Parties and gatherings are par for the course for the year-end festivities. If you’re hosting any, there’s no better way to elevate your guests’ experience than with specially prepared DIY cocktails, whether served by themselves or as part of a wider ensemble of drinks.
To get you going, we’ve enlisted the help of Chivas brand ambassador Matthew Parry to create this guide, which contains six whisky cocktails that will suit a range of different occasions. There’s something here for every setting, from an aperitif served before a meal, to a drink that you can nurse over an entire evening.
These DIY cocktails share a common feature: they’re built around the respective whiskies used to showcase and complement its taste profile. There are thus no overwhelming flavours that will mask the whiskies.
Ease of preparation matters too, and convenience was a priority when we were crafting this guide. We’ve pared things down to the bare minimum to make things simple for even complete beginners – no special equipment is needed, the ingredients can readily be found at your nearest supermarket, and the steps to prepare the drinks are relatively straightforward. Rest assured that there’s no need for cocktail shakers, or egg whites, or fancy manoeuvres involving layering liquids over one another before setting things alight. Before you plunge in, however, there are some basics to revisit.
Ice makes a difference, but probably to a lesser extent than you imagine. In a cocktail, its main function is to chill the drink, while also melting to “release” water to further dilute it. You could buy (or make) fancier ice that uses pure water, and thus remove any influence that it may have on a cocktail’s taste, but it isn’t necessary – the cost-benefit ratio of such a choice doesn’t skew much towards the more involved option. Instead, grab ice from your nearest convenience store if you want. Pay more attention, however, to the size of the ice cubes you use – the larger they are, the more slowly they melt, which is generally preferred. If you’re feeling up for it, go for moulds that let you create large spherical or cubic pieces of ice that don’t just melt more slowly, but also add a touch of visual oomph.
Touch of bitter
Bitters are a whole subject unto themselves. Basically, this herbal alcoholic preparation serves to add an additional dimension of bitterness and aroma to any cocktail it’s in. The final results vary though, depending on the exact one used. For a jack-of-all-trades, Parry recommends Scrappy’s Bitters, which are lighter than the commonly used Angostura bitters. A single bottle will go a long way, since they’re used in such small amounts for every cocktail.
SODA AND TONIC
Tonic water and soda water are two sides of the same coin. Both are carbonated, and both help to “lengthen” a whisky-based cocktail by diluting it to bring out its flavours. They accomplish this in different ways though. Soda water merely adds volume and carbonation without any taste of its own, which allows it to be used freely – it can simply be added to any drink that’s too strong. Tonic water, however, contains quinine that gives it a bitter edge, and must thus be used with care. Different brands of tonic water also vary subtly in their tastes, so try a few to find out which you prefer. East Imperial and Fever-Tree are brands that are commonly recommended, so you can start experimenting with them. Remember: the tonic water that you prefer in your gin and tonic isn’t necessarily what you might like in your whisky cocktail.
CHOICE OF GLASS
Yes, the glass that a cocktail is served in matters. The shorter rock glass, also known as the Old Fashioned glass, usually serves a stronger, more concentrated cocktail, while the taller highball glass holds more ice and mixers for a longer and easier drink.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
There are guides like this one out there, and the International Bartenders Association sanctions a list of official cocktails, but there’s no figurative Bible in this field, so make what you like, or tweak what you don’t to your taste. Experiment away. Just don’t forget to note down what works so you can replicate it in the future.
WHEN IN DOUBT, SWEETEN IT
Palates may differ across individuals, but people generally prefer sweeter cocktails in Singapore, at least from Parry’s experience. So err on the side of caution when experimenting with recipes by skewing your concoctions towards that dimension.
NO. 1: The Do-It-All – Chivas Sonic
WHAT IT IS
The Chivas Sonic is the most versatile drink in this guide, and a Chivas signature. Here, soda water brings out the sweet, fruity flavours of the Chivas Regal 12, which tonic water balances out with a tinge of bitterness. This cocktail is easy to make, appeals to a wide palate, and pairs well with various foods, which makes it a go-to for almost any occasion.
WHAT YOU NEED
1. Chivas Regal 12 (40 millilitres)
2. Soda water (60 millilitres)
3. Tonic water (60 millilitres)
4. Orange (one slice)
HOW TO MAKE IT
1. Pour the Chivas Regal 12 into a highball glass, then fill it with ice.
2. Top the glass up with soda water and tonic water (SOda and toNIC make sonic, hence the name). There’s no need for careful measurements; to keep the proportion of tonic water to soda water even, simply pour them simultaneously. Stop when the level of liquid reaches a thumb’s width below the rim. This is the wash line, and leaves adequate space for any additional volume should the ice melt.
3. Stir with a bar spoon to mix thoroughly.
4. Garnish with a slice of orange to give the cocktail a citrusy twist.
1. Always start with the spirit and never with the ice – pouring whisky over ice melts the latter, which dilutes the final product before the cocktail’s even complete. The only exception to this is when a specific recipe calls for it; melting ice is sometimes used as an integral ingredient in a cocktail.
2. You can tweak the proportion of soda water and tonic water to control how bitter you want your Chivas Sonic.
3. Consider a different garnish if you want; a slice of pear or apple will work equally well while imparting a different flavour to the final product. Be sure to serve with the garnish on the cocktail’s surface though.
NO. 2: The Adaptable One – Chivas Collins
WHAT IT IS
A simple cocktail that’s also easy to make, the Chivas Collins offers rich flavours that you can adapt to your taste buds – simply tweak the amount of whisky in it or the ingredients as suggested below to create the Peachy Collins.
WHAT YOU NEED
1. Chivas Regal 12 (30-60 millilitres)
2. Lemonade (100 millilitres)
3. Soda water (to taste)
4. Apple (two to three slices)
5. Lime wheel
HOW TO MAKE IT
1. Place apple slices at the bottom of the glass and pour the Chivas Regal 12 over it. Use as little or as much whisky as specified, depending on your preference.
2. Leave to stand for between 10 to 30 minutes. This infuses the whisky with the fruit’s flavours while opening its own notes.
3. Fill with large ice cubes, and pour in lemonade to add the citrusy notes.
4. Finish off to the wash line with soda water, which lengthens the drink with carbonation while making it less sweet.
5. Stir, then garnish with a lime wheel.
1. Green apple slices are preferred as they are crunchier than red ones.
2. Almost any fizzy lemonade works here, even Sprite, so feel free to use whatever’s available, or try different ones.
For a variation on the Chivas Collins, substitute the Chivas Regal 12 with Chivas Regal Mizunara, and the apple slices with peach slices, to create the Peachy Collins. You can also experiment with other fruits to change the cocktail’s flavour profile.
Continue on to more whisky-based DIY cocktails in Part 2.