Every media depiction of whiskey drinkers oozes sensuality. Whiskey is, no doubt, seen as a sexy and mysterious drink, one that makes even long-time drinkers of the liquor wanting more. Its reputation alone is enough to inspire interest.
Whiskey, like an attractive conquest, requires confidence. The last thing we want to do when making an approach is to stumble like a naive newbie who doesn’t know the difference between flirting and fumbling or bourbon and whiskey. How to start drinking whiskey requires a quick education in the liquor itself as well as a how-to drink it.
What Is Whiskey?
One advantage of being new to the whiskey game is that long time whiskey drinkers are a learned crowd and they love to educate others. However, it never hurts to go in with a little knowledge about the drink itself because, to some, the variations are entities unto themselves.
Whiskey is made by fermenting malted barley or another grain. While it’s not the grain choice but the casking that gives whiskey its distinctive flavor, variations in the grain create variations of the drink.
Bourbon– There are some fairly strict rules about what qualifies as a bourbon. The most important elements are that it is distilled in America, consists mostly of corn as the grain, and is aged in a new barrel.
Tennessee Whiskey– Required to be filtered in charcoal before being aged.
Irish Whiskey– Uses barley, is distilled three times, and must be aged for 3 years in Ireland to, officially, be an Irish whiskey.
Scotch– The granddaddy of whiskeys. Uses barley but peat is used to dry the barley and gives it its distinctive flavor. Like other variations, Scotch must be aged in Scotland for 3 years and include only barley, yeast, water, and caramel color. Any other ingredients disqualify the liquor from this classification.
While there are other variations, you’ll pick that up in whiskey bar banter. Let’s get on to the drinking!
How to Start Drinking Whiskey
As noted above, a good part of whiskey’s appeal is the drinking. It’s the glass. It’s the ice cubes (like the kind that come from this round ice cube maker). It’s the style. It’s the whiskey bar itself. That said, there are a few key things that will increase your enjoyment of your newfound whiskey appreciation.
First, whiskey is a sipping drink. It’s not shots at the bar after work. Drink it slowly.
Next, work your way up the ladder. Don’t start at Scotch, start with bourbon. Let your taste buds acclimate to the flavors. For some, this means starting with a mix of bourbon and water or bourbon and ice and gradually decreasing the ratio of water to bourbon.
At first, more water is fine, as are lower priced bourbons. As your tastes adapt and grow more refined, move up to more expensive bourbons and Irish whiskeys. Gradually, you’ll be drinking these “neat’ (without ice) which means you’re ready to move on to Scotch.
Scotch is meant to be neat. Instead of ice, use whiskey stones so as not to dilute the liquor itself. That said, adding a splash of distilled water will release more of the flavors, so Scotch and water is an acceptable option.
No Longer a Newbie
In your quest to become a whiskey lover, soak up as much information as you can. Talk to bartenders, talk to other whiskey drinkers, and experiment. Buy new whiskeys and avoid, at first, settling on a favorite.
The more exposure to a variety, the better you’ll understand whiskey’s nuances and the more knowledgeable you’ll become. That is the true sign of someone that wants to learn how to start drinking whiskey.
Whiskey drinking is a journey. You may now begin.
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