6 Essential Scotch Cocktails That You Need to Know

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind on staff here at The Manual that Scotch whisky on its own is a divine drink — it isn’t called the water of life for nothing. It brings comfort to the nerve-wracked and joy to the sad. It is the quiet companion at the end of a long day that won’t try and get you to talk when all you want to do is sit quietly with a cigar. You can drink it neat, with a drop of water, or maybe even a cube — whatever way you choose, it’s a wonderful tipple.

There are times, though, that we want to enjoy Scotch whisky in a cocktail (you can’t always have it straight, after all — variety is the spice of life).  We’re not saying use that bottle of Macallan 50 Years Old to mix up a drink, but if you’ve got a nice mid-shelf whisky (and who doesn’t have at least four or five of those these days?), you can occasionally step outside your comfort zone and mix up a Scotch whisky cocktail.

Below, you’ll find four classic Scotch cocktails, a classic whisky riff, and one modern classic (courtesy of New York City bartender Sam Ross) that you should know how to make for yourself and for any of the Scotch-loving people in your life (which, if you’re surrounding yourself with the right people, is just about everyone). None of these drinks are difficult to make, but just in case, you might want to buy a little extra of each ingredient and make a couple for yourself one night. For research purposes, of course.

Need to pick up a bottle of Scotch to try these cocktails out? These are the best bottles under $50.

The Rusty Nail

essential scotch cocktails rusty nail cocktail

Method: Add ingredients to a rocks glass filled with ice. Stir and garnish with a twist of lemon.

The Rob Roy

essential scotch cocktails rob roy cocktail with ice

  • 2 oz Scotch whisky
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

Method: Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

The Bobby Burns

essential scotch cocktails bobby burns cocktail rob roy riff
Alaincouillaud/Getty Images

(A classic riff on the Rob Roy)

  • 2 oz Scotch whisky
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .25 oz Bénédictine
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Method: Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.

The Blood and Sand

essential scotch cocktails cocktail blood and sand
  • .75 oz blended Scotch whisky
  • .75 oz sweet vermouth
  • .75 oz Cherry Heering
  • .75 oz blood orange juice

Method: Put all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel. 

The Presbyterian

highball cocktail japan
  • 2 oz blended Scotch whisky
  • Ginger ale, to fill

Method: Add ice to a highball glass. Pour in Scotch and top with ginger ale. Stir briefly to incorporate.


whiskey cocktail lemon rocks glass

(Created by Sam Ross, New York City)

  • 2 oz blended Scotch whisky
  • .25 oz Islay single malt Scotch
  • .75 oz fresh lemon juice
  • .75 oz honey syrup
  • 3 slices fresh ginger

Method: Muddle ginger in cocktail shaker until well broken up. Add blended Scotch, lemon, and honey syrup. Add ice and shake well. Double strain into a rocks glass with ice and float the Islay Scotch over top by pouring over the back a bar spoon.

Once you’ve mastered these essential Scotch cocktail, try mixing up some of these other easy non-Scotch cocktails.

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