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The 9 Best Whiskey Cocktails for Whiskey-Phobes

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From the outside looking in, whiskey seems like an impenetrable world. Fanatics wax poetic about the elegance of Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, while those less enthused about the spirit just sit there scratching their heads. Some people find rye’s spicy notes overwhelming, bourbon’s caramelly flavor too sweet, or can’t stand the smoky taste and smell of peaty scotch.

But whiskey is not a love it or hate it drink. You—yes, even you—can learn to like the brown liquor when mixed in the right cocktail, which can balance whiskey’s robust notes with other flavors. Here, the best whiskey cocktails for people who (think they) don’t like whiskey.

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Whiskey is often misunderstood as a serious drinker’s drink, something best sipped neat within a cocoon of leather and rich mahogany. But whiskey can play in the summer sun just as well as the best blended Daiquiri or frozen Margarita. This slushy take on a Mint Julep emerges from the blender with a lovely green tint that looks just as refreshing as it tastes. It’s sweet, minty and ready for all sorts of summer activities.

The Essentials

gold rum
Sour Mix
mint
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Despite a name that suggests otherwise, this cocktail will make you familiar with a whole new type of whiskey: spicy, pepper-infused moonshine. The honey-habanero spirit embodies moonshine’s nickname “white lightning,” as it burns up your taste buds with earthy, vegetal flavors and tingling capsaicin. Combined with several amari and a touch of minty Branca Menta, the drink may approach as a stranger, but you’ll soon be best friends.

The Essentials

honey habanero moonshine
Cocchi Americano
Amaro
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Vino drinkers have more in common with whiskey heads than they may realize. This take on a Black Manhattan splits the base between bourbon and Cabernet, bringing forward the oaky vanilla notes in both. Cynar and pimento bitters add depth to the woody duo, incase a new found love of bourbon wasn’t exciting enough for you.

The Essentials

cabernet sauvignon
Cynar
bourbon
MATTHEW KELLY/SUPERCALL
Gin Rickey enthusiasts may initially mistake the Bourbon Rickey for its juniper-forward cousin, but don’t assume this is a newfangled whiskey drink masquerading as your gin-spiked favorite. The bourbon version of the Rickey actually predates the more familiar gin version. A long pour of club soda and spritz of bright lime juice make the dark spirit nearly unrecognizable.

The Essentials

bourbon
lime
club soda
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Whiskey and apple are an undeniable autumnal duo. With this appley highball, you can learn to like the combo of refreshing fall flavors before darker, whiskey-forward winter menus arrive. Based on the classic Scotch and Soda, it uses apple juice and agave syrup to complement the sweet and citrusy sides of scotch, while soda keeps the whole thing light and bubbly.

The Essentials

Scotch
apple juice
Club soda
PATRICK SPEARS/SUPERCALL

If you’re not familiar with Milk Punch, you really can’t say you dislike it until you’ve tried it. The creamy bourbon cocktail has long been a brunch staple in the Big Easy to soothe zombified partiers back to life with gentle, boozy comfort. We opt to cut the bourbon base with dark rum to make it even more approachable for whiskey-phobes.

The Essentials

Bourbon
Dark Rum
Milk
MATTHEW KELLY/SUPERCALL

Making this scotch cocktail in a French press gives you absolute control over how much you taste the base spirit in the final drink. Relatively mellow Monkey Shoulder scotch is combined with lemon and mint teas, along with several fruit slices, in a coffee maker and then left to infuse. Leave the plunger alone for a while, and you’ll get a tea-heavy cocktail. As you learn to appreciate the taste, push the plunger sooner to get more a more whisky-forward flavor. You’ll evolve into a scotch drinker in no time.

The Essentials

scotch
Mint Tea
Lemon Iced Tea
MATTHEW KELLY/SUPERCALL

The spicy black tea kombucha featured in this probiotic cocktail is quite robust, so the flavors of bourbon, Cherry Heering and Cynar are more secondary. It’s a great way to familiarize your palate with whiskey without facing it head-on.

The Essentials

Bourbon
Black tea Kombucha
cinnamon
PATRICK SPEARS/SUPERCALL

The Manhattan (and its lesser known sibling the Brooklyn) can make New York seem like one big whiskey drinking club. Just as you shouldn’t believe the unfair stereotype of the unfriendly New Yorker, you shouldn’t take all Manhattan variations at face value. The Red Hook, named for a neighborhood in Brooklyn, curbs rye’s aggressive spice with Punt e Mes and maraschino liqueur, making it a sweeter and more approachable version of the classic.

The Essentials

rye whiskey
Punt e Mes
maraschino liqueur

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