Since I’m not much of a Scotch cocktail drinker, my recent addition of the Affinity to my short repertoire of Scotch whisky-based cocktails was sort of a surprise. In addition to giving me another option to do up for my Scotch-drinking friends, this one gives me an alternative when the smoked salmon is out for hors d’oeuvres. Properly made, it is a very pleasant drink.

Nearly all references that list the Affinity agree on the ingredients—Scotch, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, and bitters—and there seems to be widespread agreement that the whisky and each of the vermouths should be in equal portions. As for the bitters, they can be orange, Angostura, or both.

Affinity Cocktail in Waterford Lismore glass.  Photo © 2010 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.
The Affinity Cocktail

David Embury, in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, follows his usual philosophy of applying a generous (some say heavy-handed) prominence toward the main liquor; that bias leads him to a 4:1:1 formulation, which for him equates the Affinity to a Scotch-substituted perfect Manhattan (or “medium” Manhattan, as he puts it.) William Grimes endorses this version in his amusing history Straight Up or On the Rocks.

The equal parts recipe seems to be the mainstream version. If you use a relatively bland Scotch, it might even be a Scotch Cocktail For People Who Don’t Like Scotch.

Those who appreciate Scotch more avidly than I can accentuate the Scotchness of the blend by using increasingly more flavorful or aggressive whiskies, or by taking a cue from Embury and upping the proportion of whisky in the drink. I tried both of these strategies, and both easily brought the whisky strikingly to the fore, rather beyond my tastes.

I’m sticking with the equal parts formula:

Affinity Cocktail

  • 1 oz. Scotch whisky (Walker Black, Famous Grouse)
  • 1 oz. Sweet vermouth (M&R Rosso)
  • 1 oz. Dry vermouth (Vya Extra Dry)
  • dash Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients and stir with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express and garnish with lemon.