While it can be fun to experiment with new ingredients and recipes when making cocktails, the process can get pricey and fussy when you need a dozen bottles, plus homemade syrups or tinctures, to create one drink. Luckily some of the best libations require only three ingredients—one of which is whisky. Thanks to its versatility, the brown spirit is a perfect fit for simple drinks with big character.
“You don’t have to carve out an hour in your day just to make a good cocktail at home,” says New York Times cocktail writer Robert Simonson, author of 3-Ingredient Cocktails. “Most of the enduring drinks of the last century or two are incredibly simple. That is one of the reasons they have lasted. Name a classic cocktail, and chances are good that you’re naming a three-ingredient cocktail.”
Think about the Manhattan or Old Fashioned. They remain classic go-to cocktails because of their depth of flavor and complexity, despite their short ingredient lists. With cocktails, more doesn’t always mean better.
“You don’t get a better cocktail by adding more things to the glass, any more than you get a better sandwich by piling more and more items between the slices of bread,” Simonson says. “It’s all about which bottles you are choosing to put into the drink, and their quality and complexity.”
Simonson’s main advice is to follow the recipe and use the best available ingredients. Master the classic version first, then you can play around with ratios and substitutions.
Get started with these whisky cocktails, which each use just three ingredients (plus a garnish).
Revolver: Citrus with Flair
While this bourbon-based recipe is simple, a flamed orange twist garnish adds visual flair.
Velvet Undertow: Scotch with Subtlety
Experiment with different scotches and vermouths to discover your ideal balance in this versatile drink.
Root 66: Americana Squared
Bourbon, root beer, lime juice: this cocktail was made for summer sipping or batching to-go.
Bobby Burns: Holiday Spiciness
Try a variation on the classic Rob Roy, using your favorite blended scotch and swapping Bénédictine for vermouth.