“Neat” Versus “On the rocks”; Is There a Best Way?
Does it matter how I drink my whiskey?
There are many reasons that we drink whiskey: we drink whiskey with friends and remember good times, we drink whiskey alone to simply appreciate the flavors, and we drink whiskey in a dark cave with ethereal beings who tempt us to fulfill our destiny and become ‘the chosen one’ even though we’d rather just be sipping whiskey (just me?). Regardless of why you’re drinking, each moment can be enhanced by how you’re enjoying your whiskey.
Drinking whiskey “neat”
Purists will tell you that there is no other way to drink whiskey. Drinking a whiskey neat allows the true flavors of the whiskey to fill every inch of your nose and palate, and allows you to fully appreciate the strength of the palate. This is particularly true if you have the right glass for tasting. When tasting or sampling there is no better way to drink your whiskey. Drinking a whiskey neat allows you to smell, taste, and feel the core characteristics of a whiskey; for better or for worse. If a whiskey is unbalanced, or overly alcoholic, you’ll know it right away. Disliking a whiskey neat doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad whiskey, it could just mean that you need to try it a different way.
Best for: sampling, tasting, reviewing, masquerading as a whiskey purist
Drinking “neat” … with a liiiiitle water
Consider this “Neat+”. Adding just a few drops of water can alter the flavors in your glass, often softening them and allowing you to taste past the ‘heat’ of a high-proof whiskey. Purists will tell you that this ‘hides’ the true flavors of a whiskey. Please tell them that adding water to whiskey is literally part of the process of making whiskey in many cases. You paid for the bottle/glass already, you should be able to enjoy it how you want! But how much water to add? Whiskey experts recommend that you add enough to take away any alcoholic ‘pucker’, and not a drop more (for you chemistry students out there, this appears to happen around 35% ABV). At this point the flavors of the whiskey aren’t diluted, but are softened by the presence of water.
Recommended for: sipping, enjoying, softening a ‘hot.hot.hot’ whiskey
Drinking whiskey on *A* rock
I’ll start this section by addressing the elephant in the glass, not all whiskey rocks are created equal. They each have their own purposes and unique elements which I’ll go through here. First up is the whiskey ‘rock’. The rock should be large enough that it both touches the bottom of the glass you’re using and comes out of the top of the whiskey. Make sure you’re grabbing the right size cubes from our partner Viski. The benefit of a larger rock is less dilution as it melts more slowly than smaller ice cubes (surface area and whatnot, I was never great at thermodynamics). Similar to adding a bit of water, some dilution can help to ‘soften’ a harsh whiskey. Cold also mutes flavors, so if you’ve got a whiskey you’re not totally into, this can be a great way to enjoy it.
Recommended for: Summer sipping, social settings, making ‘lemonade’ with a less than optimal whiskey
Whiskey on literal rocks
Whiskey stones are a step back in time. The phrase “on the rocks” may have come from a time when ice wasn’t ubiquitous and thirsty drinkers would pluck cold stones out of a river to chill their spirit. These stones provide the benefit of chilling a whiskey without diluting the flavor. As mentioned above, chilling effectively dulls your taste buds, so they do mute the whiskey in a different way. The main benefit of whiskey stones over a single rock is that they’re re-usable and chill faster than trying to freeze a large block of water for a whiskey rock. You can grab a great set of these stones from our partner Vintage Gentleman if you’re looking for that rustic aesthetic in your whiskey.
Recommended for: At-home sipping, small gatherings, feeling like you’re in ancient Scotland
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