How to drink whiskey

To the uninitiated serving and drinking whiskey could seem as easy as opening the whiskey bottle and pour – but that is very far from reality. There are several “schools” on how to drink whiskey, and they do not always get along.

Some demand ice cubes while others would turn an unhealthy shade of blue in the head if you mention ice and whiskey in the same sentence. The aim of this little guide is to provide you with some insight into all the different way you can serve and drink whiskey.

Whiskey-drinks and -cocktails

One way to drink whiskey is (of course) in a good cocktail or in mixed drinks. The possibilities are nearly endless.

You might want to try out the very elegant (and very tasty) Mint Julep, or (if feeling adventurous) the drinks “The Irish Cow” which is an odd mix of warm milk and irish whiskey. In the end it is only the limits of your creativity that sets the boundaries.

On the rocks

As you might know, serving something “on the rocks” literally means serving something on ice rocks (cubes). There are several reason why you would drink whiskey on the rocks, the first being that the cold from the ice cubes removes the burning taste of alcohol, turning the whiskey into a soft and pleasant drink.

Unfortunately the meltwater from the ice cubes dilutes the whiskey and thereby removes nuances of flavour from it. But if all you have got is a mediocre whiskey that already leave you bored, a few ice cubes can make most whiskey brand if not okay, then at least drinkable.

Jack Daniels is often served “on the rocks” and is usually just called “Jack on the rocks”. It is a very simple drink recipe however it does have one pitfall: Add too much ice and the alcohol (and a warm hand around the glass) will quickly melt it and dillute the drink.

This might seem obvious but yours truly have way too often seen whiskey drinks suffer a painful drowning death because of some bartender being over-generous with the ice cubes.

Note: You can avoid the diluting of the whiskey while still getting the benefits from ice cubes by investing in some “whiskey stones” / “sipping stones”. These are ice cube sized cubes made from stone or metal, which you place in the freezer and add to you drink when you need them.

We recommend two versions: The luxury version made from titanium or the economic version made from soap stone.


Whiskey can of course be enjoyed “straight up” or “pure”. In case it is not obvious this means that you get the full, undistorted taste experience straight from the bottle. As with everything else there is also a dispute in the whiskey world whether or not to add water.

Everything revolvesa around whether oo not to add tap water (or spring water if you want the really hip version) when you enjoy your whiskey pure. There are three schools:

  1. Some think you should dillute the whiskey until it reaches an alcohol vol of 40% (US proof 80). At whiskey tastings the alcohol can be dilluted to as much as 20% vol. It is supposed to remove the worst bite of the alcohol and make it easier the really taste the whiskey. Sometimes it is a direct necessity since some whiskeys are bottled a 50% vol.
  2. Another argument for adding water to whiskey is that it is supposed to open up the whiskey and amplify the whiskey’s bouquet (whish in turn also adds to the taste experience).
  3. Some argue that adding as little as a single drop although they use the same arguments as those mentioned above making it mostly a discussion about the amount of water.
  4. Lastly, a group are of the opinion that whiskey should not come near water. Too many essential nuances of the taste disappears as soon as water enters the stage, and you should therefore enjoy your whiskey pure.
  5. (FYI, science says: Yes, add a few drops of water to whiskey)

Even the whiskey world’s most prominent profiles disagree, and in the end it all comes down to your own preference, and not what some random dude claims. Find your own preference; mine is a few drops.

With a good cigar

These days smokers are more and more a hunted people and that makes this combination… politial incorrect… but nevertheless the two luxury products complement each other really well.

I have never smoked anything in my life so I am by no measure a qualified suorce on this matter. But! Whisky Magazine gathered a range of world wide whisky experts some years ago, to find the perfect combination between scottish whisky and cuba cigars.

The magazine describer the match as “a match made in heaven”. We do not invite you to start smoking (really, it is lethal and you should stay away from it) but if you already do, make your own decision.

Some producers have also experimented with cigar-flavoured whiskey. I do not know anyone you have ever tasted such a whiskey but if you did, please share your thoughts in the comments.


Generally speaking there are two types of glasses that are suitable for serving whiskey:

  1. The first one is the classic tumber glass (find some really good tumbler glasses here) which is is a low, cylider shaped glass. The glass is fine if you are just going for a glass or two at your local watering hole, but are you looking for something extra ordinaire, you should be looking for something entirely different.
  2. What you should be looking for, are “sniffer glasses“. Sniffer glasses looks more like cognac glasses and are slimmer and often slightly taller. The shape of the glass makes the scent of the whiskey gather and concentrate around the nose and makes it easier the pick up.

Serving and tasting whiskey is a science in itself but with the above knowledge in your bartender’s toolkit you should be well suited the do the gylden drops honor.

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