How to drink whisky – 5 ways to sip the good stuff like a pro

Whisky is one of those drinks people either love or hate. The difference is the people who hate it just haven’t found their way to drink it yet. Here are 5 tip on how to drink whisky to make everyone love what Mark Twain called “liquid sunshine”.

How to drink whisky

When it comes to how you drink whisky, there’s a lot of snobbery and judging about what you drink with it.

Some say drinking whisky on its own is the only way. Others frown on anything but a little water with it. Some say a single ice cube is how to drink whisky.

I once asked a Scottish friend of ours how he takes his scotch and whether he has water with his whisky.

“Yes, of course,” he said. “I always have some water with my whisky – just in case I get thirsty.”

As for Mrs Romance, she’s only now starting to appreciate whisky, so a little ice and water is how to drink whisky for her. And if you’re not sure which whisky to start with, we’ve got some guidance for you on which whisky to choose here, and if you’re after some top Australian whiskies to try, you’ll need to check out Black Gate Distillery and these others we love.

But why are there so many ways to drink whisky? Here’s a rundown of how to drink whisky and the virtues of each one:

How to drink whisky – 5 ways to enjoy a nip of the good stuff

1. Neat / straight up

Some people believe this is the best way to drink whisky – especially expensive single malts: nothing but the whisky in your glass at room temperature. This is experiencing the spirit in its purest form.

The only downside to this is the whisky can seem a bit strong for people who aren’t used to drinking it like this. Also, some whiskies need a bit more help with water (see below) to ‘open’ the flavours a little.

High quality single malts like my favourite Lagavulin or Glenfiddich are great straight up.

2. With water

Adding a touch of water – only a few drops – is said to open the whisky up and release oils, flavours and aromas from the drink. It also makes the whisky go a little further!

Putting this much water in does not dilute the flavour and only reduces the alcohol content a little, which is a concern for some.

It’s a good idea to ask for a little water on the side in a separate glass, as some bar staff aren’t sure how much to add. You can also keep the rest of the water to sip on if you get thirsty like our Scottish friend does.

Good whisky bars will even give you a special little water jug or even a pipette for the water. Adding water like this to your drink is called a ‘water back’.

3. With ice / on the rocks

The downside to taking your whisky neat or adding water is that the drink will be at room temperature. Although this is usually better, it’s not very refreshing.

Adding a single cube of ice will chill the whisky a bit and add the water you need to release the oils and aromas you want. The problem with ice is you can’t control the amount of water you put in your whisky as easily.

4. Whisky stones

You put these stones (made of soapstone so they don’t scratch your glassware) in the freezer. The idea of whisky stones is you can chill your whisky without watering it down. You can then add water to your whisky too this way.

The negative to this is that as you drink, there’s a chance of getting hit in the mouth with a chunk of stone. Not much fun.

5. Cocktails

Of course, if you’re in the mood for something a little more complex than the whisky flavour alone, there are lots of great whisky cocktails to try.

Some of my absolute favourite cocktails are ones made with whisky. The likes of Old Fashioneds, Manhattans and Boulevardiers are delicious if you’re looking for how to drink whisky.

How to drink whisky

Do you have any tips on how to drink whisky? What’s your favourite way to enjoy a good scotch? Tell us in the comments!

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