Whisky is a versatile spirit, and there are many, many different expressions. So while it seems you could add it in just about any cocktail, an honest mixologist will tell you there are a few key points to keep in mind.

With bourbon, you have the advantage of highlighting subtle oak notes from aging, and those tasty caramel notes from the corn in the mash. Bourbon is often blended with other grains, so the trick is to pair it with flavours that complement those earthy elements of spice, vanilla and wood.

As an Albertan, it would be a crime to forget rye whisky. There are countless classic rye cocktails, including the Manhattan and Sazarac, but because it has so many spicy elements you have the luxury of either playing into it or toning it right down. To highlight that spice, focus on softer spirits like dry vermouth or sherry; toning it down means incorporating sweetness found in many liqueurs or sweet vermouth. Scotch is a dynamic whisky favourite. Strongly peated whisky can add a depth of smoke to make the perfect earthy cocktail. In many contemporary cocktails, Scotch also works as an incredible rinse to add those subtle “rough around the edges” notes.


9th Avenue SE – Whiskey Row

During prohibition, only hotels were allowed to sell liquor, and as there were several hotels on 9th Avenue SE, it became known as Whiskey Row. It was here that we find the Sundance Kid – yes, he was part of Calgary’s history! Harry Longabaugh (Sundance) was in Southern Alberta for around three years, wrangling at Bar U Ranch near Longview, and also in the Blackie area 70 K southeast of Calgary. Looking for a change in lifestyle, Sundance and his partner, Frank Hamilton, opened a saloon in the Grand Central Hotel on 9th Avenue SE, between Centre Street and 1st Street SE.

However, there were many disputes between the partners and Sundance decided to leave Calgary and head south, where he met up with Butch Cassidy and his team, the Wild Bunch. Only a short time after he left the city, a fire razed both the saloon and the hotel to the ground. One18 Empire’s Alejandro Lobo-Guerrero explains that they continue the whiskey tradition because of the location.

“The versatility of whiskey makes it the perfect spirit to create spectacular libations,” he says. “The wide range of flavour profiles, from vanilla, cinnamon, and chocolate, to peat and smoke, allows us the liberty to mix unique and innovative cocktails.”

See here for One18 Empire’s Jammy Horse, an Alberta recipe using Dark Horse whiskey to create a well-rounded drink with a balanced combination of sweet and savoury flavours.

Whatever whisky you choose, have fun with it. Try things that you’d never think would work and you could be surprised!

Deacon Blues

¾ oz Rye Whisky
¾ oz Green Chartreuse
¾ oz Sweet Vermouth
Dash orange bitters
Scotch rinse
Orange peel

Combine all ingredients except Scotch in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass that has been rinsed with scotch. Express orange twist over the cocktail and garnish.

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