To some people, drinking whiskey with style is an art. To others, it is a refreshing glass at the end of the workday.
Regardless of your perspective, there are a few basic guidelines to follow that will heighten the drinking experience.
If you are a beginner and are wondering how to drink whiskey to get the most out of the experience, you have come to the right place. This guide will cover topics such as choosing glassware and how to take your first sip.
We will also discuss how to pour a glass and whether you should take it straight or neat, and what the difference between those two is.
Not only are there basic rules of drinking etiquette, but there are a number of factors that will heighten the taste of a glass of whiskey. Let’s dive into it.
Is There a Proper Way of How to Drink Whiskey?
There is no proper way to drink whiskey. However, there are a few techniques to take advantage of which will make the drinking experience more enjoyable.
The thing that matters is if you enjoy what you are drinking.
Fellow enthusiasts will not be analyzing your every movement as you take a sip (they shouldn’t be, anyway).
1. Choose the Right Glass
The first thing you need to consider when figuring out how to drink whiskey is the type of glass you are using.
Many people drink whiskey out of tumblers, which is a short glass with a heavier bottom. These are also known as rocks glasses.
Another typical whiskey glass is a highball. This is a tall and skinny glass that is usually used for mixed drinks.
Regardless, just know that the kind of glass you use can make a difference in how you experience and taste the whiskey.
Some glasses are designed to concentrate the vapors of the whiskey, which will allow you to smell it as much as you taste it. Experiencing the potent smell will significantly enhance the flavor.
Generally, tumblers will be the best glass for enjoying straight whiskey, whiskey on the rocks, or cocktails with ice. And there are subcategories of tumblers called the Glencairn and NEAT glasses.
However, if you are drinking a whiskey cocktail without ice or whiskey neat, you can also use a coupe glass. This glass has a long, skinny stem with a wide bowl. Think of a champagne or martini glass.
Coupe glasses are great for drinks without ice since your hand’s warmth will only travel to the glass’s stem, not the bowl. Whiskey sours are great in coupe glasses.
Be sure to check out our list of the best whiskey glasses to find the right one for you.
2. Savor the Flavors
Whether you are drinking the best whiskey under $50, or a rare bottle, they will all have different flavor profiles.
Either way, when it comes time to drink the whiskey, there are a few things to keep in mind.
The first thing you want to do is smell the aroma of the drink. The flavor will come from all senses, not just your tongue.
Whiskey is a sipping drink. Feel free to chug it down in a shot glass, but you will get the most out of the spirit if you savor it.
Each sip you take, let the drink sit on your tongue. Focus on the array of flavors and tones before swallowing.
3. Take Your Time
Lastly, make sure you take your time. Each whiskey will taste a bit different to every person. No whiskey will be the same, so take your time to appreciate the new flavors.
Consider discussing the different flavors with some friends. It is always interesting to see how other drinkers will taste different tones than you do.
Discussing how the spirit tastes is one of the main pastimes of whiskey enthusiasts and always starts a good conversation.
4. Choose Food Options Wisely
The type of experience you are looking for will closely dictate the type of foods that you will pair with your whiskey.
If you are going for a strict tasting where you are studying each whiskey in detail, you will want to stick to bland food like crackers. This way, you won’t have any strong flavors to influence your palate and disrupt your taste.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a more inclusive experience, check out our food and whiskey pairing guide to point you in the right direction.
The subtle flavors in your favorite whiskey can complement the same flavors in various types of food, and can result in heavenly combinations. Choose wisely.
Pouring Whiskey Properly
When wondering how to drink whiskey, it is also good to know how to pour the drink. Properly pouring the drink will enhance the taste.
As a general rule, make sure to pour about two fingers’ worth of liquid in the glass. Put your index and middle finger together and place it horizontally next to the glass.
When you pour too much liquid into the glass, there won’t be enough air to let it develop into its full dynamic form.
Giving the whiskey enough air will allow the aromas to open.
Here are some things to consider when pouring your whiskey.
1. Straight or Neat?
Ordering a drink straight usually means “straight up.” The drink is shaken in a mixer with ice to dilute and cool it; then, the bartender strains it into a stemmed glass.
On the other hand, ordering your whiskey neat means that you will get about two ounces of whiskey at room temperature with no extra ingredients (no ice or water).
It all depends on personal preference, but many whiskey enthusiasts prefer to dilute the whiskey with a bit of ice.
Ordering your whiskey straight up can pull more tones and flavors out of the liquor (which we will cover more in-depth in the next point).
If you choose to drink whiskey neat, consider having a cool glass of water on hand. Take a sip of the whiskey, then cleanse your palette with the water.
You can also order whiskey on the rocks (with ice). Adding ice to the drink can increase the range of flavors, as mentioned before, and give it a more refreshing taste.
Even so, cooling the whiskey may result in some muted tones.
For this reason, it can take a while to find the right ‘ice recipe’ for your favorite spirit. Consider adding a higher volume of ice to reduce the melting time, or use an ice ball.
2. Adding Water
There is a good reason why whiskey lovers add water to the drink. Adding water will increase its flavor and enhance the overall taste of the drink.
When the water reacts with the alcohol, it pulls out a wider range of rich tones than with whiskey neat.
Use the ‘less is more’ principle when it comes to adding water. If you want to open up the flavor, only add a few drops of water.
Start with a small amount since you can always add more. If you add more water than necessary, you will risk diluting the drink too much and muting its richness.
3. Mixing Whiskey With Other Drinks
Do not shy away from the wonderful world of mixing, there are ways to mix whiskey without muting its personality.
Here are a few popular drinks that taste great with whiskey:
- Club Soda
- Apple Cider
- Ginger Ale
- Coconut Water
Even though these are the most popular drinks, there is no limit to what you can mix with.
Coffee, tea, and grapefruit juice are also other unconventional drinks that taste amazing with whiskey. I even have a friend that loves root beer and whiskey.
When mixing a drink, use a long glass and fill it with ice. Add two parts of the mixer of your choice and one part whiskey. Then top the drink off with a lime, lemon, or any preferred garnish.
The Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Whiskey Sour are some of the most popular whiskey cocktails.
Figuring out how to drink whiskey will not be complete without accessories. There are a few gadgets you can purchase that whiskey enthusiasts love.
1. Whiskey Stones
If you want the taste of an ice-cold drink without diluting the spirit, purchase some whiskey stones.
The stones come in different shapes and sizes. You can either buy stone cubes or stone spheres. You can place these in the freezer and re-use them as many times as you like.
Even though keeping your whiskey in a decanter will not open up the flavors as much as it would with wine (if any), decanters will store your whiskey with style.
If you have a home bar, purchasing a decanter for the bar cart or counter will add a touch of elegance.
Some of the best whiskey decanters will keep your whiskey safe with an air-tight seal.
3. Cocktail Shaker Set
Having your own shaker set will be a great way to experiment with some whiskey cocktails at home.
Since there are so many things you can mix the spirit with, you will be able to do some experiments and figure out what you like best.
Whiskey and Cigars
Knowing how to drink whiskey does not only have to be confined to the liquor.
Bourbon and scotch whiskey will go well with most cigars, as well as any cocktails with those whiskies.
When searching for the perfect match, try out some milder cigars first, then stronger ones. After you have found your favorite tones and flavors, you can start pairing with your favorite whiskies.
Consider trying out these expert pairings:
- Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon and Montecristo No 4.
- Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve and Partagas Serie D No 4
Becoming a Seasoned Veteran
If you are looking to get more advanced as a whiskey drinker, it is going to take time.
As with anything, learning all about whiskey is a process. And there is a lot of trial and error through that process to find what works for you.
The best way is to keep trying different whiskeys. This way you will learn more about the flavors and your palate will develop. An easy way to jumpstart your way to whiskey mastery is to join a whiskey club.
Some of the best whiskey of the month clubs have a variety of bottles to sample, along with communities and learning aids.
Figuring out how to drink whiskey with style can be confusing at first since there are so many different factors at play.
First of all, make sure to choose the right glass. Tumblers will always be your safest bet for most whiskey drinks, while coupe glasses are great for drinks without ice.
To enjoy the glass with style, enjoy the aroma first before taking a sip. See what different kinds of flavors you can smell.
As you drink, take small tips and take your time with the glass. Each whiskey will taste slightly different to everyone, so pay attention to the tones and notes of the spirit.
Finally, savor the whiskey’s finish. The finish is the taste that lingers in your mouth after you swallow.
Some spirits will have fruity tones, while others will leave you with a rich, smokey taste.