How to make the perfect whisky cocktail to warm your bones to this winter

There's no denying it: winter is here.

But instead of pining for the long, hot days where we'll be complaining about the heat, it makes more sense to embrace the unique joys that winter brings.

Early dusk means it's acceptable to start drinking earlier, right?

And then there's whisky.

Whisky is winter's perfect companion. Across the southern hemisphere, bars are stocking their shelves with extra varieties of Scotch, bourbon and rye for our sipping pleasure, and cocktail makers are dreaming up new and delightful twists on wintry classics.

Word of mouth

For the latest word on winter and whisky, I spoke to Michael Madrusan, the cocktail genius behind Melbourne's The Everleigh.

"Many customers change up their order entirely as the cold rolls in," he tells me. "Winter sees a lot more drinkers interested in darker, richer spirits and flavours. On The Everleigh menu we replace our refreshing citrusy cocktails with serious sipping style drinks."

Knowing the need for serious whisky fans to get be ahead of the dram curve, I ask him what the hottest whisky-based cocktails are right now, whether classics or modern twists.

"Classics like the Old Fashioned are always popular," he says.

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"At The Everleigh, one of our favourite go-tos is a simple twist on the Scotch Old Fashioned called the Choker, which adds a dash of absinthe."

And the man's own favourite of the moment?

"I personally love a drink called the Tattletale, which features blended Scotch, honey and a splash of peated Scotch, giving it a rich, smoky finish."

Seasonal updates

Currently, Madrusan is busy with phase two of the Everleigh's renovations, which will see the downstairs room getting a lick of paint and a whole lot of love.

He also reveals that he is working on a soon-to-be released whisky cocktail that I, for one, am super keen to request on my next visit. The cocktail is aimed at the discerning drinker, and will feature a Scotch whisky from 1965, taken from the Everleigh's vintage spirits cabinet. 

As to what specific whiskies Madrusan's drinking this season, he tells me that there are two Scotch whiskies that he just can't get enough of right now.

"The first is the Founders Reserve 10yr old from Spencer Collings. The second is the Hazelburn 9yr old Barolo Cask from the Springbank Distillery. And if we're talking bourbon, Elijah Craig has always been my absolute favorite."

Whiskies to know now

For those who enjoy wowing friends with their mixing skills, Madrusan recommends a few must-have whiskies for the home bar.

"Ledaig 10 year old has been a high performing Scotch whisky in the bar," he says. "It's remarked by the team as a delicious and versatile whisky that works perfectly in many different cocktail applications."

He also recommends investing in a good rye.

"I find rye whiskey can often be overlooked, as most are more familiar with bourbon, but the drier and spicier qualities make rye more versatile in both stirred and shaken drinks. Bulleit rye is an affordable favourite, but try Rittenhouse and Pikesville if you're looking to go the extra mile."

For those who wish to show a deft hand at mixing something neat for a guest, Madrusan recommends the Bobby Burns,  perfect for enjoying in a cold winter and impressing late night guests.

Bobby Burns

Ingredients

45ml Scotch whisky

15ml (Fresh) sweet vermouth

7ml Benedictine.

Method

Grab a large rocks glass. Add all the ingredients and give them a stir. Top with ice and garnish with a lemon twist. 

For variations on the Bobby Burns and other wintry cocktail ideas, pick up a copy of Madrusan's book A Spot at the Bar,  published by Hardie Grant, and settle in for whisky season.