Trend Watch: Whiskey Craft Cocktails

Cocktail culture is a trend-driven thing. Sometimes that means a rush to all things sweet and youth-friendly, but not always. For instance, nostalgia-driven television shows have sparked a revival of many 20th century whiskey craft cocktails. These often revolve around the nuanced, adult flavors of the spirit, a definite advantage to anyone taking aim at a mature, more affluent demographic. Whether your guests favor the sweetness of bourbon, the smokiness of scotch or the austere sharpness of rye, this is your time to shine.

A Kindred Spirit

Even the most avid cocktail enthusiasts aren't likely to order a 25-year-old top shelf scotch in a mixed drink, but that doesn't mean they'll settle for bar brands either. Look for scotches, aged around 10 years, that are good enough to command a premium price, without bending your cost out of shape. It helps to find brands that really showcase the typical flavors of their style. For example, if you plan to build a signature version of the Rob Roy, you might choose a peaty, smoky scotch.

Something Old, Something New

If you're just taking your first steps into craft cocktails, you might start with a few classics such as the Manhattan, old-fashioned or whiskey sour. Nostalgia has made these neglected standards hot again, and everyone's familiar with them as mediocre bar-brand staples. Your clientele will readily appreciate the difference when you offer them a higher-quality version. Don't be afraid to offer choices. For example, some make an old-fashioned with bourbon, while others prefer the sharper, drier taste of rye. Promote both, and invite your guests to register a preference. While customers learn how the classics should taste, when made with good ingredients, you'll have opportunity to branch out and try some of the newest, trendiest creations from your colleagues in other cities. Try your hand at a whiskey seduction, for example, with its unusual pairing of whiskey and wine; or maybe a Satan's circus with its startling Chile-infused Aperol bite.

That Little Surprise

As your inner mixologist starts to gain confidence, you can start following your palate toward signature cocktails of your own. Varying your cocktail by changing the whiskey, the bitters, or the garnish can take it in a completely different direction. And so can ice. When it's hot outside, any whiskey craft cocktail with hint of sweetness can become an adult-friendly frozen drink. Just drop the usual ingredients into your Vitamix blender, along with a cup of ice for each portion, and give it a spin. Some might require a splash of simple syrup to bring up their flavors, so experiment a little to get it right. Some whiskey drinks are flat-out designed for the blender. For example, a peanut butter bourbon milkshake is the perfect grown-up treat for your customer's inner child.

Mastering the Craft

If you're serious about craft cocktails, consider taking things to the next level by making your own ingredients. That probably won't include the whiskey, which is best left to experts, but anything else is fair game. For example, switching from the industrial version to house-made grenadine makes a noticeable difference. The real thing packs an intensely tart, fruity flavor, which is why it became such a popular cocktail ingredient in the first place. Build on your reputation by infusing other bold flavors, from vanilla beans to chili peppers, into your favorite spirits or mixing ingredients. You'll know you've reached the point of no return when you start making your own bitters.

Just Add Whiskey

There are countless drinks that can be spiced up with a touch of Whiskey. Just replace or add a couple ounces of whiskey, depending on preference, to the following Vitamix recipes for an added kick to the cocktail menu.