Whisky and sweet vermouth aren’t just pals, they’re best buds. They do everything together. Sweet vermouth, with its velvety mouthfeel, is a captivating cocktail partner for almost any whisky. A two-to-one ratio of rye (or bourbon) and vermouth is a Manhattan; replace the rye with scotch, and you have a Rob Roy. It’s that simple.
“Whisky and sweet vermouth have some similar flavors and aromas, including the sweetness of both products,” explains Trevor Frye, proprietor of Wash Line LLC, and the one-time beverage director at Washington, D.C.’s Jack Rose Dining Saloon. As you dip your toes into the waters of home cocktailing, it’s a foolproof combination that should inspire you to continue wading deeper.
The trick is finding the sweet vermouth that best suits your whisky. Certain varieties may work better with certain cocktails or particular types of whisky—whereas some are intensely sweet, almost thick, others are lighter. Some are vanilla-forward and others highlight citrus.
Can’t decide on just one? Frye creates his own blend of sweet vermouths, combining three popular brands together. “The different nuances each provides makes a blend that is versatile to use across the board,” Frye says. He kicks up a classic Double Barrel cocktail with that blend, pairing it with the spicy kick of a high-proof rye.
4 Classic Whiskey and Sweet Vermouth Cocktails
Manhattan: 2 oz. rye whiskey + 1 oz. sweet vermouth + 2 dashes Angostura bitters + Orange peel or maraschino cherry
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with orange peel or maraschino cherry.
Rob Roy: 2 oz. blended Scotch whisky + 1 oz. sweet vermouth + 2 dashes Angostura bitters + maraschino cherry
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry.
Bobby Burns: 2 oz. blended Scotch whisky + 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth + 1/2 oz. Benedictine + Lemon peel
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with expressed lemon peel.
Double Barrel: 1 oz. Wild Turkey 101 rye or other rye whiskey + 1 oz. sweet vermouth blend (see below) + 1 oz. Dolin dry vermouth, 4 dashes each of Angostura bitters and orange bitters + orange peel
Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Express orange peel and discard.
How to Make Trevor Frye’s Sweet Vermouth Blend
Combine 10 oz. Cocchi Vermouth di Torini with 10 oz. Gonzalez Byass Vermouth La Copa and 5 oz. Carpano Antica Formula in an empty 750 ml. bottle. Cork and store in refrigerator.