Drink Whiskey Like a Man

Ok this title is old, outdated and false. I’ve known plenty of women who can outdrink some men. But we’ve all heard this phrase. And for many of us it’s when we’re ordering a whiskey. 

So, let’s start with this…throughout this article I’ve used the word whiskey to encompass Irish whiskey, scotch, Japanese whiskey, and bourbon. But why am I writing anything at all. 


Many times, I’ve been out with friends and they’re embarrassed to order a whiskey for fear of judgement on how they order. Should I order that one neat? On the rocks? With water? With soda?

I myself felt this way for a long time. Until I went to a scotch tasting with the Brand Ambassador from the Balvenie (my favorite Speyside), David Laird. Over the last 7-8 years David has become a friend and his knowledge and passion for whiskey is infectious. So, we go to this tasting and at the beginning David posed the above question…what’s the right way to order a whiskey? Everyone who was brave enough to throw out an answer, was wrong. David followed up everyone’s answer with this, “the proper way to order a whisky, is however you like to drink it.” This statement changed my thoughts completely. Growing up my dad always joked that you weren’t a real man if you needed to put ice in your drink. Clearly, he was wrong. 

For me, every drink is different, and I tend to order them differently for a multitude of reasons. Beer is my preferred drink of choice, but this isn’t about beer today. Bourbon is my go-to whiskey. It’s delicious and doesn’t kill my wallet like scotch (beer does that). When I drink whiskey and it’s something new I always start neat with a side of rocks. This gives me the chance to taste what the Malt Master or Distiller intended it to be. After a sip or three I tend to add a cube. I can’t say the same for scotch. I’ll still start with the scotch neat but then instead of ice, I tend to add a couple drops of water to open up the spirit. 

So here comes the science…at room temp, a whiskey is going to taste the way the Distillery wants it to taste. Adding water will open the whiskey up. It forces the -OH molecules to spread out a bit. It cuts some of the alcohol bite down, and lets some more of the floral, peat, or smokiness a given spirit has play a bigger role. Adding ice actually does the opposite. Since the ice is cold (duh its ice), it forces the molecules to slow down their movement restricting the flavors like sweetness, floral, etc. and allowing the alcohol to have normal to slightly more bite. 

Now if you’re reading this and you want to say “hey, I add soda to my whiskey” …well that’s awesome for you! It’s your whiskey and that’s your right as a boozehound. For me though, I’ll stick with the above method and enjoy my way. Now that you’ve read some of the science behind what ice or water will do to your whiskey, get out there and order anyway you’d like it!