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My whiskey is too young, now what?

Posted on by Eric Burke

It happens to all of us. Somehow we find ourselves with a bottle of whiskey whose age is listed in single digit months instead of years. Maybe we were given it by a friend. Maybe we were taken in by a pretty label. Or maybe we just weren't paying close enough attention. How we acquired the bottle doesn't really matter as much as what we are going to do with it now. 

Unless you are a fan of new make, you are probably not going to drink it neat. And unless you plan to use it as a door stop or to clean something, you need to find something to do with it. Well, I can't tell you what to do with yours, but since I found myself with an abundance of the stuff myself recently, I can tell you what I did with mine.

I made cocktails. 

But I didn't make whiskey cocktails, well not really. I mean I used whiskey in them. Wait...let's start at the beginning here, and I'll tell you my thought process. 

I initially thought to myself that if I looked at some colonial-era drinks, well that would be about right since they didn't age the whiskey yet at that point anyway. And while I didn't find many, I did find a couple that worked. 

The first is one one without a formal recipe. And it takes a couple of months. It's called Cherry Bounce, and I found the process I use in Michael Dietch's excellent book: Whiskey. Basically, you pierce a pound of sour cherries with a knife, toss in a bottle of whiskey, a couple of cups of sugar, some freshly grated nutmeg and a couple of cinnamon sticks. Shake it every few days at first and then let it sit for three months before straining off the liquid. It's damn good, and I think I'll be making some every summer from here on out as if you start it when the cherries are ripe, it is done just in time for the holidays.

But I'm guessing you want something you can drink right away, and I won't disappoint. The only other Colonial-era drink I found that worked well with the young whiskey I had was the Whiskey Sling, which has one thing in common with the Bounce above. Nutmeg. It turns out it really does help a young whiskey to be more palatable. A Whiskey Sling is just 2 ounces of whiskey, a half teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a teaspoon of water, a glass, some ice and some freshly grated nutmeg over the top of it all. It really is quite tasty, especially with a young rye. Just try to drink it before the ice melts too much. 

So after I decided that Colonial-Era drinks were kind of a dead-end, I decided to rethink my approach. To me, whiskey that is too young tastes less like whiskey and more like cheap tequila or rum. And so I decided to treat it that way. The first thing I go to work was a riff on a Margarita.

Whiskey Margarita

  • 1.5-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce lime juice (fresh)
  • 0.5 to 1-ounce Cointreau
  • Orange bitters

Shake with ice and pour into a glass. You may need to adjust slightly depending on the whiskey you have, but that'll get you close.

Following the lime juice and young whiskey theme, a mojito riff worked really well too. 

Whiskey Mojito

  • 2-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce lime juice (fresh)
  • 1-ounce simple syrup
  • 6 mint leaves
  • dash bitters
  • soda water

Bruise your mint and drop it into your glass, pour in the lime juice, simple syrup, whiskey and a dash of bitters. Give it a stir. Add ice and top with soda water. 

Branching out a little I also tried a Negroni/Boulevardier with the too young whiskey, and that tasted quite good. I mention Negroni because a Negroni and a Boulevardier are pretty close to the same drink. The Negroni has gin and the other bourbon. In this case, it reminded me more of the Negroni than the Boulevardier. This one is simple.

Too Young Boulevardier

  • 1-ounce New-make to 12-month-old bourbon
  • 1-ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1-ounce Campari

Give it a stir and serve it on the rocks. 

So after all that I guess my point is that when you have a bottle of whiskey that you aren't sure what to do with, sometimes you need to get creative. I made my bottle disappear by making rum, tequila and gin drinks with it. Maybe you can do the same. 


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