Whiskey has something of a rough-and-tumble reputation, but underneath that tough guy exterior, there’s definitely a softer side. Case in point? Whiskey-based liqueurs.
While sweetened, flavored whiskeys like Fireball have captured the market in recent years, the world of whiskey-based liqueurs extends out well beyond the bachelor party and spring break scene. Many have been around for more than a hundred years, and some of those classic whiskey liqueurs are tasty hidden gems, great for enjoying on their own or stirring into cocktails.
Here are three of the best whiskey-based liqueurs for your sweet sipping pleasure, plus an in memorium for a once-great whiskey liqueur.
Rock n’ Rye
Rock n’ Rye’s history is a bit murky, but most accounts trace it back to the early days of American whiskey, when bartenders added a little rock sugar to smooth out the rough edges of rye whiskey. Then, it migrated to the medicine cabinet when it became a popular remedy for coughs.
Today, you can buy Rock n’ Rye at the liquor store. The major brand, Hochstadter’s Slow & Low, spices up the mixture with citrus, honey, and horehound, but a few craft producers are also now producing their own versions of the liqueur. True to its frontier roots, Rock n’ Rye retains a robust strength, usually around 80 proof.
This 40 proof liqueur from Scottish whiskey leaders William Grant & Sons sweetens Scotch whisky with honey, herbs, and spices. Spicy and mellow, it’s indispensable in the classic Rusty Nail cocktail, and almost peerless deployed in a flask on an autumn camping trip or on the ski slopes.
Baileys Irish Cream
OK, a million grandmas can’t be wrong. Set your prejudices aside, because Baileys is delicious. This creamy concoction is made from a combination of Irish whiskey, cream, and sundry other ingredients like spices, sugar, and an undisclosed combination of herbs and flavorings. Sweet and rich, Bailey’s is just 16% alcohol, making it a good entry point to the world of whisky for the tentative and timid. It also makes a killer addition to baked goods and other treats.
Originating in New Orleans and currently owned by Sazerac, Southern Comfort was once a whiskey-based liqueur flavored with fruits, spices, and herbs. Today, however, SoCo seems to have lost its way, trading its whiskey base for neutral grain spirit tinted with a bit of whiskey flavoring. Alas!