12 Unique Whisky Drinks From Around The World

Cocktails and spirits have a special way of capturing history and culture. Whisky has roughly 1000-year-old roots, first making its way into the highlands of Scotland and Ireland. These northerly regions were too cold for growing grapes and producing wine, so Irish and Scottish monasteries began fermenting grain mash, creating the first forms of whisky as we know it today. 

The word whisky originates from the Gaelic word "usquebaugh," translating to "water of life." So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that this amber-hued spirit is widely loved around the globe. Over the centuries, more and more whisky-producing regions have emerged. Each region, from the bourbon belt of the southern United States to the Japanese archipelago ubiquitous for producing rice whiskies, reflects local traditions, ingredients, and terroir. Native woods, local waters, and nuanced distilling practices are part of the magic that creates whisky expressions unique to each place.

While many scotches and bourbons are dangerously delicious served neat or on the rocks, this so-called water of life has naturally found its way into countless cocktails far and wide. Some whisky drinks play on the smoky nature of peaty scotches, while others complement the toasted oak and nutty notes of bourbons. Get your cocktail shaker and ice ready because we've rounded up a list of unique whisky drinks from around the world, each reflecting regional flavors and whiskies.

Mizuwari (Japanese highball)

Mizuwari, more commonly known as the Japanese highball, is the answer to a whisky cocktail meant for hot summer days. The two-ingredient concoction allows you to savor the flavors of the whisky while enjoying a refreshing and effervescent beverage. Although today it might be associated with Japan, the first highball is rumored to have been born in the late 1800s when an actor requested a "scotch and soda."

Regardless of its origins, its associations are still linked to Japan. Mizuwari was a low-cost beverage in the 1950s in Japan when the country was recovering from WWII. The highball concept gained momentum in the 1950s when Suntory, a leading Japanese whisky producer, officially introduced the Mizuwari highball. Shinjiro Torii, Suntory whisky pioneer, aimed to break away from the traditional image of whisky as a neat or on-the-rocks drink. The use of cold, carbonated water and a tall glass is also key. "Highball" is a reference to the tall glass used to serve the drink, which preserves the carbonation.

Making a classic whisky highball is straightforward. From peaty Islay whiskies to smooth bourbons, pick your poison and mix one-part whisky to three-parts club soda. Serve it in a tall glass over ice, garnish with a wedge of lime or lemon, and drink up! Looking for a drink with a little more depth? There are plenty of ways to upgrade a highball cocktail, from swapping the soda with fruit sodas or bubbly cider or even playing with bitters.

Irish coffee

Move over bloody marys and mimosas, Irish coffee deserves a seat at the brunch table. A splash of whisky in your morning cup of joe is the sure way to make it "Irish" and start your day with some pizzazz. Irish coffee is an equally cozy way to finish the day off in front of a crackling fire. 

Irish coffee is more than just a warm and comforting beverage, though. This soothing concoction — a delightful blend of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar, and cream — is a piece of Irish hospitality that comes with a colorful backstory. Irish coffee is said to have originated during the 1940s at the Foynes Airbase in County Limerick, Ireland. Legend has it that a group of American passengers disembarked from a seaplane due to inclement weather and the chef at the airport's restaurant, Joe Sheridan, concocted this warming elixir to soothe their spirits. A few years later, a San Francisco travel writer visited Foynes and brought back the inspiration to recreate Sheridan's coffee concoction to the U.S. 

The Irish coffee cocktail has since become synonymous with the comfort of a cozy fireside chat. Savor the harmonious blend of robust coffee, smooth Irish whiskey, and silky whipped cream over a brunch or fireside on a chilly evening. This warming beverage can be enjoyed any time of the day and embodies the Irish spirit of hospitality, inviting friends and strangers alike to share in a moment of relaxation over a steaming mug. 

Mint julep

A sister drink to the renowned mojito, the mint julep is deeply intertwined with the American South's cultural tapestry. From a rose water drink in the Arab world to an 18th century medicinal remedy in Virginia, controversy swarms around the exact origins of this whisky drink. Over time, the julep evolved into a refreshing libation, particularly gaining prominence in the bourbon-rich regions of Kentucky. A U.S. senator for Kentucky introduced the drink to Washington D.C. in the mid-19th century and, in 1938, the mint julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.

To craft a classic mint julep begin by muddling fresh mint leaves with a hint of sugar in the bottom of a silver or pewter cup, releasing the herb's aromatic oils. Add crushed ice, pour in a generous measure of bourbon, and give it a gentle stir. The final touch involves garnishing with a sprig of fresh mint — for both a visual aesthetic and aromatic delight. As you're sipping on your concoction, you may just be transported through time and space. The mint julep is not merely a beverage, this minty-fresh whisky drink is a cultural symbol of Southern hospitality.

Looking to mix it up? Add some berries, citrus, and ginger to make it a whisky smash. Add some lemon wedges or berries into the bottom of the glass and muddle well to release flavors. This citrusy cousin to the classic julep is best sipped on a porch on a warm, sunny day.


If you're thinking that the best mulled wine only can be found in European Christmas markets, think again. Quebec has long ago staked a claim on its version of a hot, spiced wine that is particularly well-loved during the cooler seasons. From the name to the ingredients, each element is an ode to Canada.

The Caribou cocktail is a traditional Québécois libation with deep cultural roots in French Canada. Its origins can be traced back to the iconic Winter Carnival in Québec City, a celebration dating back to 1894. The Caribou cocktail became synonymous with this festival, which still transforms the city each January and February with ice sculptures, lights, and winter wonderland decorations. 

A delightful blend of equal parts red wine and Canadian whisky (or your preferred whisky of choice), and a generous dollop of maple syrup, the Caribou warms both body and spirit in the heart of frigid Canadian winters. This concoction is typically served warm, creating a comforting elixir that can be shared among friends and family during festive occasions. With its rich flavors and historical ties, the Caribou remains a beloved symbol of Québécois culture over a century on and a testament to the enduring warmth found during even the coldest, darkest days of the year.


Some cocktails have it all. In comes the penicillin, a little bit sweet, a little bit sour, and a little bit smoky. With a blend of scotch whisky, honey-ginger syrup, fresh lemon juice, and a smoky scotch float, this classic cocktail captures the best of each flavor.

Although often associated with Scotland thanks to the smoky scotch taking center stage, the penicillin cocktail has its roots in the early 21st century cocktail renaissance in New York. Credit goes to Sam Ross, a renowned bartender from Melbourne at the famous Manhattan bar Milk & Honey. Ross had a spark of creative inspiration and crafted the penicillin as a tribute to the classic whisky sour while incorporating smoky and medicinal elements. Although it remained a secret for some time, the cocktail eventually gained widespread recognition for its innovative combination of flavors and its nod to the healing properties of its namesake.

The invention of the penicillin cocktail marked a shift towards a more adventurous and artisanal approach to drinking. Its smoky profile, achieved through the inclusion of peaty Islay scotch whisky, adds a layer of complexity and sophistication. The use of honey syrup and ginger balances out the smoke with notes of spicy and sweet. The smoke will hit your nose long before you detect the sweet and tart drink underneath. With any luck, a couple of these drinks should cure any ailments, as its name suggests!

Rye sazerac

The sazerac cocktail is steeped in history and flavor, blending tradition and a touch of innovation. Its story begins in early 19th century New Orleans when apothecary Antoine Peychaud started serving his special bitters with brandy to friends and patrons. As the cocktail evolved, rye whiskey took the stage, adding a spicy twist to this well-loved cocktail. A sugar cube, herbaceous Peychaud's bitters, absinthe, and lemon peel accompany the rye to create this complex, aromatic cocktail.

The sazerac is a nod to the vibrant culture of N'awlins, embodying the laissez-faire attitude and vibrant energy of the Big Easy. Whether you find yourself in the heart of the French Quarter or mixing one up and sipping it at home, the sazerac captures New Orleans in a glass and will transport you to the city's lively streets and jazz-filled nights.

A sazerac should be made with ritualistic care. In one glass, muddle a sugar cube with a few dashes of water until it dissolves. Add ice and the rye whiskey to the sugar mixture. Swab the chilled drinking glass with absinthe to create an aromatic foundation that complements the spicy warmth of rye whiskey and the herbal complexity of Peychaud's bitters. Swirl the glass to coat the interior with absinthe, then discard the excess. Strain the whiskey mixture into the prepared glass. Twist a lemon peel over the glass to release some of its essence and use as a garnish. Cheers to the spirit of New Orleans!

Blood and sand

Curious about what passion and drama shaken up in a glass taste like? Stir up a blood and sand cocktail and find out. The striking deep blood orange liquid that fills the cocktail glass hints at drama. The unusual blend of ingredients is just as surprising — and yet is entirely approachable.

The first recipe of the blood and sand cocktail dates back to the 1920s. This intriguing libation was named after the 1922 silent film of the same name, starring Rudolph Valentino. The cocktail's name, as well as its vibrant red hues, is a nod to the film's themes of passion and drama. Except in the case of the drink, the unlikely blend of ingredients rises above the drama to create a robust cocktail best suited for cold winter months.

The daring drink is a blend of scotch whisky, sweet vermouth, orange juice, and cherry brandy. While scotch isn't the easiest to blend into cocktails, trust us on this one, and stick with scotch instead of opting for other whiskies. Expect a delightful combination of smoky, sweet, tart, and fruity notes. Once you've finished admiring its striking appearance, delight in the bold flavor profile. Over the decades, the blood and sand has withstood the test of time and remains a popular choice for the more adventurous cocktail explorers.

Old pal

Legend has it that some of the most enticing libations emerged during an era when alcohol was entirely illegal. The Prohibition era is an often romanticized age that was an inspiring time for cocktail creation. The old pal is a testament to this time and the enduring appeal of classic cocktails. This rye-based cocktail offers a perfect harmony of bold flavors that are as potent as they are balanced.

The old pal is a classic drink with a storied history. This age-old drink is a variation of the boulevardier, which itself is a twist on the classic negroni. Similar to the boulevardier, the old pal blends equal parts whisky, Campari, and sweet vermouth. The only difference is that the old pal swaps out the smooth bourbon used in a boulevardier for spicy rye. The bold and sophisticated flavor profile play on the spice of the rye, the herbal aromatics of the vermouth, and the bold, bitter citrus of Campari. Credit is due to Harry MacElhone, a bartender at Harry's New York Bar in Paris during the 1920s.

An Old Pal may have origins during a period famed for its innovative cocktails but it can be made at home with a few simple ingredients — no bartending license required. Combine the liquors in a glass with ice, stirring until chilled. Strain over a whiskey glass, finish with a twist of orange peel or a squeeze of lemon, and voila! Enjoy, old pal.

The Godfather

Some of the best cocktails are simple and sweet without the need for complicated recipes and difficult-to-pronounce ingredients. Enter The Godfather: a two-ingredient scotch whisky cocktail that successfully exudes sophistication and strength and satisfies the palate, of course. 

The exact origins of this simple but powerful libation are a bit hazy. Emerging during the mid-20th century, this cocktail's first imaginings are often associated with the iconic 1972 film "The Godfather," starring Marlon Brando. This bold beverage perfectly complements Brando's character, Don Vito Corleone, and the godfather himself, known for his strong and composed demeanor. A perfect pairing for the flavor profile of The Godfather cocktail.

Channeling your inner godfather is rather straightforward. Pour three parts scotch and one part amaretto over ice. Stir until chilled and strain over a glass with ice. For a touch of decadence, finish it off with a maraschino cherry or an orange twist. While a smoky scotch is the recommended whisky, some people choose to use a single malt or bourbon. The choice is yours. A scotch godfather highlights smoky, honey notes and in the case of bourbon, the notes of cloves, black pepper, and cinnamon will shine through.


A twist on perhaps the most classic whisky drink of them all, the old fashioned, the Toronto cocktail is at once surprising and approachable. While its exact origins are unknown, this rye whisky-based beverage has roots in the pre-Prohibition era and is widely associated with the cocktail culture of the early 20th century. During this golden age of cocktails, intricate and well-balanced flavor combinations were highly prized. The Toronto captures just that.

Comprising Canadian rye whisky, Fernet Branca, simple syrup, and a couple dashes of bitters, the Toronto is bold and aromatic. This delicious libation harmoniously blends sweet, bitter, and earthy notes. Fernet Branca, an Italian amaro, adds herbal elements to the spicy rye, while the simple syrup balances out the concoction. And because you can never go wrong with citrus, twist an orange peel over the glass for a subtle orange essence.

Despite its classic roots and the fact that it is often overshadowed by household whisky drinks like the old fashioned and the Manhattan, the Toronto is being revived on contemporary cocktail menus. For the innovative home cocktail blenders, you may even swap out simple syrup for maple syrup. This simple switch adds rich undertones to this sophisticated drink — and is an ode to its name sharing with a Canadian city.

Japanese sour

With many variations of this wildly popular whisky drink, what really goes into a whisky sour? A classic whisky sour is made with four ingredients: whisky, citrus, sugar, and egg white. Using these ingredients as a base, this light and refreshing blend can continuously be evolved. The Japanese sour is a variation dreamed up by Shigefumi Kabashima, owner and beverage director of ROKC, a New York City kitchen specializing in ramen, oysters, and cocktails rooted in Japanese flavors.

In the Japanese-inspired variation of a whisky sour, Japanese whisky is the star ingredient. As for which Japanese whisky to use, Kabashima's recommendation in an interview with Liquor.com is that "Nikka Coffey Grain whisky gives a rich and elegant flavor." The tart Japanese yuzu fruit is used as the citrus and is an equally important counterpart to enhance the flavor profile. Imagine a blend of orange, lemon, and lime and that's yuzu. Beyond cocktails, this Japanese citrus is sneaking its way onto contemporary menus left and right.  Kuromitsu — a Japanese syrup similar to molasses but thinner and milder — is the final touch to the Japanese sour. The decadent syrup's sweetness fuses the flavors and balances the drink.

Like with the classic version, mix the ingredients and give them a dry shake. This allows the egg white to blend with the liquids. The result? A silky-smooth cocktail with a frothy top. The Japanese sour is a fun shake-up of your usual sour that might just have you looking for seconds.

Brown derby

The brown derby cocktail dates back to Hollywood during the 1930s. The original brown derby was a simple combination of whisky, grapefruit juice, and honey syrup. Rumor has it that this cocktail was born at Vendôme Club, a popular speakeasy in Hollywood. Later, it was named after the famous Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles, a chain of restaurants known for their iconic shape: a derby hat. The simplicity of the brown derby cocktail makes it a timeless classic with a hint of elegance that can be enjoyed year-round, rain or shine. 

The brown derby is a lighter take on the oftentimes heavy whisky cocktail. Shake up bourbon or rye whisky, pink grapefruit juice, lime juice, agave, and bitters, and enjoy it over ice. A twist of fresh grapefruit is a perfect finishing touch for a classic version of this 1930s libation.

As with many classic cocktails, the brown derby has gone through various evolutions during the age of craft cocktails. If you're looking to upgrade your brown derby, add in some fresh herbs that compliment the bitterness of the grapefruit. A particularly striking variation is the sage brown derby, which offers a touch of earthy complexity that balances its bright citrus notes. For the perfect winter whisky drink, shake up the usual ingredients, pour over ice, slap a fresh sage leaf between your palms, and float it on top for an herbaceous twist.