I suspect that every spirit ever made has been tried in cocktails. Some—vodka and gin come to mind—are naturals, blending readily with lots of other flavors. Rum and American whiskies do quite nicely, too.

And then there are the Scotch and Irish whiskies.

Assertive, dry, often smoky, Scotch and Irish are notoriously hard to blend with the flavors normally used to build cocktails.

But there are a few ingredients that these whiskies will play with nicely. Sherry is probably the most famous pairing; sweet vermouth is another classic match, and berry flavors and lemon juice are also very mixable.

And of course, Scotch goes very well with Irish.

That’s where Cameron’s Kick comes in.

I had never tried Cameron’s Kick before Elizabeth Bourbon remarked on it, commenting on the Dubliner. The drink has been around for a long time—as near as I can tell, it was first published in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. I’m not one of the world’s great Scotch drinkers, so it had never really caught my attention, or made it onto my “cocktails to try” list.

My loss; Cameron’s Kick is simple, flavorful, and summery, and much more easy-drinking than I anticipated.

Cameron's Kick Cocktail, photo © 2013 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.
The Cameron’s Kick Cocktail

The formula goes like this:

Cameron’s Kick

  • 1½ oz Scotch whisky (Balvenie Doublewood 12)
  • 1½ oz Irish whiskey (2 Gingers, Jamieson)
  • ½–¾ oz fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz Orgeat (Small Hand Orgeat)

Shake all ingredients with ice until cold; strain into a well-chilled cocktail stem. Optionally, express and garnish with lemon.

If you really like Scotch, especially big, peaty Scotches, then I recommend mixing Cameron’s Kick with your favorite, and adjust from there. In my case, I’ve found that peat seems to be the friction point for Scotch cocktails, the ingredient that puts so many Scotches in that hard-to-blend category. A less peaty Scotch like the Balvenie is a very good starting point. Its woodiness and relatively lighter flavor really help it balance with the other ingredients.

If you have a favorite Irish, go with it. Both the ubiquitous Jamieson’s and the newer 2 Gingers are excellent blenders, and work very nicely in this drink.

Cameron's Kick Cocktail, photo © 2013 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.Lemon juice is the “anti-Scotch.” It has the interesting characteristic of subduing the peaty “Scotchness” of the whisky; this somewhat subversive ability allows you to tune the drink, and can make more aggressive Scotches a bit more palatable to drinkers who aren’t wholly committed to the finer aspects of Scotch and Irish whiskies. Adjusting the lemon one way or the other can make quite a difference in the way the drink presents itself.

The orgeat is Cameron Kick’s most intriguing ingredient. It makes a fine and somewhat offbeat sweetener to offset the lemon, and supplies a hint of almond to the aftertaste of each sip.

One more thing: on a whim, I added a couple dashes of absinthe. Like adding bitters to a Martini or Manhattan, it seemed to bring flavors forward, and to add a little depth to the drink’s flavor. I recommend it.

More Irish whiskey cocktails: