Food and Drink

The Proper Way to Drink Scotch

October 14, 2014
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In the wide world of whiskey, some will argue that Scotch is king. No matter whether its single malts like Macallan, Glengoyne, Glenfiddich, and Glenfarclas, or blended varieties like Johnnie Walker and Dewars, these refined drinks all need to be treated with the respect they deserve to get the best taste out of them.

Neat
This simple four-letter word is just that; specifying that you only want your scotch in clean glass (more on this later) with nothing else along for the ride. For many in the scotch world, this is the only way to pull off a good single malt. Distilleries have spent centuries perfecting a process to perfect a scotch whiskey that is a masterpiece, which requires no adulteration of any kind. If you add any mix, soda, water, or ice, you may risk losing the original taste that, in some cases, took 20-30 years of careful aging to produce. For instance, Macallan 12 has hints of vanilla and sweet cream due to aging in used sherry casks. Truth be told, if you ask for a good single malt any other way and your mixologist doesn’t look at you funny, you may want to frequent better establishments.

Rocks
In a highball or similar, drop in 2-3 good-sized cubes (or a single ice sphere), splash with enough scotch to float the cubes. This rule of thumb for those who like to sip cool rather than room temperature whisky has worked well for generations since the time moustache wax hit the streets. It is also a slight cheat for those who like to tame the drink’s distinctive bite while also bringing out some of the scotch’s aromatics as the two mix. Many purists however, argue that this is just diluting the flavor.

Water
A slight amount of water can help bring out subtle nuances in the scotch itself. The ratio, however, is key and should be up to the drinker to perfect. In many establishments that specialize in scotch, it’s acceptable and even encouraged to order a small glass of room temperature mineral or spring water alongside a neat scotch. With a straw and your fingertip, transfer just a few ounces at a time over to the scotch, swirl it, sniff the aroma, and then taste. Repeat if necessary.

Glass Choices
Often scotch is served in U.S. bars in shot glasses or high balls. While there is nothing abjectly wrong with this—I have had good scotch out of a Dixie cup—many advocate the use of tulip-shaped glasses so that one can enjoy the aroma of the drink. The only thing that is absolutely required is that the glass be clean. A dirty glass may have soap residue or remnants of other drinks that will kill the flavor of your scotch not to mention turn a subtle aroma on its nose. While this may not be possible to ensure out in public, in your private man-cave try to only drink scotch in them, wash your glasses twice with a detergent (not soap), let them air-dry, and throw them out if they become overly cloudy.

Mixed Drinks
With all that being said, there are a number of very manly cocktails made using scotch. For most, a good blended scotch will suffice. These include the orange juice and Cherry Heering Blood and Sand; the scotch and Drambuie Rusty Nail; blend scotch, honey, lemon juice and Laphroaig together to make Penicillin; or channel your inner mob boss with the amoretto and scotch Godfather.

In the end, pick your glass, pick your scotch, pick a way to drink it, and, as long as you like it, there really is no wrong way to enjoy it.

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