As a bartender, I’ve seen my fair share of cocktail trends come and go. But one style that has stood the test of time is the spirit forward cocktail.
These drinks are all about highlighting the flavor and complexity of the base spirit, whether it’s whiskey, gin, or mezcal.
What makes a great spirit forward cocktail? It’s all about balance. The other ingredients in the drink should complement, not overpower, the spirit.
A well-crafted spirit forward cocktail should be sippable, with layers of flavor that unfold as you drink it.
One of the things I love about spirit forward cocktails is their versatility. They can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, and they’re perfect for sipping slowly or pairing with a meal.
Plus, they’re a great way to try new spirits and explore the nuances of different brands and styles.
In this blog post, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite spirit forward cocktail recipes.
Whether you’re a seasoned cocktail enthusiast or just dipping your toes into the world of mixology, there’s something here for everyone. So grab your shaker and let’s get mixing!
1. Walnut Old Fashioned
The Walnut Old Fashioned is a perfect example of a well-balanced spirit forward cocktail. It combines the apple-y notes of calvados, the nuttiness of nocino, the sweetness of maple syrup, and the warm baking spice notes of angostura to create a comforting and boozy drink. The hint of brightness from the lemon peel adds a nice touch to the overall flavor profile.
This cocktail is perfect for those who love darker liquors such as whiskey, brandy, and rum. It's a great use of nocino, a traditional Italian walnut liqueur, and has become a regular in many cocktail rotations this winter. If you're looking for a new winter cocktail, the Walnut Old Fashioned is definitely worth a try.
2. La Louisiane Cocktail
If you're a fan of spirit-forward cocktails, you don't want to miss out on the La Louisiane Cocktail. This classic cocktail from the 1800s is a lesser-known gem that's similar to a Sazerac but with more complexity in flavors. Made with rye whiskey, absinthe, vermouth, Benedictine, and Peychaud's bitters, it's a boozy and strong drink that's perfect for sipping slowly.
The herbal notes from the Benedictine and the black licorice finish from the absinthe make this cocktail a unique and sophisticated choice for any occasion. Don't be afraid to try something new and exciting with the La Louisiane Cocktail.
3. Seventh Heaven Cocktail
The Seventh Heaven Cocktail is a vintage cocktail that packs a punch with its heavy gin base and maraschino liqueur. The addition of fresh grapefruit juice adds a burst of brightness and balances out the strong flavors. This cocktail is perfect for those looking to up their cocktail game and impress their guests.
Inspired by a classic gin cocktail, the Seventh Heaven Cocktail is a must-try for any gin lover. Shake it up and serve it ice-cold for the best experience. Don't forget to garnish with Luxardo cherries or fresh mint sprigs for an extra touch of elegance. Give your guests a taste of the past with this Spirit Forward Cocktail recipe.
4. Simple Whiskey Raspberry & Pear Cocktail
The Simple Whiskey Raspberry & Pear Cocktail is a quick and easy-to-make drink that packs a punch. Made with just three ingredients – whiskey, Chambord raspberry liqueur, and diced fresh pear – this cocktail is perfect for those who love a spirit-forward drink.
The whiskey shines through and is complemented by the slight sweetness of the raspberry liqueur and the freshness of the pear. The best part? The whiskey-soaked pears that you can nibble on once you're done with your drink. If you're looking for a simple yet satisfying cocktail to unwind with after a long day, this is definitely one to try.
5. The Sazerac Cocktail
The Sazerac Cocktail is a classic drink that has stood the test of time. It's a spirit-forward cocktail that's perfect for those who love a strong, bold flavor. The drink is made with either Cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe, and Peychaud's bitters. The absinthe gives the drink a black licorice finish that's unexpected and delightful.
The Sazerac is the official drink of New Orleans and has a rich history that dates back to the mid-1800s. While absinthe was once illegal in the US, it's now back in good graces and adds a unique flavor to this famous cocktail. If you're a fan of the Old Fashioned or other strong cocktails, the Sazerac is definitely worth trying.
6. Oaxaca Old Fashioned
If you're a fan of the classic Old Fashioned cocktail, then you should definitely try the Oaxaca Old Fashioned. This cocktail is a perfect blend of bourbon and smoky mezcal, giving it a unique and flavorful taste. It's garnished with a charred cinnamon stick, which adds a smoky aroma to the drink.
The mezcal adds a layer of earthiness and smoke, while the bourbon helps to balance out the flavors. This cocktail is perfect for fall, and it's a great way to introduce yourself to the world of spirit-forward cocktails. If you're looking for a boozy and flavorful drink, then the Oaxaca Old Fashioned is definitely worth a try.
7. Chai Me a River
If you're looking for a rich and flavourful cocktail to sip on after a long day, "Chai Me a River" is the perfect choice. This whisky-based cocktail is infused with loose leaf chai tea, ginger, honey, and dried fruit, creating a complex and satisfying flavour profile.
The addition of sweet vermouth and orange zest helps to balance out the richness of the cocktail, making it a well-rounded and enjoyable drink. Overall, "Chai Me a River" is a must-try for anyone who loves spirit-forward cocktails with a unique twist.
8. It's Scotch Thyme
"It's Scotch Thyme" is a unique and exciting cocktail that will take you on a journey with every sip. This cocktail is made using a French press, which infuses Glenmorangie Scotch, RinQuinQuin, and Verjus with fresh peach and thyme.
What makes this cocktail so special is that with every sip, the flavors change, making it an exciting and dynamic drink. If you're looking for a cocktail that's both classic and innovative, "It's Scotch Thyme" is definitely worth trying. So, grab a French press and get ready for a delicious and adventurous cocktail experience.
9. Cherry Whiskey Smash
The Cherry Whiskey Smash is a refreshing and fruity cocktail that packs a punch. Made with fresh cherries, mint, lemon, and rye whiskey, this cocktail is perfect for whiskey lovers who want to try something new. The tartness of the cherry juice pairs perfectly with the rich and strong flavor of the whiskey, while the mint and lemon add a refreshing twist.
This cocktail is perfect for sipping on a hot summer day or for a fun night out with friends. Whether you're a seasoned whiskey drinker or just looking to try something new, the Cherry Whiskey Smash is a must-try cocktail.
10. Little Italy Cocktail
The Little Italy Cocktail is a perfect example of a delicious and easy-to-make spirit-forward cocktail. This classic cocktail is a riff on the Manhattan and is made with just three ingredients: bourbon, Aperol, and Montenegro amaro. The addition of citrus flavors and robust bitterness makes this cocktail recipe so special.
The result is a bittersweet and refreshing cocktail that's perfect for summer. The citrusy flavors will make you want to take a trip to a sunny destination, and it's best served ice-cold. If you're looking for a simple and delicious spirit-forward cocktail, the Little Italy Cocktail is definitely worth a try.
11. Amaro Ginger Mutsu
Looking for a spirit forward cocktail that packs a punch? Look no further than the Amaro Ginger Mutsu. This unique cocktail combines the delicate sweetness of a Mutsu apple-infused Fino Sherry with the rich and floral notes of H by Hine Rare Cognac.
The bitterness of the Amaro Montenegro is balanced out by the sweet and spicy Bar Keep's Apple bitters and a fresh ginger garnish. This cocktail is perfect for those who enjoy a boozy, complex drink with a touch of sweetness. Don't miss out on this exciting and unique cocktail experience.
12. The Manhattan
The Manhattan is a timeless classic that has stood the test of time. This spirit-forward cocktail is a perfect blend of high-proof whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. It is a perfect drink for those who appreciate the bold flavors of whiskey and enjoy a smooth texture.
The Manhattan is traditionally served up with no ice and garnished with a cherry. However, the cherry is optional, and it is recommended to skip the sugary, artificial maraschino cherries and opt for Luxardo cherries or make your own cocktail cherries. The Manhattan is a sophisticated and elegant cocktail that is perfect for any occasion.
13. Paper Plane Cocktail
The Paper Plane Cocktail is a modern classic that has gained popularity among cocktail enthusiasts. This well-balanced cocktail has a perfect blend of sweet, tart, and spirit-forward flavors, making it an ideal choice for aperitivo hour. The cocktail was created by bartender Sam Ross for The Violet Hour in Chicago and has since become a fan favorite.
The original recipe calls for equal parts bourbon, Aperol, Amaro Nonino, and lemon juice. However, variations of the recipe can be made by using different amaros or bourbons. The Aperol version is smoother than the original Campari version, making it an easy-to-enjoy cocktail. The Paper Plane Cocktail is a must-try for anyone who enjoys a sour cocktail with a complex flavor profile.
14. Midnight Manhattan Cocktail
The Midnight Manhattan Cocktail is a whiskey-forward variation of the classic Manhattan cocktail. Created by Travis Fourmont, a renowned bartender from Detroit, this cocktail brings an essence of cherry and astringency to the table, making it a complex and layered drink.
The cocktail was originally created with Woodford Reserve bourbon, but a variation with rye whiskey is just as enjoyable. This cocktail is perfect for those who enjoy a strong and bold drink, with a hint of sweetness from the cherry. The Midnight Manhattan Cocktail is a must-try for any whiskey lover looking for a new twist on a classic cocktail.
The Negroni is a classic cocktail that has been around for almost a century. This Spirit Forward Cocktail is a perfect blend of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, which gives it a unique and distinct taste. The Negroni is a perfect drink for those who prefer a bitter and complex flavor profile.
The drink is served on the rocks and garnished with an orange peel, which adds a citrusy aroma to the drink. The Negroni is a perfect drink for those who want to try something new and exciting. It's a drink that has stood the test of time and is still popular today. If you're looking for a drink that's bold, complex, and delicious, the Negroni is the perfect choice.
16. Brown Sugar Pineapple Whiskey Sipper
The Brown Sugar Pineapple Whiskey Sipper is a perfect balance of sweet, sour, and strong. This whiskey-based drink recipe requires a bit of thinking ahead to make the brown sugar pineapple syrup, but it's worth it. The brown sugar syrup is made by combining brown sugar, pineapple, pineapple juice, and ginger over heat.
The pineapple, brown sugar, and ginger flavor notes in the syrup play well with the whiskey but by no means overpower it. It's smooth, lightly sweet, and potent, making it perfect for celebrating another year of life or even just another Friday night. This cocktail is not a cloying, sugary "girly" drink, but a sophisticated sipper that's great for any occasion.
17. Smoked Orange Old Fashioned
The Smoked Orange Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail with a twist that is sure to impress any whiskey lover. This spirit forward cocktail is made with orange bitters and a touch of smoke, giving it a unique citrus note and depth of flavor.
The addition of a flaming orange peel adds a smoky essence to the drink, making it perfect for a cold winter night. Served over large sphere ice molds, this cocktail is easy to make and sure to impress. If you're looking for a fun twist on a classic old fashioned, the Smoked Orange Old Fashioned is a must-try.
18. Sazerac Cocktail
The Sazerac Cocktail is a classic whiskey-based cocktail that originated in New Orleans in the mid-19th century. Originally made with cognac, the cocktail shifted to rye whiskey after a wine blight in France wiped out cognac and wine production. The cocktail also includes absinthe or absinthe substitutes like Herbsaint, and Peychaud's bitters, which have remained essential to the drink since its inception.
The cocktail is spirit-forward and has a complex flavor profile that is sure to please whiskey lovers. Its inclusion of absinthe or absinthe substitutes adds a unique touch to the cocktail, making it stand out from other whiskey-based cocktails. The Sazerac Cocktail is a must-try for anyone looking for a classic, yet unique, spirit-forward cocktail.
19. Negroni Cocktail
The Negroni Cocktail is a classic and sophisticated drink that has been enjoyed for over a century. Originating in Florence, Italy in 1919, the Negroni is a combination of gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, resulting in a bittersweet flavor with hints of juniper and sweetness.
This spirit-forward cocktail is perfect for sipping during happy hour or serving at a party, and can be enjoyed on the rocks or straight up. The Negroni is a versatile drink that can be customized to anyone's taste, making it a popular choice among cocktail enthusiasts. If you're looking for a complex and refreshing drink that will stimulate your appetite, the Negroni Cocktail is a must-try.
20. Dry Martini
The Dry Martini is a classic cocktail that has stood the test of time. Made with either gin or vodka and dry vermouth, this spirit-forward drink has a subtle, sophisticated taste. The ratio of vermouth to base spirit varies, but a 5-to-1 ratio is the most common among Dry Martini enthusiasts.
The drink is stirred, strained, and served up in a variety of glassware, with a twist of lemon peel or an olive as a garnish. The Dry Martini has a rich history that dates back to the 1880s, and it has evolved over time to become the clear, ultra-dry cocktail that is beloved today. Whether you're a gin or vodka drinker, the Dry Martini is a timeless classic that is sure to impress.
21. Vieux Carré
The Vieux Carré is a rich and spirit-forward cocktail that is a variation of the Manhattan. It has a split base of rye and cognac, and is rounded out with sweet vermouth, herbal Benedictine, anise-y Peychaud’s Bitters, and warm baking spices from the Angostura Bitters.
The cocktail was created in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, the head bartender at the Swan Bar at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The name "Vieux Carré" means "old square" in French, and it is a perfect after-dinner drink that is full of flavor and boozy goodness.