GURU | Heather John on Whisk(e)y


Photo via ...etc.

I've been taking serious notice of girls opting for Bourbon over Bordeaux from concerts to dinner parties, so I called in a favor from a friend for a lesson on Whisky (and Whiskey). Heather John is a freelance writer, the former wine & spirits editor for Bon Appétit (where we met), author of the fantastic blog The Foodinista, and an all around bad ass. Here she shares the straight dope on how to drink and order your scotch, rye, or bourbon. Thanks, H!

A GIRL'S GUIDE TO WHISK(E)Y
By Heather John

My favorite cocktail is a no-frills gin and tonic, which I’ll unfashionably and unapologetically drink well after Labor Day. But at the first hint of frost, I find that deep down I’m a brown liquor girl.

For the past seven years as the former wine & spirits editor at Bon Appétit magazine, I picked up a trick or two when it comes to whisky—and yes, that’s whisky without an “e” as in Scotch, Canadian or Japanese. For those of you who favor the Irish and American (bourbon, rye, Tennessee) versions, go ahead and spell it “whiskey.” We won’t tell.

Probably the debate I hear the most is about neat versus rocks. Ideally, the answer is: neither. Ignore the guys bragging about drinking their whisky neat because trust me, the distillers in Scotland don’t, especially when a whisky is cask strength—unless the goal is to burn your throat and taste buds. While ice cubes will melt and potentially dilute the drink too much, a small splash of water actually enhances the spirit’s flavors and aroma. If you’re at a bar, ask for a glass of water on the side so you can add to your liking. Your bartender will respect you, even if the punter in the leather armchair won’t.

There is one other school of thought, and here I fall in line with the Japanese, who are whisky fanatics (at a dinner in LA once with Suntory distiller Mike Miyamoto, he brought his own water from Japan to make ice for his whisky). Tokyo bartenders have delivered the following gift to the whisky world: ice balls. A large cube or ball of ice melts at a much slower rate, thus giving your drink a slight chill without watering down too much. I use this nifty Muji silicon ice ball maker.

While there are few things as satisfying as sipping Suntory Hibiki, Ardberg Supernova or Talisker 30 year at the end of the evening, I also love whiskey—and here it’s with an “e”—in cocktails, particularly alongside a grilled ribeye steak. Here are five favorite whiskey drinks and how to order them.

Manhattan. If you are in Brooklyn, your mustachioed mixologist will shoot you on sight if you order anything other than rye in a Manhattan. Best to keep the peace and request Rittenhouse, stirred and never shaken.

Old-Fashioned. Try a small-batch bourbon like Booker’s or a blended whisky like Canadian Club. (Or if you’re in Brooklyn, see above.)

Americana. Did I mention how much I love Campari? Here two loves collide by adding Pappy Van Winkle 10 year 90 proof to the classic Americano cocktail of Campari, club soda and orange bitters.

Sazerac. My friend Dave Wondrich, Esquire’s drinks editor, calls the Sazerac a “wonderfully butch sort of tipple.” He likes using either Pappy Van Winkle Reserve Rye or Sazerac Rye.

Whiskey Smash. Go for a higher proof whiskey like Wild Turkey to balance the sweetness of the simple syrup and the tart lemon juice in one of America’s oldest—and most delicious—drinks.

Do you drink Whisk(e)y? What's your cocktail of choice?

42 comments:

Joy said...

very nice. thank you!

Emily Elizabeth said...

I haven't been able to do too much straight whisk(e)y drinking yet, but I love me a bourbon highball – and cider and bourbon. I'll have to give these other drinks a try. Thank you!

Buzzelynn said...

I live in Brooklyn, so I guess I'm going to have to get a bottle of Rittenhouse. I love this, you'd never see this in a womens magazine!

~Kendall~ said...

Thank you! I've been dying to get into whiskey but never know what to order.

bitsofmarrow.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Love this post!

erinrosalita said...

I'm looking forward to the whiskey hot toddies of the winter season, and in fact I just had a delicious one recommended to me by a local bartender: Wild Turkey American Honey, heated, with a slice of orange. Yum. Sweet, warm, but with plenty of sass, just how we like it!

Alanna said...

I always like a nice, simple 7&7. Or if I have a few extra bucks I like a Jameson & Ginger (or really any Irish whiskey and ginger ale)

Herringbone said...

Luckily, we have relatives on Islay, Scotland, so we have sampled the best of the best ;)
Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain and Bowmore.
Although coctail-wise, my favourite contains Bourbon - Whiskey Sour.
Good to highlight whisky drinking women!

LITTLE CHIEF said...

Love whiskey (and whisky), love the women who drink it, love this post, and love your blog. thank you for posting something useful and different!

Leigh said...

I've had to cool it on the whiskey since a few bad college experiences, but a gin gimlet or a tequila with tonic are great, simple little cocktails that also happen to taste delish.

PS-Love this blog!

Anonymous said...

thanks for this, lizzie. as a girl with tomboy sensibilities, i've been wanting to get into whiskey more but needed something like this to get me started. a whiskey smash is now on my list!

Helena said...

Whiskey is my lover, and not always the lesser such when getting dimmered by it instead of some guy.
I'm a jim and jack kinda girl (who sometimes goes for a jameson), perhaps bacuse i haven't bothered with learning enough about my favorite spirit, so thank you for a wonderful post.
Favorite whiskey drink - lynchburger.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post!

Alie Quinn said...

Thanks Lizzie and Heather - great post.
Whisky is the only spirit I drink and I like to think that it runs in my family. My favorite aunt got me hooked on Canadian rye and ginger. Wiser's is our everyday whisky but we drink Crown Royal for a treat or special occasion.
I'm living overseas now, so I settle for drinking 7 and 7's, but after reading your article, I can't wait to expand my horizons.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant. It's almost time to pour myself a whiskey tipple here in London. I think I'll try the Whiskey Smash.

Anne said...

Scotch and water. Forever and always.

Anna said...

I'm going to try the whiskey smash right away. Great post!

TP said...

i'm a die hard lover of whiskey, bourbon whiskey, rye, the lot of it.

bulleit bourbon, soda water, and lemon. done.
for the cold nights, bulleit, hot water, honey and lemon
best shot: whiskey of your choice (jameson, old crow, kentucky tavern) and pickle juice. amazing
love sazerac rye, and if you can get your hands on any george t. stagg or sazerac 15 year, watch out!

AnalogBass said...

My drink of choice? The Ward 8 - originated in at Locke Ober in Boston -rye, lemon, orange and grenadine (or if you're fancy pomegranate molasses and simple syrup for a deeper flavor):

http://www.esquire.com/drinks/ward-eight-drink-recipe

Ella said...

I want to like whiskey SO BAD, but after imbibing excessive amounts of cheap stuff during my teens, I find I can't even stand the smell of it. Maybe if I practice?

Mom on the Run said...

A couple weeks ago I was in the Twin Cities and was lucky enough to attend a performance of A Prairie Home Companion at the Fitzgerald Theatre. The evening's drink special was the Tina Louise (with a picture of the lovely Ginger on the sign)...whisk(e)y and Ginger Ale. Not bad, although I still think there's nothing like standing around at a tailgate with a whiskey sour topped with a marishino cherry.

Kate said...

this is awesome. i've been dying to try the new jack daniels honey whiskey.

Sandi said...

Red Breast Irish a single pot still whiskey poured over cubed ice....not allowed in Scotland but from Thanksgiving until mid March its my drink of choice

Sandi said...

Red Breast a single pot stilled Irish whiskey poured over cubed ice is my drink of choice from first frost until mid spring thaw.

Sara said...

My drink of choice is an Old Fashioned with bourbon. I never ever add the classic cherry and orange, let alone muddle it. I opt, instead, for a nice, curvy twist.

Danielle said...

Jameson is my new man! Add a splash of ginger, like Alanna said. Ya can't go wrong!

Sara said...

I also love a WInter Julep. 1.5 oz bourbon, 3/4 oz brown sugar syrup, 5 oz hot peppermint tea. I'm drinking one now.

dlovestar said...

Nice article highlighting whisky and women. I've recently started exploring whisky and came across one I love! "Spicebox Whisky", is a cold pressed Canadian rye whisky infused with vanilla, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon. Mixes well with many so many things from hot apple cider, ginger beer to eggnog!

Courtney said...

Jack and Ginger has always been my (admittedly dive) bar drink of choice, and I love mixing it with hot apple cider at home.

That said, I loved this piece! I really didn't know much about whisky/whiskey, aside from that I liked the taste.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Herringbone--love Islay Scotch! But some good Kentucky bourbon goes down well, too.

Bugsy said...

Thank you so much for such an interesting article! I wish there was a magazine like your blog! ++ Daphnée

Colleen said...

My DH always liked Crown Royal but I would never try it...until a couple years ago. Now, it's all I ever drink and I like it with a splash of 7UP.

Miss Becca said...

Oh, I too love the Whisky. For me, it is a nice blended scotch with a splash of cool water. My current favorite is Pinch, but I have my eye on Sheep Dip just because I love the label!

leatherboots said...

Single malt & ice or Crown Royal and ice. The cubes don't have time to melt so the drink is not too diluted!

Kayla said...

i LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Huge whiskey fan. Drink of choice is Jameson with ginger ale..

mmm!!
<3 Kayla

www.thenightmagic.com

RCM said...

thanks for the great whiskey post! And you included Bookers- the best of the Kentucky bourbon as far as I'm concerned. Sooooo good- even a "lady" can drink it straight ;)

Anonymous said...

Great post. I thought I hated whisky for years. Turns out I just hate Jack Daniels. My friend poured me a glass of Macallan 15 and I was converted. I've since tried and enjoyed Crown Royal Black and Bulleit. I had some stuff by Koval at a whisky tasting that was really interesting, though perhaps too new to count.

Laurel said...

This actually happened when I was out last night (in Austin, of all places):

Me: I'll have a Manhattan, please

Waitress: It has whisky in it, is that OK?

Me:...Yes, I think I'm going to be OK with that.

shayna said...

i'm with dlovestar! spicebox whisky is my current favourite. it is delicious and makes me feel warm during these chilly winter months.

Carly Cram said...

i actually love the taste of whiskey straight. i've only tried Irish whiskey, but nevertheless, I love Jameson, Busmills, and Paddy's. I suggest all of them.

Jeff said...

i'm with dlovestar! spicebox whisky is my current favourite. it is delicious and makes me feel warm during these chilly winter months.

Nichole said...

I agree with Herringbone--love Islay Scotch! But some good Kentucky bourbon goes down well, too.