It can be hard to order whiskey at a bar or restaurant. But we have compiled a guide for you with the key terms in case you were wondering how to order a whiskey.
The three basic whiskey orders are neat, on the rocks, and with water. You can also order your whiskey with a twist or wedge of lime or lemon. Ordering whiskey with a chaser might help lessen the burn, but sometimes you just want the pure spirit.
Opt for taking your whiskey up, or for the connoisseur, there’s cask-strength whiskey. Of course, ordering a whiskey cocktail is also a wonderful way to appreciate whiskey.
First, we’ll look at the different types of whiskey—Scotch, Irish, American, and Japanese whiskeys. We will discuss how to order a whiskey like a pro.
A Brief Guide to Whiskey Types
First, we’ll glance at the different whiskeys because each has its own unique qualities.
Scotch is from Scotland. Japanese or American Scotch is not a thing. Drying malted barley over peat fires gives it the iconic smokey flavor. It has to be aged in oak barrels for at least three years before bottling.
There are different whisky-producing regions—each with its own unique attributes. The lines are blurring as distilleries are experimenting with different aging processes and barrels. England is also producing whisky again, but it is usually more associated with gin.
They make single malts from a single grain—usually barley—in a single distillery.
They still make blended Scotch from barley but blended from different distilleries. Or it is a blend of different grains distilled in a distillery.
Irish whiskey hails from Ireland (both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland). It is typically triple-distilled since Scottish whisky is distilled twice. Irish whiskey is watered down after distillation to lower the alcohol content and aged in wooden casks.
They make it from malted barley, unmalted barley, corn, and rye.
American whiskey is sweeter than Irish and Scotch whiskeys. Distillers can make it from corn, rye, barley, or wheat. Different rules govern the combination of grains, and the three main types of American whiskeys are:
Bourbon is 51% corn and can be mixed with barley and/or rye, aged for two years, and made in the United States.
Tennessee whiskey, as the name suggests, must be made in Tennessee from at least 51% corn. They filter it through maple charcoal, producing a more mellow yet slightly burned taste. They must also age it in new charred oak barrels for two years.
Rye whiskey has no geographical limitations, but US federal law states they must produce it from at least 51% rye. It has a more spicy and peppery taste, and the whiskey is aged for two years in charred oak barrels.
The Japanese model their whisky after Scottish whisky and rely heavily on malted barley. It is either distilled in pot stills or column stills. They age it in wood barrels, sometimes in American oak, other times in sherry barrels.
Japanese Mizunara oak gives the whiskey a unique taste which includes taste notes such as citrus, incense, and spices.
This is quite a lot of information, so let’s look at how you can order a whiskey looking like a pro.
How To Order Whiskey
It’s daunting to order a whiskey when you don’t go out often, but we’re here to help.
First, ignore those who sit at the end of the bar and snicker when someone asks for whiskey with a mixer or gets the name wrong, like asking for a ‘rye and a whiskey on the ice.’
Whiskey is about having fun with your drink, exploring its possibilities, and finding what you like to drink.
We armed you with a basic knowledge of whiskey types. Rather than asking for something not on the menu, ask your bartender what is available.
Let us count the ways you can order and enjoy whiskey.
- Neat: Most people drink their whiskey straight, adding no water or ice. Should you change your mind, ask for ice on the side.
- On the Rocks: The next option is on the rocks, which simply means whiskey with ice. As the ice cools and melts, your whiskey will become less strong.
- Whiskey With Water: Sometimes, the whiskey might be a bit too strong, and you can order whiskey with water. You’ll get a small carafe with water on the side. First, sample your whiskey neat to determine its strength. Add a drop or two at a time until you reach the perfect dilution. By adding water, you can unlock other aromas and flavors in the whiskey.
- With a Chaser: Ordering whiskey with a chaser means you’ll get a shot glass of whiskey and the ‘chaser’ such as ginger beer, soda water, Coke, or fruit juice in a separate glass. This will bring out the smokiness or enhance the sweetness of your whiskey. You could also drop your shot of whiskey into the chaser to make a classic Boilermaker, but sometimes it is best to keep things separate.
- Whiskey Up: You could also order your whiskey up—your bartender will stir the whiskey with ice and then strain it into a chilled stemware glass. Usually, this would lead to a Manhattan, but you don’t have to go this route if you just want a chilled whiskey.
- Whiskey With a Twist: You could also incorporate citrus with your whiskey. Whiskey with a twist means you’ll get a whiskey with a thin strip of citrus peel—either a twisted lemon or orange peel placed on top of the glass. It does not contain juice or the flesh of the citrus fruit. Alternatively, you can order whiskey with lemon or lime wedge. You can also stir lemon or lime juice into your whiskey to create a sweet-sour combination.
- Short: When you order a short, you’re getting 100ml (3.4 ounces) of strong whiskey. They serve it pure and undiluted, but you can add a mixer. Specify that you’d like it short. Otherwise, your bartender might assume you’d like to add a mixer and serve it in a highball glass rather than a rock glass.
- Cask Strength: Ordering cask strength will get you a whiskey poured straight from a barrel or cask. Often, distillers will bottle their whiskey straight from the barrels and not dilute it before bottling. They dilute whiskey before bottling to cut costs for both the producer and the consumer. However, cask strength gives you whiskey in its purest form—almost like sipping whiskey straight from the barrel with a straw.
- Whiskey Cocktails: Of course, you could order whiskey cocktails. This is a great way to enjoy whiskey but not really ordering whiskey. Know what is in the cocktails beforehand. Do your homework before ordering something you really don’t like and won’t enjoy drinking.
We looked at the different whiskeys and their flavor profiles so that you may make an informed decision. Now that you know what each term means ordering whiskey shouldn’t be hard.
The only thing is to order a whiskey and enjoy the elixir of life.