pairs well with whiskey. It's fine to use an inexpensive whiskey when making a whiskey cola, and you can add a squeeze of lime or lemon to balance the sweetness.
To make a Whiskey and Coke Mix:
- Place ice cubes in a medium-sized tumbler.
- Pour in 60 ml of whiskey.
- Add 200 - 300 ml of Coca-Cola (depending on preference).
- Gently stir it together.
- Add a lime or lemon wedge or slice (optional).
There’s nothing cozier than the classic combination of bitter coffee, buttery whisky, and frothy whipped cream. Coffee and whiskey share similar base flavors — deep and smoky and just a touch bitter which makes them a highly complementary pair.
So whether you’re drinking French press or cold brew, a little whiskey with your coffee can really energize your night and create a delicious drink. To make a coffee and whiskey drink, mix together one part whiskey of your choice with six parts of good quality coffee in a large serving mug or glass.
Ginger's sour and citrusy flavor adds the perfect contrast to whiskey's natural smoky and sweet flavor. Combining whiskey with any type of ginger mixer will make for a delicious drink with interesting depth yet still refreshing.
You can use ginger as a mixer for whiskey in various forms, such as
- Ginger beer
- Ginger ale
- Ginger bitters
- Ginger syrup
To use ginger ale or ginger beer as a mixer, mix one-part whiskey with five parts ginger ale/ ginger beer and add lots of ice cubes. You can adjust this ratio according to your personal preference.
Citrus notes compliment any type of whiskey perfectly, whether it’s bourbon, rye, or Irish whiskey. The bright zing from sweet, tart citrus fruits helps temper whiskey’s booziness, making lemon juice, lemonade, and lemon soda great whiskey mixers along with lime, grapefruit, and orange.
These citrus and whiskey combinations are deliciously refreshing for the summer months - but a Whiskey Hot Toddy is also a must-try citrusy option for the colder months!
6. Apple Cider
This may seem like an unlikely pair, but these two ingredients are delicious when combined together. The sweet tartness of apple cider makes it a perfect addition to any kind of whiskey.
It can enhance any light, spicy notes in a whiskey and it adds just the right amount of sweetness to it. The zesty flavor of apple cider complements the vanilla and caramel flavors in the whiskey beautifully.
You can enjoy this delicious combination of apple cider and whiskey warm on cold evenings or over ice during the summer. Either way, it is always a hit!
7. Cocktail Bitters
Bitters add flavor, aroma, and balance to whiskey cocktails. They help to regulate sweetness and acidity when mixing whiskey - the perfect example is the classic Old Fashioned cocktail which is one of the most famous classic whiskey cocktails there is.
8. Sweet Vermouth
Just as a whiskey has complexity and depth of flavor, so too does vermouth. Sweet vermouth delivers notes of vanilla, orange, and clove which complement the flavors of whiskey perfectly.
One of the most famous whiskey drinks, The Manhattan, highlights this wonderful pairing of vermouth and whiskey. Simply add in a dash of bitters and you have a well-balanced and flavorful whiskey drink in minutes!