Canadian whisky is a great thing, but how is it best enjoyed?  In my opinion, there are three primary ways to drink whisky: neat, on the rocks, or–my favourite–in a cocktail!  Enjoying whisky neat or on the rocks is a great way to appreciate the product in its purest form without the influence of other ingredients that are working to change the balance of the beverage.  When you’re looking for something more adventurous, whisky cocktails can taste earthy, sour, or sweet.  Here are three of my favourites!

Three Whisky Cocktails

Old Fashioned

An earthy cocktail for the serious soul.

Any fan of the hit AMC television series MadMen will remember that Don Draper is a huge fan of Canadian whisky.  He usually enjoyed it neat, but when he was out on the town, in a fancy bar, or trying to impress clients, he was more apt to enjoy his whisky in the form of an Old Fashioned.  As a huge fan of this series, ordering an Old Fashioned in a bar with sultry lighting and polished dark wood, surrounded by crystal glassware and a record playing The Platters’ ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,’ conjures up a feeling of class and sophistication for me.  As a lover of beverages that are bitter and earthy, the Old Fashioned is high on my list of favourite things to do with Canadian whisky.


– a rocks glass

– 2oz Canadian whisky

– a piece of fresh orange skin

– 1 raw sugar cube

– 1/2 wedge of fresh, juicy orange

– 2 Luxardo Maraschino Cherries

– 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters

– cubed ice


1) Use a paring knife to cut a piece of skin out of a fresh orange, about 1 inch wide by 3 inches long.  Just the skin, no flesh.  Use a lighter to flame the outer skin for several seconds and then rub the skin along the upper rim of the rocks glass.  Set the skin aside for later.

2) Place a single raw sugar cube into the bottom of the rocks glass.  Drop 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters onto the cube.  Cut half an orange wedge out of a fresh, juicy orange, and take 2 Luxardo Maraschino Cherries and place them in the bottom of the rocks glass.  Muddle the contents until the raw sugar cube is disassembled.  Be careful not to pulverize the fruit—just press it enough to squeeze the juices out.

3) Fill the glass with cubed ice and then pour 2oz of Canadian whisky into the glass.  Stir vigourously with a bar spoon.  Top with cubed ice as necessary and insert the orange skin into the glass amongst the ice.  Serve and enjoy!

Canadian Whisky Sour

Sure to make any sour puss smile!

There are many incarnations of the Canadian Whisky Sour.  Some use crushed ice and some are drunk neat.  Some recipes use egg white to create a frothy texture at the top of the glass.  For the purpose of making less of a mess with broken eggs at home, I have showcased a vegan friendly recipe here.  During my years working in fine dining restaurants across Canada, the Canadian Whisky Sour was a very common order.  It is a name that most restaurant patrons recognize, whether they know what’s in it or not, and it is simple to make.  Every Canadian Whisky Sour needs fresh lemon juice to make it sing.  Using ‘bar lime’ or lemon juice from concentrate, or anything other than real, freshly squeezed lemon juice will cause the quality of the beverage to suffer greatly.  Quality counts!


– a rocks glass

– 2oz Canadian whisky

– 1oz freshly squeezed, real lemon juice

– 1/2oz simple syrup*

– 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters

– lemon wheel

– cubed ice

* Simple syrup is a sugary liquid used to add sweetness to cocktails.  It can be easily made at home by boiling equal parts of water and white, granulated sugar in a pot over the stove.  Make a batch at a time, and store remaining simple syrup in a squeeze bottle in the refrigerator for easy use.


1) Fill the rocks glass with cubed ice.

2) In a cocktail shaker add a scoop of cubed ice, 2oz Canadian whisky, 1oz freshly squeezed, real lemon juice, 1/2oz simple syrup, and 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters.  Shake until all ingredients are very cold and then strain contents into the rocks glass.
3) Garnish with a lemon wheel and an optional straw.  Serve and enjoy!

New York, New York

Something sweeter for those sweet at heart.

The New York, New York is a cocktail that I stumbled upon with one of my best friends on a hot summer night while visiting home from university.  It is a winner because it possesses a wonderful balance of sweet, sour, and boozy flavours, all at the same time.  I introduced this cocktail to my classmates at student parties and it was a hit with both women and men alike.  This well-balanced cocktail is a crowd pleaser because it offers something for people of all tastes.  In terms of its alcohol content, it is the strongest of the three cocktails, but you would never know it from the taste!


– a martini glass

– 2 1/2oz Canadian whisky

– 1/2oz Rose’s Grenadine

– 1/2oz freshly squeezed, real lemon juice

– lime wheel


1) Chill the martini glass by filling it with crushed ice and water.

2) In a cocktail shaker, add a scoop of ice, 2 1/2oz of Canadian whisky, 1/2oz Rose’s Grenadine, and 1/2oz lemon juice.  Shake until all ingredients are very cold.  Empty the martini glass, and then strain the contents of the shaker into the chilled martini glass.

3) Garnish with a lime wheel for colour.  Serve and enjoy!


Once you get a handle on the basic methodology behind making Canadian whisky cocktails, begin exploring different possibilities by using different brands of Canadian whisky.  Subtle changes will affect the balance and through experimentation you will find the mix of ingredients that suits your tastes most perfectly.  Niagara Vintage Wine Tours’ sister company, Bootleggers Beer, Wine and Distillery Tours, offers educational tours and tastings of products at Niagara’s Canadian whisky distilleries including Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers in Beamsville, Syndicate Restaurant and Brewery in Niagara Falls, and Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Each distillery offers several great tasting Canadian whiskies to choose from.  Your journey into the world of Canadian whisky cocktails begins and ends in Niagara.  Cheers!


By: Michael Twyman
Sommelier and Wine Smart Guide