Mark Twain once said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” While we agree with Mr. Twain’s wisdom, he never mentioned how to drink whiskey without the burning sensation.
There are ways to minimize this or avoid drinking whiskey without the burn–which may lead you to wonder, how do I drink whiskey without the burn?
One tip you can try next time you pour a dram is breathing. Breathe in, sip whiskey, breathe out. This helps to reduce the fumes in your mouth and nasal passages. Water or ice opens up your whiskey’s flavors and reduces the hard-hitting alcohol burn. You can also try mixing your whiskey with a mixer or cocktail.
We’ll look at why whiskey and other strong spirits cause a burning sensation and, armed with this knowledge, investigate how to drink whiskey without a burn.
Why Do Strong Spirits Cause a Burning Sensation?
Our bodies have many built-in defense mechanisms to protect us against foreign things which can be bad for us. VR1 receptors in the mouth warn the brain when we drink or eat something that burns or could be dangerous to ingest.
Their job is to stop you from consuming the bad stuff–we can distinguish that whiskey or chili spices aren’t bad for us. The VR1 receptors will signal the brain when we’re consuming something that could be harmful to us.
A mucous membrane covers our mouths which becomes dehydrated when we consume alcohol. This causes an irritation (burning sensation), which urges you to drink some water or another liquid to rehydrate your mouth.
Tips for Avoiding a Burning Sensation When Drinking Whiskey
With the basic physiological knowledge and understanding in our pockets, we can look at how to lessen or even avoid the burn and enjoy our whiskey. We’ll look at and unpack some tips on how you can drink whiskey without a burning sensation.
Breathe In, Breathe Out
Wait a few moments after pouring a dram to drink. Before drinking your whiskey, take a big breath and exhale. However, don’t allow all the breath out of your lungs; you’ll need it for the following half of the suggestion.
Exhale any residual air after taking a sip. We should wash most of the alcohol fumes out of your mouth and nasal cavities because of this. Smaller sips will also help – less alcohol equals less burn.
The reason is that as you inhale while taking a sip, the alcohol vapors will strike and stimulate the nerves and mucous membranes in your nasal passage.
This sets off another chain reaction, resulting in a burning feeling. The mouth’s VR1 receptors will also pick up on the burning sensation.
Water Your Whiskey
We know the experts say “never add water to whiskey”, or “whiskey should be drunk neat,” or “don’t add ice to whiskey”.
There is some truth in them, but adding a few drops of water to whiskey might do you and the whiskey some good.
The reason is that a few drops of water not only “opens” the whiskey’s other flavors but will also help ease the initial alcoholic sting. You’ll also be able to pick some of the more subtle flavors and aromas in your whiskey.
Chill Your Whiskey
Chilling your whiskey reduces the burn, although the whiskey snobs might already glare… Putting strange and arcane rules on enjoying whiskey is silly, and we say enjoy your whiskey chilled if you prefer it that way.
You can pop your bottle in the freezer to chill it (alcohol does not freeze), or you could add an ice cube or two to cool it down.
Keep in mind that regular ice cubes will melt quickly and water your whiskey down, aiding in bringing the burn down. You can opt for whiskey stones or large ice balls, which chill the whiskey and melt slower than regular ice cubes.
Chilled whiskey will burn less, and with the added water from ice cubes or an ice ball, you’ll add water and reduce the burn further.
Chase your Whiskey
No, you will not run after your tipple, relax. A chaser is a drink you take after a sip of whiskey. You could also sip a chaser to coat and hydrate the mouth before your whiskey.
Fruit juices or soft drinks are good options for chasers. It is advisable to avoid strong-tasting juices such as grape juice because they will destroy the whiskey’s natural flavors and aromas. Experiment with fresh juices and see what works best for your taste and palate.
The reason is that taking a sip of a juice or soft drink after a sip of whiskey rehydrates the mouth and puts those VR1 receptors back at ease.
Die-hard whiskey fans and aficionados have a hard time even thinking about mixing their whiskey with anything else than, well, nothing. Sometimes you want to enjoy whiskey more casually. Mixing whiskey with cola or lemonade can make your drink last longer.
Club soda or sparkling mineral water are two other great options for reducing burn. They don’t add extra calories or sugar to your drink. You’ll also experience fewer hangover symptoms because these don’t contain sugar.
The reason is that adding a mixer will remove the burning sensation from whiskey.
Some Lime, Please?
Most bars offer lime wedges at no extra charge, so why not use the opportunity? Some people suck on lime wedges while drinking hard liquor to reduce the burn from their drinks.
The reason is that the lime’s juices may help ease the burning sensation when drinking whiskey.
Elevate Your Cocktail Repertoire
A whiskey-based cocktail is perhaps the second best way of honoring a whiskey after drinking it neat with some water or ice. Whiskey-based cocktails are an excellent way of enjoying whiskey–usually, we overlook it in favor of vodka, rum, and tequila for mixing up some libations.
The simple reason is that mixing whiskey into a cocktail will reduce the burning sensation. It will also add some cocktails to your repertoire, making you the preferred host for many parties to come.
We know outright whiskey is not bad for us, but unfortunately, we are made to perceive any dangerous substances as a hazard to our bodies through our VR1 receptors.
Working with your body instead of against it will help you minimize or even eradicate the burning sensation you experience when you drink whiskey.
From some breathing techniques to adding water or chilling our whiskey; to alternatives such as drinking chasers or mixing our whiskey, and even mixing cocktails with whiskey, we have found some interesting ways to drink whiskey without burning.