“What’s the right way to drink whiskey? Neat? Rocks? Soda? Mixers?” —Eric S., Chicago, IL
Calm down. There’s no right way to drink whiskey. Well, let me clarify that: The right way to drink it is whatever way you like it. If you like the taste of whiskey with ice, that’s fine. If you like something fancier, like a Manhattan, that’s cool, too. Don’t be a snob about it. I always liked my whiskey neat, and most whiskey purists prefer it that way, too. That’s whiskey in a glass, period. If it’s a little tight—tight meaning young—you add a small splash of water to open up the flavor. That way, you get the real notes of the whiskey. But anything more than a splash will dilute it.
On the other hand, if it’s shit whiskey, by all means throw some rocks in it. Fill it with ice, add Coke, drink it down quick, and get drunk. But if you really want to learn, go to a whiskey bar, find an unpretentious bartender, and try a flight. Maybe you want something more than just a straight whiskey. Maybe you’re a Scotch man. Or bourbon.
My first experience with the brown liquors was Jack Daniel’s, but it just got me twisted and made me angry. I eventually moved on to bourbon, because I liked the complexities. For a while I was hooked on Woodford Reserve, a great and affordable domestic bourbon.But whatever you do, don’t ever buy your whiskey from a bar that tries to charge you $2 for a “neat pour.” It actually happens, and it’s fucking ridiculous. I’d rather drink whiskey out of a paper bag than pay $2 for a goddamn glass without ice.
Shorty Maniace is the proprietor of J.P. Kempt Barber & Social in San Francisco.