According to Mark Twain, "Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough."
Based on this quote, we can assume that Mr. Twain knew exactly how to drink whiskey. Let's explore the art of treating our taste buds with one of the smoothest drinks out there.
In this post, we'll look at the origins of the drink and figure out if there's a right or best way to drink whiskey!
The Early Days of Whiskey
Scottish distillers first made whiskey around the 1400s. Like many alcoholic beverages, whiskey was initially used as medicine: an antibiotic externally and an anesthetic. Over time, the leisure benefits of the drink soon became apparent and eventually overtook the medicinal uses.
Whiskey soon spread in popularity to Ireland and England, and eventually the rest of the world, where it continues to be in high demand. Whiskey became the UK's drink of choice, making up almost 50% of the nation's revenue through taxation.
When the British colonized the United States, their favorite drink was also on board those ships. George Washington even opened a distillery at Mount Vernon, where it still operates to this day!
Whiskey Drinking Today
A quick peek in any liquor store today will reveal a vast range of whiskies to choose from. With so many options, it can be challenging to select the type that will satisfy your liquor craving! Take the time to find your perfect flavor, from single malt to rye to blended and more.
Begin by figuring out which country's whiskey you like most. Here are some of the options:
A sweeter version of the drink, American whiskey is aged in barrels for at least two years. If sweetness tickles your taste buds, you can refine your choice even further between:
- Bourbon: Distilled from a minimum of 51% corn.
- Rye: Distilled from a minimum of 51% rye.
- Tennessee: A bourbon distilled in the state of Tennessee and filtered through charcoal.
Scotch whisky has that sought-after smokey flavor. Distilled in Scotland and made mostly from barley, Scotch is aged for a minimum of 3 years. You can choose from:
- Blended Scotch: A blend of Scotch whiskies (usually one or more).
- Single malt Scotch: Distilled from malted barley at a single distillery.
This is a light-bodied drink that's slightly more robust than the Canadian version. A typical Irish is distilled in Ireland and aged for a minimum of 3 years.
Even lighter than Irish, the Canadian version is also distilled for at least 3 years and has fruity undertones.
Choosing Your Whiskey Style
A great way to choose a whiskey is to pick a style (American, Irish, etc.) and try a few brands within that style. Take your time with this process. The flavors will be similar at first, but you'll start to notice the subtle changes as you continue your flavor journey.
It's a good idea to begin with a Canadian or Irish style first, since they are lighter. Then, you should move to American, and later on to a more bold Scotch.
Give your tastebuds time to adapt to the varying aspects of the styles of whisky. Once you try a few types, you'll have a better chance of finding the kind that resonates with you. Attend a few Scotch or whiskey drinking parties so that you can try them all in small doses.
Choosing Your Whiskey Glass
Drinking whiskey can be an art. You can get as posh or as simple as you like. The main thing is to enjoy the flavors.
One of the top ways to enjoy whiskey is out of a good-quality glass. Some glasses (tulip-shaped) are designed to work with the vapors and flavors of the drink.
Or, step back in time and drink it out of a tin cup! Did you know that miners initially drank whiskey from a tin cup in the 1800s? The tin changes the flavor slightly, making it taste slightly "tinny."
Enjoying Whiskey: Neat or not?
There is a long-standing debate between having whiskey neat or on the rocks (with ice.) Some connoisseurs believe that the only way to get the full flavor profile is to drink whiskey neat. Ice will affect the flavor, but many prefer it this way because of the dink's harshness.
If you can't imagine drinking whiskey neat, you may want to add water or ice. This will cut the alcohol content and somewhat dilute the flavor. Doing this is usually recommended for high-proof whiskeys that are just too hard to drink straight.
When you add ice, choose a large ice cube over a small one. Bigger cubes melt slower than smaller ones, therefore retaining the flavor longer without becoming too watered down. Your best bet is making transparent ice spheres with a clear ice maker.
Sniff, Sip, and Savor
There are rules to follow when you want to experience your favorite bottle of vino's flavor profile. Whiskey is no different. Let's explore the best ways to experience the taste.
The first step is to give it a sniff. Yes, your nose does all the flavor work initially! Put your nose in the glass and give it a good whiff. Since the nose and tongue are closely linked, you'll experience your first "taste" through the aroma. Keep going and enjoy the layers of flavor.
The next step is to have a small sip of the whiskey. Take the sip in and roll it around the inside of your mouth. As you hold the liquid in your mouth, detect the flavors. You may notice an "oaky" flavor, or perhaps you'll taste vanilla, toffee, or even caramel. Delicious!
Enjoy your glass of whiskey for the next hour or so. The flavors will become more enjoyable, especially with the right company!
Whiskey Cocktail, Anyone?
Whiskey purists will condemn the idea of whiskey in a cocktail. Some whiskey bottle labels even state that the best way to enjoy your drink is neat or with some water.
However, it's all a matter of opinion and preference. Enjoy your straight glass of whiskey if that's your preference. But if you like cocktails, why not try some whiskey cocktail recipes?
Here's an old favorite you could try:
- 2 oz whiskey (rye or bourbon)
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 3 - 4 dashes of bitters
- Maraschino cherries
- Fill up a pint glass with ice cubes.
- Pour the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters into the pint glass.
- Stir for around 30 seconds.
- Place a cherry and a splash of cherry juice into an old fashioned glass.
- Strain the mixed liquid contents from your pint glass and pour them into the old fashioned glass over the cherry and cherry juice.
- Enjoy your Manhattan!
How to Drink Whiskey Summary
When it comes to whiskey drinking, opinions are a dime a dozen. This includes what type of whiskey is the best, how to drink it, what kind of glass to use, and whether you should add ice, water, or even soda or coffee to it.
You may prefer it on the rocks in an ornate lowball glass, while your friend may enjoy their Scotch in a teacup with a splash of cola. Ultimately, it boils down to personal preference.
So pour yourself that whiskey and enjoy it! Cheers!