What does Whisky have to do with curing Parkinson’s? Well, today’s International Whisk(e)y Day, a day to raise a glass to commemorate the dearly departed whisky-writer, Michael Jackson. He was a celebrated journalist who penned several influential books about whiskey and beer which have sold millions of copies around the globe and have been translated into eighteen different languages. After several years of treating and writing about whisky the way the French would about their wine, he suffered a cardiac arrest due to complications with Parkinson’s disease which he had been suffering from for at least a decade before his death.
According to International Whisk(e)y Day’s website, this day was first introduced to the public on March 27, 2008 at the Whiskey Festival Northern Netherlands as an initiative to honour the late Michael Jackson. However, more than commemorating the legendary writer, this non-profit celebration also seeks to raise funds for Parkinson’s Disease research.
In order to commemorate this very special day, we figured we’d put together a list of some of the best-tasting cocktails you can have with whisky as its main ingredient. Now, here at Comvite, we all prefer to drink our whisky neat, and we really don’t know jack shit about cocktails. Luckily for us (and for you), there’s this little bar in La Antigua Guatemala called The Whisky Den which boasts an incredible collection of whisky and a staff that really knows their stuff. So, we asked them to select the best whisky-based cocktails. Salud!
The Old-Fashioned typically is, should always, and will always be the first one on a list of whisky-based drinks because it is the oldest embalmer referred to as a “cocktail”. This magic formula of sugar, water, some citrous rind, whisky and bitters had fallen out of fashion a bit after the 1970’s. However, thanks to manly men like Mad Men’s Don Draper and every other guy’s desire to be like them, this cocktail came swaggering back into vogue.
“This is a strong, sweet drink,” comments the owner of The Whisky Den, Álvaro León. “It’s really a drink with a lot of class, and it’s for people who will enjoy it for it’s structure.”
While the Old-Fashioned may be the Jazz of mixed drinks, no other drink has been closer to Jazz than New Orleans’ official cocktail: Sazerac. The creation of this drink has been credited to a fellow named Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a creole apothecary who set up shop in the French Quarter during the 19th century and sold gentian-based bitters crafted from an old family recipe of his. Traditionally, this cocktail was made with Cognac brandy, a coating of absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters, and sugar. However, a happy plague of insects destroyed the supply of French brandy for a while, which resulted in a permanent switch to rye whisky as this fantastic drink’s main ingredient.
“The sazerac’s a pretty unknown drink for people in general,” says Mr. León. “But it’s really enjoyed by people who know a thing or two about mixed drinks. It’s a strong drink.”
No one’s really sure of how this mixed-drink from the 19th century actually came to be. Rumor had it that it was actually created by Winston Churchill’s mother, but his autobiography later proved this to be bovine fecal matter. The one thing that everyone knows for sure is that this mix of whisky, sweet vermouth, and bitters stirred with ice is a thing of beauty.
“It’s a very sophisticated drink that’s served in a martini glass,” observes Mr. León. “It’s presentation is too pretty, and, even though it is a mix of two liquors and bitters, you still get a nice taste of whisky out of it.”
Last but not least, there’s the Fénix (not to be confused with the Phoenix). This is one of The Whisky Den’s house drinks which, according to its owner, is an accurate representation of Frosty, one of his bartenders. This cocktail features a mix of espresso, brown sugar, and scotch, which is set aflame and poured into a glass with a stem. It’s a perfect drink for people who like coffee or whisky or both.
“This drink embodies who Frosty is,” concludes Mr. León. “He’s a very good barista, a great bartender, and he prepares it with the right amount of gaiety and showiness. If someone’s having a bad time at our place, we serve them this drink and, all of the sudden, they’re in a good mood.”