The highlight of my fall and winter, besides hunting, is banishing summer liquors and breaking out the whiskey. A quick nip from a flask after a day afield is a wonderful thing, but with the holiday season upon us, it’s time to go big. Whether you’d like to treat yourself or impress the in-laws, here are three whiskey cocktails to enjoy this Thanksgiving and Christmas, plus three recipes from the F&S archives with which to pair them.
Maple Whiskey Sour
A real, honest-to-god whiskey sour gets egg whites. I’m not one to run afoul of tradition, so this subtle twist on the classic receives the same. Substituting maple syrup for the standard simple syrup, plus adding a hint of pecan bitters, turns the staple into an ideal seasonal sour.
1 oz. egg whites
2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. lemon juice
¾ oz. maple syrup
3 dashes of pecan bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and dry shake (no ice) for 1 to 2 minutes. This emulsifies the egg. Then add ice, shake again for 10 seconds, and strain over ice. I like to add a sprig of rosemary, and should you happen to have bacon-infused whiskey on hand, this cocktail turns into breakfast in a glass.
The drink pairs well with Jonathan Miles’s venison poyha, a flavorful, and ancient, take on meatloaf. Both the drink and the meal are hearty twists on old favorites, and this maple-forward concoction perfectly complements the poyha’s sweet corn.
Black Cat Negroni
This simple cocktail is a spin on an old-school negroni or boulevardier but for whiskey lovers. With this rich, spicy cocktail, I prefer using rye, since it’s less sweet than regular bourbon. And I think a nice, spicy rye is always ideal for mixing drinks. My go-to is Sudden Wisdom, from Montana’s Montgomery Distillery, but any whiskey with a high rye-mash bill will suffice.
1 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. amaro
1 oz. sweet vermouth
2–3 dashes molé bitters
Combine ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and stir. Then, strain over rocks and garnish with a lemon swath.
Amaro is a bittersweet Italian liqueur, with notes of chocolate, nuts, and fall and winter spices. The molé enhances the subtle chocolate notes, making this beverage a perfect match for wild turkey mole.
Christmas in Manhattan
If you’re going to throw a cocktail party, the ability to mix a classic Manhattan is essential but deceptively simple. You can add a seasonal twist to the drink with cherry heering––a liqueur made with neutral grain spirits infused with Danish cherries and spices––and an unbeatable bitters combo of orange and Angostura.
2 oz. rye whiskey
¾ oz. cherry heering
½ oz. sweet vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
This is a holiday Manhattan, but don’t do anything silly to it, like muddle a gingerbread cookie in a mixing glass. Keep it classy, and enjoy this light libation after feasting on ultra-seasonal pine-smoked grouse with butternut squash puree.