You’re a whiskey sipper: a finger or two of single malt with a few drops of water; a fine bourbon with one ice cube, maybe even Gentleman Jack straight up. Why would you want to dilute your favorite beverage with inferior ingredients? Why would you spend the extra time and trouble?
We get it: Consumatorium staff have been drinking scotch whisky since Macallan 25 was $40 a bottle. But with the wider availability of quality ingredients, as well as a recent need you might have to change up your routine, now might be a great time to try some variations that play off your one true love. Further, unless all your friends only sip the same whiskey as you do, you might want to broaden your repertoire to prepare for that glorious day when you are able to have friends over again.
- Most obviously you could try sipping a different brand of your favorite whiskey type. If you only drink Glenlivet or Macallan, try an Aberlour or Balvenie. They’re distilled only a few blocks away in Speyside. Or if you’ve staggered your way through the Highlands, try an Oban or an Auchentoshan. We don’t recommend diving into an Islay for this experiment – try those in a bar first. If you’re a bourbon drinker, Basil Hayden’s, Bulleit, Makers Mark, Evan Williams, and Woodford Reserve are all quite good. If you want to spend your stimulus check all in one place, buy some Macallan 25 or Pappy van Winkle; you may learn what you’ve really been living for.
- Venturing further, try a different style of whiskey. Bourbon drinkers should know that single malt scotch is best without ice and just a few drops of water added. Scotch drinkers should know that bourbon ought to have a single smallish ice cube added, which intentionally dilutes the drink and makes it a little cooler. Either of you could try sipping rye, which can be served neat, with a little water, or with an ice cube. Its flavors are quite complex and it is undervalued even today when more ryes are available. Great brands include Whistlepig (expensive and high proof), High West, and Bulleit. There are also high-rye bourbons which are a nice combination. Japanese whiskey (including Hakushu, Hibiki, and others) is similar to scotch and extremely high quality. Do not drink Canadian whiskey for any reason, and if you do, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
- You might also consider partaking of local craft whiskey. Local distilleries have proliferated, and some of them are quite good. However, Consumatorium Labs has tested a large number of local craft whiskies, and many are not aged long enough or have immature recipes. We recommend that you ask around among friends and liquor store owners, and read some online reviews, to find out which ones sip well. Even within a brand is not always consistent: for example, we found Woody Creek Rye to be truly great but their bourbon just mediocre.
- On to mixed cocktails: first you’ll need to shop. Don’t use your expensive whiskey stock, buy a Bulleit Rye and/or a Bulleit Bourbon. These are great mixing whiskies, $20 for a fifth, that also serve as a sipping backup if you run out, or if there is an even worse pandemic where they close the liquor stores. Get a 375ml bottle of Carpano Antica and keep it in the refrigerator. Get Angostura aromatic bitters, they’re a classic and last basically forever. And buy a bottle of Stirrings simple syrup, or at least make sure you have sugar cubes. Now you can make a Manhattan and an Old Fashioned, both timeless classics. As mentioned, your learning curve will not go to waste even if you don’t enjoy them, since you can also serve them to guests.
- If you’ve ever tasted Campari, in a Negroni or otherwise, and like it, then get a bottle. The Boulevardier is a great and refreshing drink, and you can adjust the ratios to your liking (at Consumatorium we tend to prefer a higher whiskey ratio, 4:1:1 instead of equal parts).
- If you like the flavor of black licorice, get a bottle of Pernod, Absinthe, or a Pastis. Yeah, it’s expensive, and it doesn’t come in small bottles. But now you can make a Sazerac and a Billionaire – the former is another great classic, the latter a popular modern drink. Note, you’ll also need a lemon for the Billionaire.
- Now that you have lemons, you can make a Whiskey Sour – not the kind they serve in midwest college bars, using sour mix – the real one made with simple syrup and fresh lemon juice. Just right for a warm spring night.