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The Tippling Point | Forget gin, try these whiskey cocktails for Diwali

Famous whiskey cocktails from the Manhattan to Whisky Sour, their (multiple) origin stories, and easy recipes to make them at home.

October 30, 2021 / 12:42 PM IST
Old-fashioned whiskey cocktail, which was a rage in the '60s, has still not gone out of style.

Old-fashioned whiskey cocktail, which was a rage in the '60s, has still not gone out of style.

It's time for Diwali. Bring out the lights. And the drinks too.

Why not push up the celebratory mood by a couple of notches with a few whiskey cocktails this time? Usually, we throw only vodka and gin against juices and sugar. Anything that spoils whiskey, other than water, soda or ice, is anathema, especially for us Indians. Well, that's only half the planet; let's go see the other side of the world where whiskey aficionados punish manu remakant logo the-tippling-point-logo1-Rthe spirit with fantastic ingredients.

Here are a few of the famous whiskey cocktails going around the world.

1. Manhattan

The exact origin of the Manhattan cocktail is shrouded in mystery, which comes in handy for its popularity (you know how myths rush in where facts fear to tread).


One theory is that it was Dr Iain Marshall who invented this wonder in the early 1880s. It was at a party held in Manhattan club (hence the name) in New York attended by Lady Randolf Churchill, the mother of the future British Prime Minister (but later this myth was disproved). "Valentine's Manual of New York", published in 1923, put the blame (for inventing the Manhattan) on William F. Mulhall, a bartender at Hoffman House, New York.

Well in the world of cocktails, the more origin-stories abound a drink, the more charming it comes across to the drinker.

This mixture of rye (or bourbon) whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, together called the Manhattan is considered a classic in the cocktail world. While the vermouth sweetens your mouth, the bourbon in the cocktail underlines the experience with a serious caramel-like aroma.

2. Old-fashioned

"Crush a small lump of sugar in a whiskey glass containing a little water, add a lump of ice, two dashes of Angostura bitters, a small piece of lemon peel, one jigger Holland gin. Mix with small bar spoon. Serve." Says the first cocktail book in history published in 1862, Jerry Thomas' Bartenders Guide: How to Mix Drinks.

It was a recipe to make Old Fashioned Holland Gin Cocktail. You chuck the gin out and put whiskey in its place, you have an amazing drink in your hand.

A twist of orange, a spoonful of sugar, a splash of water, bitters, cherry for garnish, your whiskey would sing. The sweetness from sugar would have to be perfectly balanced with the sourness of orange and the bitterness of bourbon (ideally).

Old-fashioned whiskey cocktail, which was a rage in the '60s, has still not gone out of style.

3. Whisky Sour

Born in the rolling seas, refreshing the dry and salty mouths of British Navy sailors, whiskey with a dash of lemon (lemon to fight away scurvy, a disease rampant among sailors in old times) was a high-octane tonic in the 19th century. At some point of time, they started adding sugar and water to cut the tartness of the hard drink. And sour was born.

Whisky Sour is a drink, one part sweet, one sour, and two parts of a strong - whiskey.

It is a delicate balance that calls for some artistic sensibility. You can build the cocktail, that has been around since the 19th century, easily at home. Use any whiskey but go for Rye or Canadian if you can get them.

4. Irish Coffee

The winter of 1943. The weather was harsh, hostile, punishing. Joe Sheridan was working at a restaurant in an airbase near Limerick, Ireland, as a top-class chef and bartender. A flight returned to the base after a few hours due to severe atmospheric conditions. Already depleted and thirsty from the unsuccessful journey, the passengers came to the restaurant where Sheridan worked.

Irish Coffee Irish Coffee.

Our bartender felt empathetic towards the poor crowd now waiting for the weather to change its mood. How could he help? Suddenly he came up with a brilliant idea! Why not try adding some Irish whiskey to the coffee the passengers were drinking? The passengers loved the experience and profusely thanked him for that amazing creation they just tested. "Was it Brazilian coffee?" one asked. "No," he replied, "it was Irish coffee."

The legend was born.

Irish Coffee was introduced in the US in 1952 by a traveller and writer Stanton Delaplane resulting in its world-wide fame.

So in rainy seasons or to beat the cold away in the oncoming winter, nothing could warm your cockles up more than a shot of Irish whiskey. It's simply coffee, preferably Irish, brown sugar, and a touch of freshly whipped unsweetened cream.

5. Mint Julep

Mint Juleps were popular in the US even in the 18th century as a panacea for stomachaches. But people desperately needed some drink to wash the leaves down. On the other end, a legend claims that a man was searching near the Mississippi river for something he could put into his bourbon. History is not specific on the date the two - bourbon and mint juleps - met and fell in love.

Today many insist mint is essential to the whiskey experience. Here's the work behind the magic - fresh mint, sugar, bourbon of your choice, it's done! Variations are welcome.

Mint Juleps is a common drink served at the Kentucky Derby.

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Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog — A Cup of Kavitha — introducing world poetry to Malayalis. The views expressed here are personal.
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