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How to Drink Whiskey: A Beginner's Guide

By RAJESH KARKERA
June 15, 2022 12:24 IST
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*Whiskey!

A gentleman's drink, one would say.

I beg to differ.

There are many fine women who are great connoisseurs of the drink as well.

In fact, some of them hold their liquor better than many men do.

*But let's not digress.

I'd like to raise a toast to a drink every tippler around the world loves. Whiskey!

Some of our earliest memories and introduction to whiskey have been through the movies.

We've seen men and women on screen drinking it straight up. Sometimes with water. And often times, directly from the bottle. In Indian movies, that latter has actually become a cliche!

Although I love rum -- Old Monk, zindabad! -- I do occasionally take solace in the arms of a good whiskey.

*Over the years, I have learned that there are many ways to enjoy this drink.

The first step is to buy the correct whiskey.

Before you do so, you must understand that many Indian whiskeys are made using molasses, which ages them artificially. This is one of the main reasons why Indian whiskeys are normally consumed with water/soda and even a mix of soda and cola.

You will rarely see an 'age label' -- as you would on whiskey that has been imported -- on Indian whiskey bottles. Indian laws that regulate the manufacturing of whiskey do not, as in other countries, need the amber liquid to be aged.

The minimum ageing process for whiskey is three years. That is why you will spot a number -- often ranging from three years onwards -- on bottles of Chivas Regal, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet or even the popular Johnnie Walker.

Just like wine, the older the whiskey, the more expensive it is.

But if you have a good bottle of aged whiskey, here are five classic ways to enjoy your drink:

1. Have it neat

We've seen how the stars do it in Hollywood movies.

If you want to do it the right way, get yourself a Glencairn whisky glass (it's available on Amazon). It has a beautiful curved shape and a thick base.

The mouth, which is smaller than the base, allows you to smell the whiskey's notes before you take your first sip. Savour that smooth smokiness before you feel it on your tongue.

Ideally, have your whiskey neat.

Take your pick of 30 ml or 60 ml. But do not gulp it down. It’s too expensive to not enjoy each sip.

Take a minimum of 30 minutes to finish your 30 ml. 

2. On the rocks

If you don't prefer the taste of neat whiskey, try it on the rocks.

Use a single large piece of ice. You could also add smaller cubes of ice but limit it to half your whiskey glass.

This way, while the whiskey becomes more subtle, it still retains its smoothness. It's no longer 'neat' but you can still feel the notes.

When you sip whiskey on the rocks, take 30 minutes to an hour to finish one peg (30 or 60 ml) of whiskey.

3. With crushed ice

Top your whiskey glass with crushed ice.

Pour in your desired amount of whiskey; ideally, keep going till you see half the glass turn golden.

This will probably take up to 45 ml of whiskey, depending on the size of your glass.

When you sip, you will feel the crunchy texture of ice overpower the whiskey as it numbs your palette.

Those who love non-sweet cocktails will enjoy their whiskey like this.

4. With soda or sparkling water

India's favourite combination :)

You could either go half-and-half (half whiskey, half soda/sparkling water) or just add the desired amount of sparkling water or soda depending on the extent to which you want to dilute your drink.

The bubbly feeling you get on your tongue as you sip often nudges you to drink more.

Remember, go easy.

5. With a dash of water

If you are not too fond of the taste of undiluted whiskey but also dislike ice, water is the way to go.

Take the desired peg of whiskey in your glass (30 or 60 ml). Add a dash of water to it.

You may add between 5 ml to 30 ml of water to a 30 ml peg of whiskey.

Don't go overboard with the water, else you may miss the flavour.

Sip and enjoy your glass for an hour before you head for your second one.

Remember, these are just pointers. There is no right or wrong way to enjoy your drink. What works for you is always the right way, for you.

Finally, here's the most important tip: Do Not Drive After Drinking!

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RAJESH KARKERA / Rediff.com