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How to drink whisky: a beginner’s guide

ballantines finest on the rocks tumbler

The title of this blog, how to drink whisky, is somewhat of a paradox. There’s no wrong way to drink whisky, what works for you – works. 

Maybe you want to drink whisky neat to get a taste for it’s true flavour. You might want to add in a few drops of water to lessen the burn. Or mix it up with your favourite sodas and cocktail ingredients.

Rather than telling you how to drink your scotch, we’ll be sharing some tips and inspiration on how to get the very most from every sip.

First things first, we want to assure you that whisky is for everyone. Shake any preconceived image you have of scotch drinkers from your mind.

Whisky is a creative drink, to be enjoyed in countless creative ways. So whether you are a whisky aficionado, or someone trying whisky for the first time, the world of whisky is your oyster. And it’s time to own it.

If you’re a complete beginner, you may want to try your whisky neat or on the rocks to get an appreciation for the blend’s flavour. But you can also try it in a cocktail to see if you like the taste (we’re betting you will).

Keep reading for insights on how to drink whisky neat, some ideas on what to mix with whisky, and more.

Drinking whisky and scotch neat

Drinking the spirit neat is the simplest way to enjoy whisky. Take small sips, holding the liquid in your mouth for a few seconds to enjoy the taste, and cleanse your palette with fresh water on the side.

We’re no traditionalists here at Ballantine’s, but we do appreciate that there are some occasions and some bottles that lend themselves to giving whisky all the attention.

Perhaps you’re partaking in a whisky tasting experience, or maybe you’ve got yourself an aged whisky such as Ballantine’s 30 Year Old. Deep, rich, old gold whisky should at least be tried straight up.

And you may wish to try your whisky neat if you’ve never drunk whisky before, or if you’re wanting to pick out flavours to decide what mixer to pair your Scotch with. 

There are only a few things to keep in mind, such as remembering to smell your whisky before tasting, using a snifter or wine glass, and giving the Scotch a good gargle and swish around to uncover every note.

Luckily for you, we’ve also put together a succinct guide on how to taste whisky and the best whisky glasses to use.

Trying whisky on the rocks or with water

Many whisky drinkers like to enjoy their scotch with a few cubes of ice or with a splash of water. 

We’re 100% on board with this. Like we said, we’re no purists, and we don’t see any benefit in telling people how they should or shouldn’t enjoy whisky.

Drinking whisky neat isn’t for everyone, and even those who do enjoy the occasional straight up drink may prefer to dilute their whisky most of the time. 

Whisky is well known for its “burn” or finish, and while this is something we love about whisky, not everyone is a fan, and that’s okay. 

Adding a little water or some ice to your dram lowers the high alcohol content and can provide you with a smoother, less fiery drinking experience. This can also help to bring out individual flavours. 

Whisky cocktails to savour 

From one extreme to another – it’s now time to talk about trying Scotch within whisky cocktails, both classic and contemporary.

Classic whisky cocktails include the Old Fashioned or Whisky Sour. You’ll notice that many whisky cocktails include citrus flavours, as these make a great pairing with the malty, honey notes of good Scotch.

The whisky sour is a 150 year old creation that still feels fresh when ordered in bars across the globe. If that doesn’t prove the everlasting appeal of whisky, nothing will. 

Our version is a blend of Ballantine’s Finest, lemon juice, sugar syrup, egg white, Angostura Bitters and ice. Tart, delicious and timeless.

Or if you want to try something completely innovative and drink whiskey like you’ve never drank it before, go for a Ballantine’s Finest Shake or Spritz My Way. We know it’s a cliche, but the options really are endless. 

What to mix with whisky

The versatile nature of whisky means you can also keep it simple and pair your Ballantine’s Finest Scotch with cola or ginger ale for a sweet and spicy long drink. Or drink your whisky with lemonade to get that citrus hit.

We also have several spirits drinks within whisky collection which give you that cocktail taste with just two ingredients. 

Ballantine’s Wild and Ballanantine’s Passion are seriously flavourful fruity options that go perfectly with tonic water or ice tea. Take one along to your next party and people will be making a beeline for the bottle.

Don’t forget the ice, and an easy garnish such as a lime wedge or sprig of something herbal never goes amiss.

That brings us to the end of our guide on how to drink whisky… which is actually more of an exposé on how versatile and creative whisky is.

We hope we’ve got your tastebuds yearning for the taste of quality Scotch, whether it’s neat, on the rocks, or mixed within an unforgettable cocktail.

Now you know the basics, take a look at our whisky drinks for over 50 cocktail recipes. We’ve also got a guide on how to order scotch like a pro next time you’re out and about. Find more ways to drink Ballantine’s.

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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.