Skip to main content

We're sorry won't work in this browser

Try the Edge browser

How to order scotch at a bar like a seasoned pro

ballantines 7 bourbon finish bar aspect ratio 16 9

First things first – at Ballantine’s, we’re firm believers that there’s no wrong way to order, drink or enjoy scotch. Whisky is for everyone – the neat drinkers, the cocktail shakers, the mixer uppers. Leave any preconceived notions at the door because when it comes to whisky, there are no rules.

Ok. Glad we got that off our chest.

Rather than give you strict instructions on how to enjoy your whisky, we’re simply sharing some tips on how to order a drink that gets you what you want.

Here’s how to order scotch your way…

Check out the whisky collection


There’s loads of types of whiskies. You’ve got single malt, blended malt, single grain and smoky blends, plus a bunch of different bottles from almost every country on the planet. But don’t panic – not many people are well versed in knowing the difference between them, or which is their preference.

When it comes to scotch, things are a little simpler. For scotch to be considered, well, scotch, it’s going to have been made in Scotland and aged for at least three years. So that narrows it down a bit.

Most bars and restaurants will have a handful of scotch whiskies on the menu or on display. Don’t be afraid to have a good gander and ask the bartender for a recommendation – they’re the experts after all. 

Share which spirits you usually go for or the typical flavours you enjoy in your drink. Like a fresher, sweet mix? Give a blended scotch a whirl. Not to boast but ours is one of the world’s best – so you’ll be in safe hands with Ballantine’s Finest. After something a little more complex? Whiskies that have been aged for longer have a deeper, more full-bodied taste. Ballantine’s 17 Year Old adds a sense of smokiness and spicy liquorice, whereas our 21 Year Old whisky is rich, aromatic and beautifully smooth.

Decide on your serve

You’ve chosen a scotch – now how to drink it? Just like picking a type of whisky, there’s a fair few different serves too.

Cocktail or straight up?

Many whisky connoisseurs think good scotch should only be sipped solo. We disagree. In fact we love a whisky cocktail so much so that we created our own collection of recipes (a great place to start if you’re after some inspo).

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go neat – it’s a fine way to sample different blends – but if you’re after something different, a cocktail is a great introduction into the world of whisky. Here are some of our favourites:

Old Fashioned

Our favourite way to enjoy an Old Fashioned is with Ballantine’s 7 Bourbon Barrel Finish, with a couple of dashes of orange bitters to complement the sweet notes of the whisky.


Whisky Sour

This cocktail is 150 years old, yet you’ll still find it in the trendiest bars. Give it a go with your favourite Ballantine’s!


Rob Roy

For those in the know, a Rob Roy is simply a Manhattan made with scotch. But also, it’s the shot of Ballantine’s 12 that makes it a true Scottish legend.


You can also go down the mixer route. Try a Scotch and Soda for a crisp serve or kick off the night with a classic whisky cola. We also love ours with ginger ale, tonic and even orange fanta for an 18+ remix of this fizzy holiday throwback.

How to order a scotch 


  1. Neat: a scotch served neat comes at room temperature with no ice, perfect for when you fancy getting really into the details of your chosen blend. Our top tip? Give it a good sniff and swish beforehand to discover every note.
  2. On the rocks: go chilled with a serving of ice which can help to accentuate the whisky’s layered flavour profile. One larger cube looks and tastes better; melting slowly to avoid diluting the scotch.
  3. With water: whisky is known for its ‘burn’ and not everyone’s a fan. Ordering with a splash of water will slightly dilute the alcohol content resulting in a less fiery drink.
  4. With a twist: a scotch with a twist highlights any citrus notes with a small strip of lemon or orange peel.
  5. With a chaser: order a chaser for a shot of something on the side to alleviate the burn of your whisky drink. Popular chasers include juice, cola and water. Or go for a ‘Boilermaker’ to pair your whisky with a shot of beer. 

Whisky on the Rocks

As the pinnacle in the Ballantine’s range, the 30 year old has been garnished with a simple cube of ice, in order to accentuate its natural depth and layers.


Place your order

Now you’ve decided on what to have, it’s time to get your order in with the bartender. Keep in mind that bars tend to be busy places, so be courteous and concise with what you are asking for.

Pair up the lingo to tell your bartender the whisky, serve and side you fancy. It helps to keep the following key aspects of your order at the forefront:

Neat: If you know which brand or variety of whisky you want and you want it on its own, it only really takes three words: “Ballantine’s neat please”.

Ice: If you’re after neat whisky but want it chilled, you can simply ask for it ‘on the rocks’ and it’ll automatically be served over ice. For cocktails, you can ask for ice to be added if it isn’t usually and similarly, you can ask for your drink to be served without it too.

Chaser: Sometimes you want a shot of whisky served with a follow-up friend. This is known as a chaser. A boilermaker drink is a common example of this where a shot of whisky is served with a pint of beer that can be sipped afterward. For whisky, water is also a common chaser that helps dilute the boldness of the finish. When ordering ask for “whisky with a _ chaser”.

Cocktail: There are so many cocktails to choose from and most bartenders will have a sound knowledge of how each one is constructed so it’s ok to ask for your favourite cocktail, even if it’s not displayed on the menu. You can even preface it with the type of whisky you want it made from such as “Ballantine’s whisky sour”.

Garnishes and extras: Need a straw? Want a citrus slice? Add those things to your order too. Being clear with what you want will not only ensure you get a drink you enjoy but it’ll make it easier for the bartender to craft too.

Keep the above five things in mind and you won’t go far wrong and your order request with be smooth and succinct. For example…


“I’ll have a Ballantine’s Finest and cola, with ice” 

“A Ballantine’s 12 Year Old neat with a water chaser”

“Pour me an Ballantine’s Old Fashioned with a twist” 


You sound like a pro already. 

The hard work is done. Now you can sit back and sip your drink proudly. And if anything’s not quite to your liking, there’s plenty more options to try next time. That’s the great thing about whisky, from the blend to the serve, there’s an order to suit every taste.

How to order scotch in Scotland

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself ordering scotch at a bar in bonny Scotland, listen up.

You may well have some preconceived ideas about how Scots like to enjoy a dram: that they vow to only drink our whisky neat, and that anything else is sacrilege. But this is mostly a myth.

Yes, there are some Scots who only like to add more whisky to their whisky, but the majority like to see Scotland’s national drink being enjoyed in different wild and wonderful ways.

And as it is our national drink, Scotland is a great place to order whisky at a bar. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find a fellow customer or a bartender who is truly passionate about the water of life, and who can help you with your order.

You’ll want to order your scotch by brand, and state whether you’re going neat, on the rocks or with a drop of water. Depending on your hometown, you might also want to request a double as the measurements for drams are smaller in Scotland than the US.

Our best advice would be to get talking to the locals and see what they recommend. But if it’s not to your taste, don’t be afraid to put your own stamp on it by experimenting with mixers, chasers and cocktails – the Scots won’t mind.

Now you’re ordering whisky like a pro, maybe you’d like to expand your whisky drink knowledge further.  Whether it’s what mixers to add to your whisky or want to know more of the classics, we have you covered.

5 Interesting Facts About Whisky

Whisky is rightly seen as one of the world’s most iconic drinks – look at how many times it turns up in films and on tv. But there are many smart facts about it you probably don’t know. Wow your mates with this insider info.


11 variations on a classic whisky sour cocktail

Try these fun variations on the classic whisky sour cocktail. Including 8 new recipes to mix up at home.



You already know we’ve nailed the Finest Whisky to ever grace a glass. But that’s just a little drop of what we’re about. Scroll on for the latest news and features from across the world of Ballantine’s whisky, True Music and much, much more.