Should you drink whiskey straight? Is adding ice a good idea? Will it be best to drink in a cocktail? In this post, I’ll help you answer these questions by sharing the best ways to drink whiskey.

Drinking Whiskey Straight

A glass of Straight Whisky

The simplest way to consume whiskey is to have it “straight”.

  1. Pour between 30 to 60 ml of whiskey into a short glass tumbler (lowball glass). Alternately, use a “snifter” glass, which is a tulip-shaped glass ideal for tasting whiskey.
  2. Smell the whiskey several times and take in its aromas.
  3. Taste the whiskey, letting it coat your tongue. Hold it in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. If the whiskey tastes too strong, consider adding water or a mixer (more on that below).

You will quickly discover that certain whiskeys are better suited to being enjoyed straight. Most people find that bourbon, wheat, Irish, and Canadian whiskeys are enjoyable straight because they are sweet or lighter in flavor.

High-quality Scotch whiskeys are often consumed straight because it allows the drinker to appreciate every nuance in the spirit’’s flavor and aroma.

The alcohol content of a whiskey plays a big role in determining if it can be enjoyed straight or not. Whiskeys with a higher alcohol content can create a burning sensation on the tongue, numbing it to the many delicious flavors that the whiskey contains.

Some whiskey drinkers opt to use a “chaser” with their straight whiskey, to alleviate the burning sensation from the straight spirit. Popular whiskey chasers include water, beer, Dr. Pepper, cola, and somewhat surprisingly, pickle juice.

Drinking Whiskey With Water

Water is a useful addition to whiskey for two reasons. The first reason is that it dilutes the strength of the alcohol in the whiskey.

This reduces the numbing and burning sensation that alcohol can have on the tongue, helping you fully taste the spirit.

The other reason is that adding water kick starts a complex chemical reaction in whiskey. It brings a compound called guaiacol to the surface of your drink.

This compound comes from the charred oak casks that are often used to age whiskey. By bringing it to the surface of the spirit, you will increase the prominence of aromatic compounds within the whiskey and enhance its flavor. To drink whiskey with water:

  1. Pour between 30 to 60 ml of whiskey into a short glass tumbler (lowball glass) or snifter.
  2. Add a few drops of cool filtered water
  3. Smell the whiskey then taste it. If the alcohol content in the whiskey is still numbing your tongue to the point where you can’t fully appreciate its flavors, gradually add more water.

Remember that the goal is to reduce the alcoholic content of the drink very slightly and to open up — not to severely dilute it. Any whiskey can be enjoyed on ice, but bourbon, rye, Irish, corn, and wheat whiskies are most often enjoyed this way.

Drinking Whiskey On The Rocks

A glass of whisky with ice next to a barrel

Although whiskey on the rocks is one of the most common ways that whiskey is consumed, it is often frowned upon by whiskey aficionados.

The reason is simple. When you add ice to whiskey, it begins to melt which constantly changes the dilution of your drink. Your whiskey can quickly go from “too strong” to “too weak” as the ice melts.

Another often-cited reason is that ice can cause the whiskey to become too cold. When whiskey is overly cold, you will not be able to fully taste all of the flavors that the spirit contains.

That being said, many people find whiskey on the rocks one of their favorite combinations. It can make whiskey more refreshing and palatable, particularly if it has a high alcoholic content. Drink whiskey on the rocks is simple:

  1. Place two to three very large ice cubes in a tumbler
  2. Pour in 30 to 60 ml of whiskey
  3. Let it sit for a moment so the whiskey and ice can mingle
  4. Enjoy!

Whiskey stones can also be substituted for ice. They are stainless steel cubes or soapstone pieces which are chilled in a freezer before being placed in your drink. Because they don’t melt, they won’t change the dilution of the spirit.

Drinking Whiskey With A Mixer

A bottle and glass of coke

If you find the flavor of whiskey too strong, you can always add a mixer. There are several potential options including soda water, orange juice, ginger ale, cola, Dr. Pepper, and lemonade. To drink whiskey with mixer:

  1. Place 4 to 5 large ice cubes in a glass (usually a highball glass, but a tumbler is sometimes used)
  2. Pour in between 30 to 60 ml of whiskey
  3. Pour in your chosen mixer
  4. Stir with a mixing spoon
  5. (Optional) Garnish with lemon or lime

Each whiskey will work better with specific mixers. Tennessee whiskey and other bourbons are often mixed with cola because the sweet vanilla and caramel flavors work well together.

If you are drinking a high-quality whiskey, try it with soda water first, as it will not obscure any of its flavors.

Drinking Whiskey Cocktails

There are dozens of delicious whiskey cocktails to try. Some of the most well-known include:

Manhattan

A whiskey Manhattan cocktail

Place 60 ml (2 oz) of rye whiskey, 15 ml (.5 oz) of sweet vermouth, and a dash of Angoustra bitters in a shaker with ice. Shake, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with cherry.

Whiskey Sour

A whiskey sour on a bar

Place 60 ml (2 oz) of bourbon or Scotch, 30 ml (1 oz) of lemon juice, 22 ml (.75 oz) simple syrup, and an egg white in a shaker. Shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Add some ice and shake again before straining into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry.

Old Fashioned

An Old Fashioned Cocktail

Place a sugar cube into an old fashioned then pour a dash of Angostura bitters on it before adding a teaspoon of water. Muddle a cherry and slice of orange in the glass. Finally, place some ice in the glass before pouring 60 ml (2 oz) of bourbon or rye whiskey over the top.

Thanks for reading. What is your favorite way to drink whiskey? Let us know in the comments below.