You may have heard someone order neat whiskey at the bar, or during cocktail hour, a friend asked for a whiskey neat, which may have caused some confusion at first.
What is whiskey neat? You may ask.
Whiskey neat is simply one or two ounces of whiskey, served at room temperature straight from the bottle into a lowball glass. Nothing is added. Nothing is taken away. It allows you to sip whiskey in its purest form without distractions.
First, we’ll take a quick whiskey terminology refresher course to understand how whiskey can be served and enjoyed. Afterward, we’ll dive straight into whiskey neat, how it is served, what health benefits it offers, and look at whiskey neat in a NEAT glass.
Whiskey Serving Terminology Refresher Course
Let’s quickly dive into the different terms used to order whiskey at the bar; depending on which option you choose, it can either be served in an “old fashioned”, also known as a lowball glass, or a highball glass.
The following options are usually served in a lowball glass:
- Neat – served straight in a glass with no ice or water. Adding a few drops of water can help to bring out even more flavors and aromas in your whiskey.
- On the rocks – served with ice. Ask for this if you want your whiskey to be chilled by the ice.
- Straight Up – the whiskey is stirred with ice and generally served in a stemware cocktail glass (especially when you order a Manhattan). You will get the chilled whiskey if you are not ordering a cocktail.
- With a twist – a thin strip of lemon or orange peel is served with your whiskey.
- With lemon or lime – you’ll get a whiskey with a lemon or lime wedge on the side of the glass.
- With a chaser – as a rule, the whiskey is served in a shot glass, and immediately afterward, you’d drink a glass of juice, soda, or other beverage after taking your shot of whiskey.
These options are primarily served in a highball or cocktail glass:
- Shaken – the whiskey is shaken with fruit juice, egg white, or other non-carbonated ingredients to blend all the ingredients and incorporate air into the cocktail mixture.
- Stirred – this option is a whiskey cocktail made with spirits, sweeteners, or bitters.
- Short – you’ll need to specify to your bartender that you want a ‘short’ so that they know you want less mix with your drink.
Neat vs. NEAT
Now we get a bit more technical.
A neat whiskey is one-and-a-half to two ounces of whiskey served at room temperature, between 60 and 65ºF (15–18ºC). This serving temperature applies especially to Scotch, Irish, Japanese whiskies, and Bourbon.
The whiskey is served in a lowball or Glencairn whiskey glass with nothing else added. It is the pure spirit straight from the bottle directly into the glass.
Drinking whiskey neat allows you to appreciate its unique taste and aromas. Whiskey is in itself a complex spirit, and this method of drinking allows you to figure out its subtleties while slowly sipping your dram.
Remember, don’t treat it like a shot and swallow it all in one go—it will feel like a punch in the face and perhaps even leave you gasping for air.
Neat whiskey also has some health benefits!
It is exceptionally low in fat, contains no sugar, and has a low-calorie count—perfect for watching your weight.
While your whiskey is aging in its barrel, it develops ellagic acid, a polyphenol that decreases cancer risk, alleviates inflammation, and helps protect brain function.
Moderate amounts of whiskey help reduce your risk of heart disease, aid in the prevention of blood clot formation, and lower your risk of an ischaemic stroke.
The NEAT glass is a specially designed and shaped (after a glass-blowing mistake happened) whiskey glass that allows the ethanol molecules to escape from the glass while keeping the heavier, flavorful molecules in the glass.
NEAT stands for “Naturally Enhanced Aroma Technology,” which helps you appreciate whiskey in its purest possible form.
The NEAT glass looks like a hybrid between a tulip-shaped glass, a wide-rimmed cocktail glass, a sherry copita glass, and a brandy snifter—albeit without a stem.
It also allows the ethanol to escape from the whiskey, leaving the yummy aromas behind when you sniff your whiskey—this is called Graham’s Law of Diffusion for the curious and technical buffs among us.
A NEAT glass also allows you to sniff the whiskey confidently without burning your nose and is a great way to learn about whiskey smells.
Whiskey neat is served straight from the bottle, at room temperature, without any additives such as ice, mixes, or mixed into a cocktail.
Drinking a whiskey neat is a beautiful way to explore the whiskey’s aromas and flavors while kicking back and relaxing. Drinking whiskey neat, in moderation, also provides health benefits, but remember, it is not without risks.
Then there is also the NEAT glass, where you get a scientifically designed glass to enhance the neat whiskey-drinking experience. Now, that’s what we like to call a neat drink!