Whisky is one of the most famous drinks around the world alongside beer and wine. Did you know that whisky was first used as a medicinal substance (water of vitality or aqua vitae)? According to historical records, whisky was first distilled in the 1400s in Scotland. It’s certainly a drink that has been enjoyed by many for hundreds of years.
What Is Whisky?
Whiskey or whisky; it doesn’t actually matter how you spell it! However, when you spell it with an “e” you’re mostly describing American, Canadian or Japanese distilled whisky. When you spell it without an “e”, the whisky is most likely distilled in Scotland or Ireland.
But what exactly is whisky? Whisky is a generic term that is applied to distilled sprits that are made from grain mash. Just like beer, whisky has a range of styles. For the uninitiated, all styles of whisky taste relatively similar whether they are brown or golden brown in color and can be described as liquid fire as it burns your mouth and throat when you drink it. But as you learn to appreciate whisky, you will be able to differentiate the different styles, aromas and tastes. There are also plenty of terms to describe types of whisky; single malt, blended whisky, rye whisky and many others.
You can start to distinguish whisky by the country of origin. This is the easiest way to understand the difference between types.
- Scotch Whisky. Distilled in Scotland and mostly made from barley and aged for 3 years. Scotch also has two sub-categories. Single malt whisky, which is distilled in a single distillery from malted barley and blended scotch whisky, which is a blend of one or more scotch whiskies. Scotch tends to have an earthy and smoky flavor.
- American Whiskey. American whiskies are distilled in the United States and aged in barrels for around 3 years. Three types of American whiskey include bourbon which is distilled from 51% corn, Tennessee whisky which is bourbon distilled in Tennessee and filtered using charcoal and rye which is distilled using 51% rye.
- Canadian Whiskey. Blended whiskies distilled in Canada and aged for 3 years. Canadian whisky tends to be fruity and light-bodied.
- Irish Whisky. Distilled in Ireland and aged for 3 years. Tends to be more robust, but lighter than Canadian whiskey.
Experienced whisky drinkers have different preferences when it comes to drinking whisky. Some like it neat (no ice or water) and at room temperature. Some like it with a dash of water mixed in to dilute the alcohol of high-proof whisky. Some prefer to have a separate glass of water and others like it on the rocks. Some prefer to have it with dark chocolate or a high-grade cigar. There are no strict rules for drinking whisky. Experienced whisky drinkers will always suggest to take your whisky neat or with a dash of water to trully appreciate the flavour, but it will depend on personal preference. Some may be shocked at the alcohol content if they try the fiery liquid on its own for the first time. New drinkers may prefer to have their whisky “dressed up” with a mixer.
Some whisky drinkers may frown on this, but there is a growing trend where whisky is used a base for many delicious cocktails. This whisky controversy will always come down to personal opinion and preference. It can be said that your first try of whisky should be neat but after you have grown to appreciate the taste and feel of whisky, you can play around a bit and figure out what you like. Again, there are no true rules when it comes to drinking whisky, just smart guidelines. Remember to always drink responsibly.
There are many ways to enjoy a delicious whisky cocktail. Here are 10 of our favourites:
1. Old Fashioned
2 Oz of rye whisky
1 cube of sugar
3 dashes of Angusta bitters
Place the sugar cube and orange peel at the bottom of a rocks glass. Add a splash of water and bitters. Crush the sugar with a wooden muddler or a strong spoon. Pour whisky and add ice. Stir until the mix is well chilled. Serve.
¼ cup of rye whisky
2 dashes of Angusta bitters
2 tbspn of sweet vermouth
Cherry for garnish
Combine all liquids in a glass with ice. Stir until chilled and then strain in a Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with cherry.
3. Rob Roy
2 Oz of blended scotch whisky
1 dash of Angusta bitters
¾ Oz of Italian vermouth
Pour all into a shaker with cracked ice. Strain and pour in a chilled Manhattan glass and garnish with a twist of lemon or cherry.
4. Grant’s Grandfather
4 ounces of Grant’s Family reserve
2 ounces of Amaretto
Splash of orange juice or Angusta bitters
Orange zest for garnish
Fill a glass with ice and pour the whiskey, the Amaretto and bitters (in that order). Zest an orange over the glass of the cocktail and garnish with a long orange peel.
5. Mint Julep
2 ½ Oz of bourbon
2 sugar cubes
4 mint leaves
Mint sprigs for garnish
Put sugar and mint leaves into Collins glass. Muddle well to release the aroma of the mint leaves. Add the bourbon and crushed ice. Stir well until the glass becomes frosted or cold. Garnish with the mint sprigs.
3 Oz of blended scotch
1 Oz of lemon juice
1 Oz of ginger, honey syrup
1 Oz of scotch
Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, strain and pour into a glass with ice and enjoy.
7. The Sea Captain’s Special
2 Oz of rye whisky
1 dash of Angusta bitters
1 dash of Pastis
4 ounces of champagne
Combine whisky, bitters and Pastis in a rocks glass with ice cubes. Top up with champagne and enjoy.
8. The Irish Red Head
2 Oz of Irish whisky
1 Oz Grenadine
5-6 Oz of Sprite
A dash of lemon or lime
Mix all ingredients in a tall glass with ice. Mix and garnish with a lemon or lime wedge.
9. Jameson and Ginger
1 shot of Irish whisky
Pour whisky in a tall glass with ice and top up with ginger ale. Squeeze a lemon wedge and drop it in the glass.
10. Whisky Sour
1.75 Oz of bourbon
.75 Oz of lemon juice
.75 of simple syrup consisting of one part sugar and one part water
Cherry or lemon wedge to garnish
Add all liquids into a shaker with ice. Shake, strain and pour into rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with cherry or lemon wedge.
There is no wrong to drink whisky! Try out these cocktail recipes with your friends and let us know what you think. Always remember to drink responsibly.