The Best Scotches To Mix With, According To Bartenders

Whiskey is a versatile drink. There’s no single way to enjoy the spirit. Some of it is made to be sipped slowly — maybe with a rock or two of ice or a drop or two of water to open it up. Others are made to be cut with sugars, bitters, sodas, and water in highballs and cocktails. The whiskey we tend to love is the ones that bridge those worlds or the whiskey that works both as a sipper and a great cocktail base. A great example of a whisk(e)y that can work as a great mixer and sipper is Scotch whisky.

Will Benedetto, director of bars for IGC Hospitality in New York City, prefers his mixing and drinking Scotch whiskies to have at least a hint of smoke to give the drink an added dimension. “There are loads of cocktails — both classic and modern — that call for a peated scotch,” he imparts before getting into the nitty-gritty. “Often produced in Island regions of Scotland, peated scotches are made from barley that is malted over fires fueled by a slow-burning dense turf called peat.” That peat adds some intensely smoky notes that can range from grassy to sweet to chewing on a band-aid, according to Benedetto.

He’s not the only bartender with specific ideas about the scotch he prefers to mix with. Not all scotch is smoky after all. In fact, most aren’t. That’s why we decided to ask some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to scotches for mixing (that you can also sip on comfortably).

Ardbeg AN OA

Style: Islay Single Malt
ABV: 46.6%
Average Price: $74.99

Zachary Gross, beverage director at Sen Sakana in New York City

Ardbeg an OA is my go-to scotch 9 times out of 10. Although I enjoy it straight, it’s a great whisky to add that smokey peat dimension to any cocktail. If you haven’t tried this offering, you really should.

Monkey Shoulder

Style: Blended Scotch Whisky
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $29.99

Will Witherow, beverage director at Live Oak in Alexandria, Virginia

My favorite scotch to mix with is Monkey Shoulder. Monkey Shoulder is a blend of 3 single malts. We actually pair it with sweet potato for a cocktail on our menu at Live Oak.

Glendronach 12

Style: Highland Single Malt
ABV: 43%
Average Price: $68.99

Darron Foy, head bartender at The Flatiron Room in New York City

That’s a loaded question! It depends on my mood, weather, who I’m with, etc. For example, a cold winter night I’d want something sherry influenced like Glendronach or an Aberlour. Similar to Bushmills 16, they would work beautifully in an Irish Coffee or if you wanted to jazz up mulled wine. On a summer day, sun shining, I’d do a highball, so I would probably use a Japanese blend (Toki, Hibiki, or Iwai) which retain their flavor when topped off with soda and lemon. If I’m out with friends or just sitting at home with my wife, I love a Laphroaig old fashioned. Salty, peaty, and sweet. It’s a beauty.

Dewar’s 12

Style: Blended Scotch Whisky
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $31.99

Matt Catchpole, general manager at Terra in Columbia, South Carolina

If I’m looking for a great scotch for mixing, I’ll look no further than Dewar’s. We use Dewar’s 12 for most of our scotch cocktails. Of course, that changes depending on what cocktail we’re mixing, but Dewar’s is a great baseline.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Heavily Peated 10 Year

Style: Islay Single Malt
ABV: 50%
Average Price: $67.99

Jef Tate, head bartender at Janitor’s Closet in Chicago

Port Charlotte Heavily Peated is becoming a solid staple in my cocktails. The heavier peat is a marvelous standout in both stirred and shaken drinks. I recently used it in my house scotch daiquiri and it really shines.

Dewar’s White Label

Style: Blended Scotch Whisky
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $26.49

Wade McElroy, director of food and beverage development at Fieldhouse Jones in Nashville

Dewar’s White Label has always been my go-to because of the consistency and value the brand brings along with a rich history. White Label is just at home in a cocktail as it is poured neat.

Talisker 10 Year

Style: Island Single Malt
ABV: 45.8%
Average Price: $79.99

Sarah Turbett, bar manager at Oak Steakhouse in Nashville

Talisker 10 year is my favorite scotch to play around with. The flavor of Talisker 10, reminds me of the ocean. I absolutely love pairing the salty, savory flavor with citrus or vinegary elements. Currently, I’m using this scotch in a cocktail with a fig and maitake mushroom shrub.

Dewar’s 15 Year

Style: Blended Scotch Whisky
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $34.99

Dean Brown, bar director at Kissaki in New York City

I have way too many things to say on the stuff and could do a whole interview just on single malt. For cocktails, it depends on what you want out of the scotch in the final drink. On my menu, I am using Dewar’s 15 Year Blended Scotch. It’s an unpeated blend with round honeysuckle and apple/pear palate. It makes for a very warm (but not heavy) punch.

Laphroaig 10 Year

Style: Islay Single Malt
ABV: 58.6%
Average Price: $43.99

Eric Godfrey, bartender at Industry Kitchen in New York City

While I’m not a big believer in mixing scotches, if I had to choose, I’d pick Laphroaig 10 year. Very peaty with bold flavors and fragrance that works well in a variety of cocktails.

Ardbeg 10 Years Old

Style: Islay Single Malt
ABV: 46%
Average Price: $59.99

Erin Ward, corporate beverage director of Alicart Restaurant Group in New York City

It depends. If using Scotch as the main spirit, Dewar’s 12 Year is very smooth. It has nice notes of chocolate, cherry, caramel, and smoke that make it very mixable. If I just want to add a smoke highlight to the drink, then something from Islay like Ardbeg or Laphroaig will do the trick. For this, I’ll go with Ardbeg 10.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Heavily Peated 10 Year

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Style: Islay Single Malt
ABV: 50%
Average Price: $67.99

Will Benedetto, director of bars for IGC Hospitality in New York City

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 is very heavily peated but somehow the distiller was able to craft this whiskey into a remarkably friendly dram. Powerful peat notes come off almost like perfume with deep notes of stone fruit and leather making it a really fun whiskey to experiment in a cocktail.

Cutty Sark

Style: Blended Scotch Whisky
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $19.99

Gary Wallach, director of food & beverage for Arlo SoHo in New York City

There was this bottle of Cutty Sark in my house while I was growing up. It sat on a shelf that hung above the doorway entrance to my living room. When I was finally tall enough to grab it, I gave it a try. Scotch took a minute for me to understand. My palate wasn’t ready for it, but as I have gotten older, I can see the purpose of an economy style blended scotch like Cutty. Every now and then if it’s on the back bar, I drink it neat.

Writer’s Pick: The Famous Grouse

Style: Blended Scotch Whisky
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $24.99

If I’m making a highball, my go-to whisky is always The Famous Grouse. This blended scotch is well-balanced, smooth, rich, and (best of all) affordable.