American Spirits Take a (Cocktail) Trip to the Tropics

American whiskey and brandy go tropical in these riffs on classic tiki cocktails.

Suffering Bastard, via Copper & Kings

Suffering Bastard, via Copper & Kings

Depending on where you might be in the states right now, frost is covering the ground, and the outside temperature is considerably less than bathing suit-worthy. Even the whiskey is huddling together for warmth inside the barrels, longing for the days it can stretch out back into the wood. We’re all dreaming of warmer weather, and I like to prepare for summer by practicing my tropical cocktails. Most people think of rum when it comes to these type of drinks, but American whiskey and brandy make for an ideal base too.

Sometimes a simple approach is all that’s needed to feel summery in winter time. Ole Smoky’s brand ambassador, Johny Baker, suggests mixing their Ole Smoky Blue Flame (gold medal, 2018 New York International Spirits Competition) with cranberry juice and Sprite to mimic the feel of warmer days. Meanwhile, bourbon archaeologist Nicolas Laracuente suggests garnishing a neat pour of bourbon with an umbrella for a tropical twist. However, sometimes more drastic measures are needed to travel to the tropics without leaving home. While you’re waiting for the weather to warm up, try mixing up some of these tropically-inspired American whiskey and brandy cocktails.

Suffering Bastard  

Eron Plevan, ALEX&NDER

This twist on the typically bourbon-based tiki drink is made with American brandy aged in Kentucky bourbon and American oak barrels. For further reading on the history of the Suffering Bastard, please click here.

Combine first five ingredients in shaker. Add ice and shake. Strain into a glass with ice. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with lime.

Cutwater Devil’s Share Kumquat Smash

Levi Walker, Cutwater Spirits Regional Sales Manager

  • 2 oz. (60 ml) Devil’s Share Bourbon (gold, 2018 NYISC)

  • ½ oz. (15 ml) lemon juice

  • ¾ oz. (22 ml) simple syrup

  • 2 dashes bitters

  • 3 muddled kumquats

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Yellow Rose Texas Tornado

Coladas as best double-strained, photo via Marc Babin, Unsplash

Coladas as best double-strained, photo via Marc Babin, Unsplash

  • 2 oz. (60 ml) Yellow Rose Outlaw Bourbon (bronze, 2018 NYISC)

  • ½ oz. (15 ml) simple syrup

  • 1 oz. (30 ml) grenadine

  • 1 oz. (30 ml) lime juice

  • 1 oz. (30 ml) fresh orange juice

  • 1 oz. (30 ml) passion fruit rum

Combine, shake over ice, and pour into a glass. Garnish with an orange wheel and a cherry. Serve with a long straw.

Kentucky Colada

Beth Burrows, Jim Beam brand ambassador

  • 1 ½ oz. (45 ml) Jim Beam Black (gold, 2017 NYISC)

  • ¾ oz. (22 ml) Coco Reàl Cream of Coconut

  • ¾ oz. (22 ml) Fresh Lime Juice

  • ¾ oz. (22 ml) Pineapple Juice

  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with ice. Shake. Double strain (to get out all the ice shards and coconut bits) into glass over ice. Garnish with lime wheel.

Kentucky Bird

Joe McEwan, Have Spirits Will Travel Blogger

  • 2 oz. (60 ml) pineapple juice

  • 1 ½ oz. (45 ml) Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

  • ¾ oz. Campari

  • ½ oz. (15 ml) simple syrup

  • ½ oz. (15 ml) lime juice

  • Angostura Bitters topper

Use a cocktail shaker with 3 cubes and shake 10-15 seconds. Pour in Collins glass with pellet ice. Hit with Angostura on top.

Sagamore Chai Tai

Kentucky Mai Tai, photo by Anthony Happel

Kentucky Mai Tai, photo by Anthony Happel

Pour Chai Simple Syrup into an Old Fashioned glass. Douse with bitters and add a few drops of water. Add Sagamore Spirit Rye Whiskey and stir. Add several large ice cubes and stir rapidly with a bar spoon to chill. Garnish with a slice of orange and a cherry.

Kentucky Mai Tai

Anthony Happel, Head Bartender Fork & Barrel

  • ½  oz. (15 ml) lime juice

  • 1 oz. (30 ml) orange juice

  • ½ oz. (15 ml) almond orgeat  

  • ½ oz. (15 ml) Cointreau

  • 1 ½ oz. (45 ml) Mellow Corn Bonded Straight Corn Whiskey

Combine all ingredients in a tall glass with ice and stir. Garnish with an orange slice and an umbrella. (How do you properly shake that Mai Tai? We show you how here.)