I’ll take mine neat, please!
Ways to drink your whiskey.
There are many ways to enjoy your whiskey, and you’ve probably read a few articles along your journey of right and wrong ways to do just that. As you peruse these articles, you have likely read statements such as, “never mix your whiskey with Coke,” or perhaps something like, “if you’re not drinking it neat, then you’re not drinking it right.” Now, before we get into the heart of this article, let us be very clear, enjoy your whiskey however you choose, and with that out of the way, let’s get into various ways to enjoy your whiskey.
While not a common way to drink your whiskey, it is necessary to bring it up and discuss why it is only sometimes recommended. For many of us, our first introduction to hard liquor, which is 80 proof or higher, came in the form of shots while in college and generally to get drunk. When you shoot your whiskey, you will only be tasting the proof and not give yourself a chance to discover the flavors of your whiskey.
Mixing your whiskey with soda is another favorite for many whiskey drinkers; it is a way to cut the proof down and mask what many people describe as the heat of the whiskey, and while a popular way to drink your whiskey, more than a splash of soda, you won’t likely taste the whiskey. It is recommended, however, that when you are at a friend’s place, ask them to recommend a whiskey for your mixed drink before risking possibly offending them by mixing with a high-valued whiskey.
All cocktails are mixed drinks, but not all mixed drinks are cocktails. So, what makes a mixed drink a cocktail? The simple answer is that a cocktail will have more ingredients; however, it goes much deeper than that alone. A finely crafted cocktail will showcase the whiskey by balancing flavors with additional ingredients. Take an Old Fashioned, a simple recipe, yet too much syrup or bitters, and the flavors of the whiskey will be hidden. Too much whiskey, and you’ll miss out on how the syrup and bitters bring forward the whiskey flavors.
Drinking your whiskey neat is the favorite of connoisseurs and aficionados alike. Drinking whiskey neat means it is just whiskey alone, without ice or water. This will allow the taster to enjoy all of the flavors of the whiskey. However, this is not for the faint-hearted. The main reason whiskey will “drink hot” is not because of the spice but rather because of the alcohol itself. To drink your whiskey neat, it is recommended that you acclimate your system to ethanol. While there are various methods of acclimating yourself, my favorite method is the “sip, sip, swirl” method.
In the “sip, sip, swirl” method, you will take two quick sips, letting the whiskey roll down the back of your palate, down your throat. Follow the sips with another that you swirl in your mouth, making sure you coat your tongue, the sides, and the roof of your mouth, before swallowing. Upon completing this method, your body will be acclimated to the ethanol, thus allowing the whiskey flavors to be enjoyed.
Adding a drop or two of water to your whiskey when drinking it neat is another way of slightly cutting the proof and opening up the body allowing the flavors to come forward. When trying a new Bourbon, Rye, Scotch, or any whiskey, it is recommended to try it neat and then with one or two drops of water at room temperature. This will give you a full experience of the whiskey as the distiller and blender intended it to be enjoyed.
Drinking your whiskey on the rocks is a way to cool down the room-temperature whiskey while also giving the impression that it doesn’t drink as hot. Initially, adding ice to your whiskey will cool the spirit, giving it a “crisper” feel, and as the ice melts, you will notice that the “watering down” of the whiskey will cut the proof. The style of ice used will have different impacts on the whiskey. A large ice cube, or ball, will melt slower, allowing the full flavors of the whiskey to hold up throughout the drink, whereas smaller cubes will melt faster and thus watering down the proof and the flavors.
In the end, however, you prefer to drink your whiskey, enjoy yourself when you do, and, as always, explore the pairings.