I'm not really a whiskey person. At least not yet. The thing is, when I first started drinking, I pretty much stuck to blending strawberry margaritas, sweet white wine, and cosmos. Put any of those in front of my and I'll struggle to suck it down. Give me a dry red or beer any day; that's much more my style now.
My husband is a serious whiskey fan. He'll drink it on the rocks or just on its own, as a manhattan or old fashioned, or maybe with a little water or bitters. I'll taste it every once in a while, but the taste is still pretty strong for me. I figured, however, that if I eventually acquired a taste for what I drink now, liking whiskey is only a matter of time.
Even though I don't drink much whiskey these days (the exception is a good whiskey sour - so delicious!), I still know quite a bit. Robert is a hobby mixologist, and loves learning about liquors and alcohol, which means that I've absorbed a few tidbits of knowledge here and there too.
A whisky (Scotch or Canadian) or whiskey (American or Irish) is a spirit distilled from fermented grain mash. Each country of original has its own regulations regarding the production of whiskey, and there are a variety of sub-categories of whiskies, including bourbon and rye.
Whiskey technically has only three ingredients: water, grain, and yeast. Once the whiskey has been fermented and distilled, it is aged for an average minimum of three years in oak barrels. Without the aging in barrels, whiskey is essentially just moonshine (no thanks!).
So, that's all great! But what about how to actually drink it. There are a few different ways, but there isn't really a wrong way to drink whiskey (just don't ask a whiskey snob).
First things first! DON'T SNIFF WHISKEY like you sniff wine with your nose in the glass. Keep it further away from your face when you smell it, or it'll burn the capillaries in your nose.
You can DRINK WHISKEY STRAIGHT in a glass, with or without an ice cube. If you like it cold, go right ahead. Or, if you like it at room temperature, that's just fine too. TRY IT WITH A TEASPOON OF WATER to soften it, though you may want to drink Jack without the water. Whiskies at eighty proof have had water added already, so it may detract from the taste if you add more.
There are quite a few cocktails made from whiskey, though a purist would tell you that Scotch shouldn't be used in any mixed drinks. If you aren't too sure about drinking whiskey straight just yet, try a mint julep (made with bourbon) or a manhattan (with rye). There's always a Jack and Coke, or if you're feeling especially adventurous, ask your bartender for a sazerac.
Traditional Old Fashioned
1 maraschino cherries
2 slices of orange
1 teaspoon sugar
Dash of angostura bitters
2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
Lightly press an orange peel in a chilled rocks glass and add sugar, bitters, and water. Remove the orange rind and add the whiskey and ice; stir. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and orange slice.