If you are new to drinking whiskey, the first thing you need to know is that whiskey is the generic term given to distilled spirits made from grain mash. Bourbon, Rye and Scotch are all types of whiskey. The difference between them depends on a variety of factors such as the type of grain used, where it was distilled, the length of ageing and the type of casks used in the process.
There are also subtypes of whiskey: single malt, single cask and blended. Single malts are the most common type of whiskey. Single malts are made by mixing whiskey from the same distillery; the age listed on the bottle denotes the age of the youngest whiskey added.
Method to drink whiskey
Once you have chosen a bottle of whiskey, you’ll need to decide how you want to drink it. Essentially, there are four ways to drink whiskey: neat, with water, on the rocks and as a cocktail. Let’s take a look at each method.
- Neat. Whiskey neat is just room temperature whiskey in a glass, nothing else. To drink whiskey neat, pour two fingers of whiskey into a rocks or tulip glass. Rocks glasses are the classic glasses you see on TV and in movies when people shoot whiskey: short, round glasses made for 12 oz of liquid. Tulip glasses are curved wide at the bottom and thinner up top, concentrating the smells near your nose, and are used for more high-class whiskey tastings. Two fingers is the amount you pour so that the liquid comes up to the height of two fingers held at the bottom of the glass. Lift the glass to your nose to smell the whiskey aromas such as vanilla, citrus, maple or smoke before taking a sip.
- With Water. Place a capful of distilled or spring water into your whiskey. The water dilutes the whiskey slightly so that you can enjoy the flavors without feeling like the alcohol is burning your tongue. If your tongue still feels like it is burning after adding one capful of water, then add more as necessary.
- On the Rocks. “On the rocks” means you add ice to your whiskey. If you go this route, your best bet is to make your own ice cubes from distilled or spring water to avoid the chlorine found in tap water. Also, since the ice will dilute your whiskey as it melts add in only one cube to start. Keep a dish and spoon next to your glass so you can remove the ice cube once the whiskey is cold and watered to your liking.
- Cocktail. Finally you can mix whiskey into a cocktail. This is a great way to enjoy low- to mid-range whiskeys that may not be as excellent as you prefer in their own right. Classic whiskey cocktails include the Old Fashioned, Mint Julep, Manhattan, Rob Roy (a sweeter version of a Manhattan), Bourbon Sour, and a Hot Toddy. You can easily find recipes for these drinks online.