Bartender’s Choice: “Shaken, With Whiskey”

In "Bartender's Choice," we challenge some of our favorite bartenders with a drink order and see what they come up with. This round: Phil Olson, Andrew King and Matt Tocco take on something "shaken, with whiskey."

Shaken Whiskey Cocktails

It’s hard to imagine a call more open than a shaken whiskey cocktail. Not only does the shaker uncover the lighter side of the spirit’s personality, it opens the door for countless variations on the terrifically versatile, all-season Whiskey Sour. So it’s unsurprising that, when tasked with such an order, many bartenders tend to start with the classic Whiskey Sour blueprint.

“When people ask me for a shaken whiskey cocktail, I find that it’s important to not lose the flavor of the whiskey among the citrus or other components,” says Phil Olson, bar manager at Chicago’s Longman & Eagle. For his Death Cookies, he shakes High West Double Rye, a blend of young and old rye whiskies, with génépy, honey and lemon and then channels the shandy with a topper of sour beer. Just as the herbal flavors play off the young rye’s floral notes, the honey brings out the sweetness of the older spirit. “I like to find things that will enhance or emphasize the flavors already present in the whiskey,” says Olson. 

Similarly, Andrew King, bartender at FIG, relies on a balance of whiskey. citrus and herbal flavors (lemon, génépy and Bénédictine). But a hefty 12 drops of Peychaud’s bitters makes his drink, The Thirsty Monk, work well as a meal opener. “Shaking versus stirring yields a drink that is lighter on the palate,” says King, who suggests that the aromatic Monk is “a perfect aperitivo before a meal: The herbs settle your belly and the rest gets your palate excited to eat.”

At Nashville’s Pinewood SocialThe Patterson House and newly opened Le Sel, whiskey cocktails are easily the most popular drink category, explains Strategic Hospitality beverage director Matt Tocco. “Whiskey is a huge part of the institutional memory and heritage of the south . . . but in the summertime our guests seem to want something more refreshing,” he says. Rather than relying solely on citrus, Tocco opts instead for a shaken blend of bourbon alongside fruity and bitter Byrrh and grenadine, balanced with just a touch of lemon and topped with soda water for an effervescent lift. Somewhere in between a Whiskey Sour, a Blinker and a Byrrh Cassis, his Byrrh de Garde is a simple warm-weather cocktail that stays true to the call, yet sits refreshingly just outside the drawing lines.