Could American whiskey be the next gin?

Clinton Cawood

Clinton Cawood

21 August 2019

From scotch to the no-and-low category, everybody has an opinion on the next drink to ‘do a gin’. In this series, Clinton Cawood looks at the contenders striving to follow in the footsteps of the juniper spirit and hit the big time


With its hefty amount of widely recognised brands, but also no shortage of labels from smaller producers to explore, American whiskey has the potential to be even bigger than it is.

One of the defining characteristics of the category is its approachability. ‘I think the sweetness of American whiskey makes it more accessible than whisky from Scotland, Ireland, or Japan,’ says Daniel Alonso of Roxy Ballroom.

Game-changing serve

Old Fashioned

‘An Old Fashioned is always going to be a requested drink, no matter what type of bar you’re in. It’s a timeless drink that’s gone into the common lexicon, and the combinations of what you can do with sugar, whiskey and bitters is expanding all the time,’ says Daniel Alonso.
‘How you make this depends on the venue. I prefer to use an Angostura-soaked sugar cube muddled with a cube of ice, but understand that in some venues that’s not feasible. If I’m using syrup, I like to use Trois Rivières Sirop de Sucre de Canne.'

Glass: Rocks
Garnish: Whiskey-soaked cherry
Method: Stir ingredients over ice and decant
into rocks glass over fresh ice.


60ml American whiskey
1 barspoon sugar syrup
6-10 dashes Angostura Bitters

It’s this approachability, and mixability, that makes it likely that most drinkers have encountered the category, at least in one serve that’s popular the world over.

‘Pretty much all of our first exposures to American whiskey was a Jack and Coke, and we still regularly have that drink, because of what that combination tastes like, and because you know exactly what you’re going to get,’ says Alonso.

‘I think whiskey producers are increasingly acknowledging that a lot of it gets drunk mixed. One thing I used to sell Wwas Four Roses and lemonade with a wedge of orange. It’s a wonderfully refreshing combination, and a way to say there’s more than just mixing them with cola.’

Fortunately, there’s not a significant jump in price when introducing customers to some of the other widely available whiskeys on UK back bars. ‘The difference is negligible if we offer someone something like Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey or Bulleit,’ explains Alonso. ‘There’s value for money in the category, especially for the well-known stuff.’

And once they’re interested, there’s plenty more to introduce them to, whether it’s more premium products from the big players, or something more niche. ‘For a trade up, I’d go to something like Maker’s Mark 46.

It’s experimental, but very good value. It ticks all the boxes. To a degree, Wild Turkey Rare Breed does too.’

For Alonso, there’s a growing trend worth keeping an eye on. ‘You didn’t see many cask finishes a few years ago, but now they’re popping up all the time. I think that’s a major growth area for the category.’

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