How to Order and Drink Whiskey
Most gentlemen and women prefer whiskey when they hang out in bars. The uninitiated are, however, easily daunted considering the seemingly-complicated world of whiskey. After all, there are so many different varieties and brands, that you need maybe a lifetime to memorize them all.
It takes more than a starter guide to fool an enthusiast that you know more about whiskey than you want to let on. A well-meaning bartender could your pulse might start racing when they ask you your desired drink.
Admission of your inadequacy or even ignorance when it comes to it is a good start. Now, it’s time to do something about that if you want to impress the gal or guy next to you. Ordering and drinking whiskey can actually be fun once you know the basics.
You don’t even have to pretend that you are an expert. Most bars have a menu that lists down the available whiskey and cocktails. Bartenders always stock up their shelves with an assortment of drinks.
To be on the safe side, your best bet would be to ask the bartender for some recommendations. You can start by telling the bartender your preferences as these guys are always willing to help a customer. It’s always a good idea to tell them what you enjoy and what you dislike so that they could give you your drink quicker.
The Basics of Whiskey
Whiskey is basically any type of grain that has undergone the process of distillation and aged in barrels. It can be made from barley, oats, wheat, corn or rye but technically they’re all the same thing. They are differentiated depending on their:
- Kind of grain used
- Location where the whiskey was distilled
- Length of aging
- Casks used in the aging process
You shouldn’t succumb to intimidation when given a choice of Scotch, Rye, and Bourbon because they are all basically just whiskey but distilled in different countries. Scotch comes from Scotland while Irish whiskey comes from Ireland. Canadian and Japanese whiskey which were named after the countries where they came from.
Canadian Club is an interesting whiskey not only because it was popular in the 1950s but it was Don Draper’s favorite. Draper is the lead male actor in the American television series Mad Men.
The fact that it is the only distillery in North America which was granted a Royal Warrant is an interesting conversation piece in any bar. However, that grant was already withdrawn.
One more reason why you should get to know Canadian whiskey—it is the top import by the Americans and is next only to vodka when it comes to consumption.
Kinds of Whiskey
There are three types of American whiskey and they all come from the United States. What differentiates them from the other is the type of grain used. Take for example Bourbon which is made from corn and Rye which is made from rye. Tennessee whiskey is simply Bourbon and one of the more popular brands is Jack Daniels. Interestingly, Jack Daniel employees get a free bottle every month.
They are all made through the fermentation of grains, but they have different sugar content level depending on the grain used. Since corn contains more sugar than rye or wheat, you can expect the Bourbon to be a lot sweeter than Rye. All of them have an alcohol volume of at least 40% or 80 proof.
What to Order
Now that you know the different names by which whiskeys are called, ordering from the bar will be less daunting. But if you are really serious about getting to know your drink, then you know there is more to it than where they came from. You also have to know about single cask which is bottled from the same cask. Then there’s the single malt which is a mixture of differently-aged ones but from the same distillery. Whiskeys that are blended but of the same type are called blended whiskey.
It takes time to let your palate adjust to the taste but if you know what to order, then you can get hooked for life. For starters, choose a light whiskey or maybe a Bourbon such as Maker’s Mark to get your first taste of sweetness. If you are in the United States, then that would indeed be a good choice as you will have a greater chance of finding an affordable but good quality bottle. But if you are a brave soul who can afford your drink, then try the Aberlour 10 Scotch.
Everyone knows about Johnnie Walker, but you will be surprised to know that they do not have their own distilled spirit. This brand is one of the best examples of a blended whiskey. To get to know your drink better, start with single malts before you move on to the blended types. Only then will you be able to decide if the Johnnie Walker Blue Label is indeed a good buy given the price tag.
How To Order Your Whiskey
By now you must have realized that it is not just like any other alcoholic drink. Aside from mastering the many types, you also have to be familiar with the many ways of drinking whiskey.
You will find that the hardcore whiskey drinker prefers theirs “neat” with no ice at all. The liquid is placed in a tulip-shape snifter glass preferably in room temperature. The flavor is best brought out when the temperature of the drinker’s bare hands provide heat to the glass. Drinking it pure and taste it the way it was distilled instead of diluted, is the idea. Some people do not, however, agree with the purist logic.
Whiskey with Water
Try drinking whiskey straight and you will sooner find your taste buds and your tongue numb when the spirit hits you. Once this happens, you will not be able to get the real taste. To get the best taste, without that buzzing effect, you have to drink it with a cup of spring or distilled water. Take a sip first and pour only a little water until you get the perfect taste.
On the Rocks
Other whiskey drinkers neither want their spirits straight nor with water. If you want yours cold then the best choice would be to drink it on the rocks. But if you don’t want to ruin it due to the chlorine in water, then immediately remove the ice once it waters down your drink. Better yet, make your own ice from distilled water.
That would be impossible if you are in a bar though.
If you don’t like the strong flavor, why not drink it with a cocktail? Preferring this, it means you are not really a hardcore whiskey drinker. When that becomes the case, don’t waste money on high-end and expensive whiskey. Instead, go for the more average-priced, but still good spirits.
How to Drink Your Whiskey
The more devoted drinkers consider gulping a sacrilegious act. Whiskey is an acquired taste, so not everyone will enjoy it. The only way to get to know and love the taste is to drink it properly. Sipping would be a better option than guzzling your drink.
Don’t expect to fall head over heels in love with it the first time you try it. Some don’t like the taste at first but ultimately find their favorite after trying different types, brands, and blends. To be on the safe side, remember that Bourbon tastes sweet, while Rye is a bit spicy and Scotch has a smoky and peaty flavor.
But no matter what type or brand you order, make sure you sip and swirl it around your mouth before you swallow it. This will allow you to discover the notes and help you appreciate the drink. It is also best to get a whiff to get a hint of its aroma to enhance your drinking experience.
You don’t need any special training to do this. Just leave your mouth open as you sniff from the glass. Avoid putting the glass too near as the abrupt and sudden inhalation can also numb your senses. Once you’ve savored the aroma, swish and prepare for its flavor.
Don't Worry About It's Age
Age is just a number and this has never been truer when it comes to whiskey. The age of the whiskey shouldn’t fool you into thinking it’s better quality. While it is true that whiskey needs age to mature, do not equate the age to its quality. A quality whiskey aged for 10 years can taste a lot better than one aged for 40 years.
If you just can’t take your whiskey straight then the best way to start adjusting your palate is through cocktails. The stirred Old Fashioned cocktail or the shaken Whiskey Sour is great for beginners.
Getting to know your whiskey and how to drink it will not only help improve your reputation when you go to bars. It will also give you an edge in your business dealings especially when you deal with people who prefer to discuss business while having pleasure.
Whiskey has a rich history and there are more reasons why you should get to know some of the entertaining and educational facts about the drink. It may look like a sophisticated drink but it’s simply just beer but without the hops. Plus, it has undergone the process of distillation several times. Even the American Distilling Institute affirmed that you need to make beer first before you can come up with whiskey.
Some people have different preferences and rituals when drinking whiskey. While the guide can help you choose your whiskey and maximize your pleasure in drinking the spirit, don’t let these deter you from enjoying your drink the way you like it. But whatever you do, make sure you only drink whiskey from a glass. Any other material will affect the flavor.