One-Bottle Scotch Cocktail

Some people get irked when they want to make a cocktail recipe, and as they gather the ingredients, they find that some things are hard to get, or too expensive, and before you know it (as I do, very well), you’re doing a scavenger hunt across town, sleuthing out some elusive ingredient.

Enter The One-Bottle Cocktail, by Maggie Hoffman. Before I saw the book, from the title, it sounded like a cocktail that you make by the bottle (called batching), so you have a “one-bottle cocktail” on hand. Which sounded like a good great idea, to me.

I had a bottle of Scapa single-malt whisky that I picked up in Scotland. I’d tasted it and the woman who provided it for the tasting said that since the distillery was very near the water, a bit of the salty air, and the taste of it, was captured in the bottle. Not sure if it was the power of suggestion, but I definitely tasted that slight brininess, and grabbed a bottle on the way out of the country.

But when I got the book, I found that the concept of The One-Bottle Cocktail is that you shouldn’t need to run around and invest in a bunch of bottles of liquor to make a cocktail, such as those that call for a 1/4 ounce of, say, absinthe, or a half-teaspoon of crème de violette.

There’s certainly plenty of merit to those cocktails that call for a minute ingredient for sure; if you’ve got a favorite cocktail that calls for one of them, you know how important those satellite ingredients are, even if they’re used in seemingly infinitesimal amounts. (Trust me, I’ve built up three shelves of liquor that are threatening to take over my kitchen, for all my recipe testing trials-and-errors.)

Many of the cocktails in the book were contributed by well-respected bartenders. I was drawn to the Koji King, from Chicago bartender Julia Momose, which calls for a lightly peated Scotch a dab of umami-rich white miso, and a deeply flavorful demerara syrup, that I couldn’t resist dipping a spoon into, repeatedly.

The recipes in The One-Bottle Cocktail stick to their guns and you won’t need vermouth or crème-de-whatever. They get their flavor from ingredients ranging from champagne vinegar and tea, to fresh ginger and apple butter, and one even uses marshmallow creme. It’s a good excuse to buy a jar, which to my mind (and my taste for marshmallows), isn’t a bad thing either.

Koji King
Print Recipe
1 cocktail
Adapted from The One-Bottle Cocktail: More than 80 Recipes with Fresh Ingredients and a Single Spirit by Maggie Hoffman I tinkered with the recipe a bit, dialing up the amount of Scotch whisky and adding the lemon strip to the cocktail, rather than discarding it after expressing the oils in the drink. I found the additional lemon flavor was nice with the drink. To express the oils, twist the lemon strip sharply over the drink, and drop it in. I used a lightly peated Scotch, as advised, and you can use your favorite. It's hard to know if a Scotch is heavily peated, or lightly peated, from the label, so you may need to ask at a knowledgeable liquor store for guidance. A blended Scotch (like Johnnie Walker) would work, although I think the drink benefits from the slightly smoky flavor of peated whisky, so encourage you to find one that falls into that category.
1/2 teaspoon white miso paste
3/4 ounce rich demerara syrup (see note, below)
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ounces lightly peated Scotch
1 wide strip lemon zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
1. Mash the miso paste with some of the demerara syrup in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until the miso paste is completely softened and dissolved in the syrup. Add the rest of the syrup.
2. Add the Scotch and lemon juice to the shaker. Fill halfway with ice, cover, and shake for 15 seconds.
3. Double strain into a chilled coupe glass. Express the lemon twist over the glass, skin side down, and drop the twist into the glass.

Note: To make rich demerara syrup, heat 2 tablespoons of water with 1/4 cup (55g) of demerara sugar in a small saucepan, stirring frequently, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. The syrup can be made with light turbinado sugar as well. (More on their similarities, and difference, here.) It'll keep in the refrigerator at least two weeks.


This whisky-based cocktail relies on just one bottle of liquor!

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  • Fiona
    August 9, 2018 3:30pm

    I’ll be the one! It’s Scotch whisky; Irish, Cape Breton, etc, whiskEy!

    • August 9, 2018 3:40pm
      David Lebovitz

      That’s how I spelled it. Do you see it here spelling differently? If so, let me know so I can change it. I couldn’t find it spelled “whiskey” anywhere in this post.

      • Pen
        August 9, 2018 3:52pm

        In your recipe headnote you spell it the first time “whiskey” and the second time “whisky”.
        Love your blog!

    • CooksinCT
      August 9, 2018 7:07pm

      wow! never knew THAT! thanks. Always great to learn something new about one of my favorites.

  • Sandy
    August 9, 2018 3:43pm

    Love your blogs.
    Small correction – you have lemon zest in the ingredients and orange in the method of the recipe.

  • August 9, 2018 3:55pm

    People like to argue over whether it is spelled whisky or whiskey. Here is the thing to know: The Scots spell it whisky and the Irish spell it whiskey, with an extra ‘e’. So if you are talking about Scottish whisky – there is no “E.”

  • McKenzie
    August 9, 2018 4:00pm

    Lol well the drink looks delicious.

  • Cyndy
    August 9, 2018 6:17pm

    I don’t care how it’s spelled–it sounds terrific. Where does one buy miso paste?

    • August 10, 2018 9:03am
      David Lebovitz

      You can find it at shops that sell ingredients for Asian cooking but I’ve noticed in the U.S. (if that’s where you live) that well-stocked supermarkets, including Whole Foods, carries it. If not, it can be purchased online.

  • Helen Kirkwood
    August 9, 2018 6:35pm

    Love your blog, but this post is misleading. I have never owned miso paste or demerara sugar, and would probably never use again. True to my experiences; I have the bottles of alcohol but not the supporting ingredients.

  • Sally in London
    August 9, 2018 6:37pm

    Ok guys.. obviously none of you have had the privilege of being connected with the regiment called The Irish Guards.. they guard HM The Queen.. and serve mighty fine Irish Whiskey.. the Scots Guards, who also guard HM and also a fine regiment serve Whisky in their mess.. Irish use ‘ey.. Scots only y.. simple! Qualification? My brother was a Mick, polite slang for a member of the Irish Guards and I dated a member of the Scots Gyards and drink both.. very happily!

  • Pam
    August 9, 2018 7:22pm

    I don’t give a flying fig how you or anyone else spells “whiskey” but I was dying to know what the demerara syrup tasted like so I whipped up a small batch. Soooo nice. (Yes, I know. I spelled “so” wrong. We’ll all live through it.) I don’t have any white miso at the moment and by the time my husband picks some up on his way home from work there may or may not be any syrup left. I will admit nothing.

  • James
    August 9, 2018 8:59pm

    The term ‘Mick’ is derogatory, please don’t try to defend using it.

  • Naomi
    August 9, 2018 11:57pm

    Thanks, Mr. David. As usual, a great post that adds to my day.

  • Paul Huckett
    August 10, 2018 12:32am

    Interesting recipe David. I must warn you however that should you return to Scotland you may be arrested for High Treason by the Whisky Police. Blended brands like Johnny Walker were invented for us mere mortals to mix with our drinks. True Scots drink their uisge-beatha neat or with a scant dribble of Highland spring water . I know as I have incurred the wrath of indignant Highlanders for tampering with single malts ! It’s probably safer to make mulled wine out of Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1982 .

    • August 10, 2018 9:12am
      David Lebovitz

      A lot of good bartenders are using single-malt Scotch cocktails these days, I think, like the Cognac and Calvados industry (as well as Champagne and even Sauternes), they’ve come to accept that people are using their spirits for cocktails.

      I see companies like Singleton and Auchentoshan listing cocktails on their websites with their single-malts. So to some extent, the times seem to be changing.

    • rainey
      August 11, 2018 6:10pm

      I’d be tempted to make this for my husband who’s the Scotch drinker in the house but I know he’d agree with you and the True Scots.

      • August 13, 2018 3:48pm
        David Lebovitz

        When I was in Scotland, I asked about mixing whisky (one was at a single-malt distillery) and everyone said the same thing: “You can mix it with anything…except Coke.”

        I’ve had people freak out, not in Scotland, when I’ve mentioned adding a touch of water to single-malt, which is what they do in Scotland to taste the Scotch, as it dilutes the alcohol a tad.

        Like Cognac or Calvados, I wouldn’t say you should use a extremely rare or expensive whisky in this cocktails, but if you feel like making this with a single-malt Scotch, and you have a bottle, life its too short (in my opinion) to deny yourself the pleasure of making a cocktail : )

  • Nan
    August 10, 2018 2:17am

    I read the entire post again carefully. Whisky was not spelled whiskey in the post anywhere!? I enjoy your blog so much as I love Paris and food. When I can’t be there your writing makes the dream come alive in my mind.

  • Rachel
    August 10, 2018 3:19am

    Oh my goodness. And all you wanted to do was share a lovely recipe with us. Thank you, and cheers David!

  • Emma Warner
    August 10, 2018 6:17pm

    Potent, peppery whiskey mingles with a crisp touch of sherry vinegar, but the key to the perfect mix is a softening spoonful of maple syrup.

  • Dennie
    August 19, 2018 12:38am

    I thought I’d comment on the taste of the drink vs how it should be spelled… geesh people… It’s wonderful! I found miso paste with no problem at my local chain grocery store. I live in Cleveland, OH. It almost reminds me of a Sidecar but not as sweet. I found Scapa at my local liquor store – it’s a little pricey but oh so worth it in this drink!! I recommend making it! Thanks David!!

    • August 20, 2018 11:58am
      David Lebovitz

      Scapa is really delicious Scotch and it was one of the favorites that I tasted when I went to Scotland. I have friends that live not far from where it’s produced in the Orknay Islands and they were surprised that I knew of it (let alone had a bottle…). Someday I’d love to visit and see where it’s made. Supposedly that part of Scotland is beautiful, although quite rugged.