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Did you have to get used to the taste of drinking spirits "neat?"

I'm just curious.

I'm a tequila in the summer person who drinks bourbon/whiskey in the winter.

I am NOT AN EXPERT, just someone who likes a cocktail.

But, even after all these years and all these bottles, I still prefer a little ice, a little water/soda or both in my drinks. (With tequila, I like grapefruit juice and club soda).

When I sip bourbon neat, I still have that little grimace, like I taste the alcohol more than the subtle flavors. But, on some weird level, I do admire those who drink their drinks straight and get the full effect and flavors with nothing in the way.

So, I'm wondering ...

Should I just sip my drinks neat until "I get used to it?" Did you have to get used to it?

Or should I just not worry about it and keep adding an ice cube or water to my drinks?

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  1. Yes, I had to get used to it. No idea how. It just happened over time. I'm sure everyone has to get used to it; I don't think we're born with a taste for ethanol.

    And on occasion I'll pour myself a glass of something that shouldn't invoke that "grimace," or that I've had previously and know to be ultra smooth (e.g. a glass of some luxury cognac), and I'll still get that bad ethanol burning feeling. Perhaps it has to do with what I ate that day, how much water I've had, the temperature of the spirit, or something else entirely, but it seems to me that there are a number of factors at play.

    So I'd say that you should not worry about it and just keep drinking whatever tastes good to you. There is, in my opinion, nothing admirable about being able to drink straight spirits, nor anything shameful about dropping in an ice cube if that's what you like.

    43 Replies
    1. re: davis_sq_pro

      I get what you're saying and I won't deny I sort of see being able to drink spirits straight as a bit of a challenge to overcome.

      But more than that, I want to be able to enjoy all the flavors and I wonder if I'm missing something by adding another element to the drink.

      1. re: PaulF

        There is a regular here, JMF, who is a distiller and perhaps the most knowledgeable poster on this board, who insists he gets the most from tasting spirits diluted to 60 proof.

        I personally find - with my palate and level of experience - it depends on the spirits, some that are subtle to begin with (such as most Tequilas or Glenlivet 12 yr Scotch) seem to lose all flavor when I add water or ice. Some improve (Wild Turkey rare breed), some taste different but are excellent both neat and diluted/ chilled (Old weller antique 107 Bourbon).

        1. re: ncyankee101

          Yes, for me around 60 proof works, usually a cube or two of ice and a splash of water. But everyone has a different palate, and it changes over time. Some folks will find that different spirits open up at different levels of alcohol. But most spirits don't open up until they are taken down to at least 70 proof, and I personally 60 is a key point where the alcohol is weak enough that the flavors that are hidden under the higher alcohol burn pop up. But each spirit is unique, as is each person, and their perpetually changing and developing palate. (Or as you get much older, decreasing palate.)

          So experiment, that's what I did as I started exploring spirits in depth. Pour the spirit into a glass, have a glass of ice water on the side. Take a sip of the spirit and taste it. Then a sip of the water. Then add a small amount of the ice water to the spirit, stir and taste. Keep doing this until it opens up. Then do it some more until the flavors start to go back down. Then you will know how much water you need.

          1. re: JMF

            I did the experiment many years ago and started adding a little splash to my Laphroaig 10 scotch. It does bring out the flavor & with the extra volume also lengthens the sipping time a little.

            1. re: Tom34

              The Laphroaig (or as my brother calls it - leap frog), is so smoky and peaty, it can handle a cube to make a little gravy!

              1. re: Veggo

                Yeah its strong stuff....folks seem to either love it or hate it. I love it and there is no mistaken what it is when you taste it. Ardbeg 10 is good too but its lacks the iodine bite.

                1. re: Tom34

                  You want strength, have a cask strength scotch.

                  1. re: Chinon00

                    Alcohol burn and flavor are not the same thing. I have had cask strength Macallan and it is nowhere near as flavorful as any of the peat monster Islays.

                    Now I have a bottle of 126 proof Thomas handy rye and it has tons of rye spice but the alcohol burn is deceptively subdued.

                    1. re: ncyankee101

                      The only Rye I have is Old Overholt which they say was one of President Lincoln's favorites. I will have to see if 126 proof Thomas Handy is available around my way.

                      1. re: Tom34

                        I may be wrong about this, but from what I recall, the current Old Overholt is a modern recipe (supposedly "based on the original recipe) that likely has little in common with the original other than the name. Similar story with the current re-issue of Pikesville. FWIW, I find both to be pretty weak in terms of rye flavor, though I wouldn't say either are downright bad. For the money, I think Bulleit and Rittenhouse are the two best deals in rye, especially for cocktails.

                        I've never gotten around to sampling any Thomas Handy. Bottle is a bit pricey to me, but one of these days I need to stop by one of my favorite local whiskey-heavy bars and order a dram.

                        Also, just as a matter of curiosity... You say the Macallan wasn't as flavorful, but couldn't that just be chalked up to it being a softer whiskey? From what I recall from another thread, you tend to favor Islay scotches anyway, right? The only non-Islay cask strength Scotch I've ever had was Aberlour A'bunadh which was fantastic...and keeping with the main idea of this thread, really benefited from a spoonful of water.

                        1. re: The Big Crunch

                          I have never had Cask strength Macallan. I think your confusing me with "Ncyankee101" who discussed it in his post just prior to my post.

                          From what I have seen online Thomas Handy is not sold in my area.

                          Islay Scotch & then Bourbon are my favorites. Don't know much about Rye but keep the Old Overholt on the shelf in case someone asks for rye which has not happened to date. A couple comments, but no takers. The bottle probably has a good layer of dust on it. Around my way, its the Vodka's & Tequilas that are the big rage but bourbon is making a comeback. The Flavored Vodka's are annoying because there are so many of them.

                          1. re: The Big Crunch

                            Yes, I would say the Macallan being a speyside made a difference - I was just pointing out that Chinon's statement about cask strength was a littlle vague and didn't really have anything to do with the discussion of strong flavors.

                            I have had a bottle of Old overholt and IMO it tastes almost nothing like other ryes I have had - Wild Turkey, Rittenhouse 100, Thomas Handy, Bulleit, Sazerac, Redemption. The current version of OO just seems to have a bready, cereal quality and very little bite, it reminds me more of a Canadian whiskey (such as the Canadian Club 6 yr I made the mistake of buying) than a spicy rye. I also have heard that older versions were much different.

                            1. re: ncyankee101

                              1.75 liter bottles of run of the mill Canadian Whiskeys are certainly reasonable and I have them for mixing but IMHO they pretty much all taste the same & don't do much for me. Crown Royal is Ok but for the price of it (close to $30.00 a 5th) I would grab a 5th of small batch Bourbon every time or a 1.75 liter Jim Beam.

                              I have both Bulleit & Wild Turkey Bourbon. Will have to check out their Rye whiskey next time I am at the store.

                              1. re: Tom34

                                Unfortunately the Wild Turkey Rye has now become harder to find (and pricier) in the 101 proof version, the 81 proof is now selling at the old price point. I haven;t tried it yet because I managed to stash away a few bottles of the 101.

                                Many people (I among them) think the Bulleit Bourbon actually has more rye bite than their rye, despite it being 95% rye in the mashbill. It is a very nice and smooth sipper (as is sazerac 6 yr), though I prefer Ritt 100 or Wild Turkey for mixing.

                                I have only had two Canadians, an old bottle of Crown someone left at my girlfriend's house years ago and that boittle of CC 6 yr I wasted $12 on. The Crown is not bad, though it reminds me of a blended Irish whiskey in just being overly smooth and mild. The CC tasted to me like whiskey-flavored vodka.

                        2. re: ncyankee101

                          Absolutely. I've had 86pf bourbons that had heat of higher proofs and 128pf that I would have sworn were maybe 107.

                          I think heat is also a factor of congeners and not just proof. I also feel alcohol carries flavor. Some of the best bourbons I've had have been cask strength with high proofs.
                          They do well at CS but also can shine with the addition of water. You can get different flavors at different proofs. My all time favorite proof is 107

                        3. re: Chinon00

                          I have bought several bottles of the more expensive Laphroaig Quarter Cask over the years & each time I thought the regular 10 yr had a stronger peat smoke & iodine flavor which is what I am after.

                          I keep a bottle of Bookers 125 proof Bourbon in the bar for friends who like the burn.

                          1. re: Tom34

                            The funny thing about Booker is that while I certainly think it benefits from water (Booked Noe himself says that's how he drinks it) I was also surprised at how mild it was for a 125-126 proof bourbon. I'm not saying it's smooth and easy with no burn, but when I sip it straight up, it's far less pummeling than you would imagine a 126 proff whiskey would be.

                              1. re: The Big Crunch

                                I guess its what your used to. A regular bourbon drinker would probably be more inclined to like it than say a Canadian Whiskey drinker. I don't mind a strong alcohol bite as long as there is good flavor with it which I think Bookers has. High proof Spirits I have but won't drink straight are things like Bacardi 151. That must be a teenage thing.

                                1. re: Tom34

                                  I brought a bottle of Bacardi 151 to a remote Belize island for a week of diving, thinking I could use half the usual portion for rum drinks. Bad idea- that stuff is nasty at any strength.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    My recollection is that 151 was most commonly used as a "sneak a 1/2 pint" into a place that didn't allow booze such as a high school dance and then dump it into a cup of coke. Everclear was the punch mixer but the teachers sampled the punch pretty regularly and dumped it if spiked. Everclear also did a good cleaning carburetors.

                                    1. re: Tom34

                                      I worked as a bartender for several years after college back in the '90s. For a few months, I worked at a dance club where "flair" was encouraged. I learned some basic bottle tossing moves and they had solid rubber mats on the floor behind the bar in case you dropped a bottle, which saved my ass on more than one occasion. One of the guys I worked with did fireballs with 151. Basically you get a mouthful of the stuff and spit a little out at a time over a lighter held high in the air. It got a lot of applause from customers, and tips, so I started doing the same thing. I remember after doing it a few times a night, your mouth would be damn near numb on the drive home from work around sunrise. Looking back, I can't believe the shit we got away with at that place, or that it was actively encouraged by the folks running the club. Hell, on slow nights (basically Monday-Wednesday) you could even smoke behind the bar, a habit I thankfully haven't engaged in for several years now. Ahhh, bartending in the '90s...back in the days when the most important thing for a bartender to know was a whole mess of perversely named shooters :)

                              2. re: Tom34

                                The Laphroaig QC is defintely a little softer and sweeter than the 10 yr, that comes with the extra aging in small casks which seems to overcome the higher proof.

                                Also the quarter cask is not true cask strength, it is 96 proof - whereas the 10 yr CS is 115 proof.

                                That being said the Laphroaig QC is probably my favorite Scotch, though Lagavulin 16 yr is nipping at its heels.

                                1. re: ncyankee101

                                  Yes....softer & sweeter..... My back up Islay is Ardbeg 10. Seems to lack that iodine bite of the Lap 10 but is does have lots of good smoke.

                                  1. re: Tom34

                                    Tom - I also like ardbeg 10 a lot, I have heard great things about the Uigeadail, have you had it? I bought a friend a bottle for a wedding present and he has yet to open it, I'm getting impatient to try it so might break down and buy myself one.

                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                      No I have not had it. Looks interesting though. Maybe you can nudge your buddy to crack the seal with a couple good cigars.

                                  2. re: ncyankee101

                                    Interesting. Lagavuliin is my go-to single malt and I absolutely detest Laphroig. I've been to both and they're close enough where you can take a jog between them. But something about Laphroig screams burnt popcorn to me. I can't get past that taste even by adding ice or water. OTOH I can enjoy Lagavulin neat or with a cube. Laphroig is the only Scotch I've ever had an issue with.

                                    1. re: Panini Guy

                                      Some people are more sensitive to certain types of flavors than others. I can't say I have gotten burnt popcorn from Laphroaig but I will pay attention next time I have some.

                                      I don't usually have a problem with phenols, which would probably account for such a taste, but I have not been able to love Sea Wynde rum because I get a burnt rubber aftertaste. (I wish I did, given the $40 I paid for it.)

                                      1. re: ncyankee101

                                        I was sipping a little MaCallan 12 as I read Panini Guy's post on Laphroaig. I finished the mellow MaCallan 12 and poured a little Laph 10 (one of my favorites). I am by no means even close to an expert, and there sure is a lot going on with the Laph10, but I don't get the burnt popcorn flavor.

                                        It may be a weird comparison, but I have tried Caves Liver countless times and just can't warm up to the "distinct, not quite like anything else" flavor of it..... but yet it has a cult like following which I fully appreciate and respect. I often wonder if something so different is either a love it or hate it type of thing?

                                        1. re: Tom34

                                          I admit I may be an oddity, almost every scotch drinker I know either loves them both or hates them both. The thing I can't quite figure out is why I'm alone in this... I have a background in sensory and have judged coffee competitions and always calibrate well with other judges.

                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                            Just personal taste PG. no need to go beyond that. Although I'll revisit spirits as they sometimes seem to change onced opened. A little air time can have an effect

                                            1. re: Panini Guy

                                              Maybe you had an off bottle? I've only had Lagavulin a few times, and loved it, and I have a bottle of Lap 10 in the home bar which I've almost drained. I've never noticed burnt popcorn.

                                              1. re: Panini Guy

                                                >>> I admit I may be an oddity, almost every scotch drinker I know either loves them both or hates them both. <<<

                                                No, not really. While I agree with you -- most people I know either hate or love both; I hate them -- I can deal with Lagavulin if I have to (i.e.: no other option), whereas I can't stand Laphroaig.

                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  I wish more people were in your camp on Laphroaig as maybe the price would come down. $45.00 around my way.

                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                    Laphroaig is going up in price, not long ago a couple online retailers in Cali had the 10 yr for $30-35 but I haven't seen it recently for less than $40. Hitime had it maybe a year and a half ago for $31 and now it is $46, they seem tio be raising the price $5 every 6 months or so. I got the quarter cask in Florida last summer for about that price.

                                                    1. re: ncyankee101

                                                      Yeah, I looked into ordering a case of Laph 10 from a Calif dealer about a yr ago. It would have come out to about $30.00 + $4.00 per bottle shipping. Found out its illegal to ship liquor into NJ and had to scrap that idea. Last time I bought it at Total Wine it was $45.00.

                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                        Odd that NJ allows shipments out but not in - I used to get some great deals from shoppers vineyard, some with free shipping (Don julio 1942 for $81 was the best) but then they stopped shipping liquor. Bayway world of liquor still does and has similar prices.

                                                        About a year ago Pacific online spirits in cali had laphroaig 10 for $33 with free shipping on a $100 order, but unfortunately they no longer carry it and their prices all seem to be really high.

                                                        1. re: ncyankee101

                                                          There are quite a few states that do not allow spirits to be shipped in. I have friends in PA & DE and checked those states and they don't allow spirits shipped in either. I spoke to several Calif co's that would ship it to NJ but the risk (confiscation & fines) fall on the receiver. I have read of movements to stop States from restricting interstate sales but but I don't know where it currently stands. I think it is the wine drinkers who are pushing for the change as much for increased variety as cost savings.

                                                          1. re: ncyankee101

                                                            Shipment OUT: NJ has already collected the excise taxes.

                                                            Shipment IN: the State of New Jersey makes no $$$$

                                                        2. re: ncyankee101

                                                          Lucky you. Here in Pittsburgh, Lagavulin goes for $75-$80/bottle while Laphroig is $50-ish. I've bought it in NYC for as little as $56. I hate the PA liquor monopoly.

                                                          1. re: Panini Guy

                                                            Panini Guy - don't complain about the PA monopoly, the selection and prices are far better than what we have in NC. Lag is $97 and laph 10 yr is $56, your price on the Laphroaig is $50 and I believe it goes on sale for $45. I bought the laph 18 yr a couple years ago for $60 which was the best price anywhere, though it is $70 now (and I prefer the QC anyway).

                                                            When things go on sale in PA the prices are often competitive with the best prices I see anywhere, and when I come up there to visit family I usually come back with at least a case of miscellaneous bottles, sometimes two. I do have the advantage of being able to order from many out of state retailers, though - I don't think PA allows that.

                                                            1. re: Panini Guy

                                                              Yeah your state store system seems to be about as efficient as most other government run programs. Years back we had a place in the Poconos. Had to go to the state store to get liquor & then a beer distributor to get beer by the case or keg only then to a supermarket to get a six pack. Very strange.

                                                              1. re: Tom34

                                                                Ugh... I've had to endure that in the Poconos as well. Then of course you have the government run system here in Montgomery County, MD which results in excellent selection and some of the lowest prices in the country. Go figure.

                          2. Unless I'm doing a shot, I still don't drink my booze straight up. I always add ice cubes. NEVER water though. The good stuff anyway.

                            I think there are a few things at play here. Your taste buds seem to "Round into form" as you get older. You start to get the subtle nuances that are lost on the younger ones.

                            There is also the simple fact that when you're younger and just starting out you don't go out and buy yourself a top shelf bottle of booze. You usually start buying bottles based on price. Then you figure out which of the cheap versions you like best. Then slowly but surely you start to spend more and more. Eventually you start buying bottles that are "Too good" to mix.

                            In the end though, it's your drink, drink it how you like it. Don't worry what others think.


                            1. This is a good question. My favorite spirits are bourbon and Scotch, though my limited experience with cognacs has all been wonderful and I am slowly developing a taste for higher-end sipping rums. Oh, and mezcals, when I can find them...and sotols. And a slew of good tequilas. Well, you get the point. With all of these, unless I am using them in a cocktail, I almost always sip neat with varying amounts of water. The one exception is cheaper bourbons over ice, and that's really when I just feel like having a bourbon on the rocks (usually outside on a hot night), but in those cases, I usually just stick to something that's good-but-unremarkable, usually Beam white label.

                              I started out enjoying ginger ale and bourbon as a college kid, but by my twenties, the amount of ginger ale kept decreasing until I was just enjoying bourbon on the rocks. I think the thing that really made me begin enjoying spirits neat was when I learned about adding water. I was interested in Scotch and started watching Ralfy's videos, and Ralfy always stressed the importance of adding water to most whiskeys to tame the alcohol burn and bring out the flavors in the spirit. As he pointed out, if your tongue is being scorched with 100 proof whiskey (or even many 80 proof whiskeys), it's a simple fact that your taste buds are being assaulted by a far more potent force than the softer and more complex favors that you're actually paying for in a fine spirit. If all you like is alcohol burn, then a mediocre, cheap whiskey really won't be all that different from a higher-quality spirit. Furthermore, by diluting the whiskey a bit, you get more out of your dram, because even if you are getting something out of an unadulterated, high proof spirit in the first few sips, it's really a biological fact that you're sense of taste will be overwhelmed and deadened faster than if you drink a more diluted spirit with the result being that by the time you get to your last few sips, you're just not going to be getting as much out of it as you did when your sense of taste wasn't so shot. There is also a degree of science at play that involves water releasing flavor compounds, though I've never entirely understood the particulars.

                              That one concept opened up a whole world of appreciation for fine liquor. You see, the thing about whiskey, especially if you grew up in the South, is that there is a very masculine culture tied into it. The idea of being tough enough to enjoy the alcohol burn is not uncommon, and the idea that one might want to dilute a 90 proof whiskey can actually be liked at derogatively as being plain sissy. Funny thing is, bourbon on the rocks is acceptable, and one of the reasons people are drawn to it is because it's really the same concept, you're just diluting slowly with frozen water that's melting. However, to my palate at least, the chill actually negatively influences the flavor, deadens it a bit, which, again, goes against the very reason for buying a complex high-end spirit. Furthermore, you can't control the dilution, and at the end of your drink, your left with some sadly over-diluted whiskey. Also to be noted is that chilling a whiskey deadens the nose, and one of the joys of a great whiskey (or rum, or tequila, or cognac) is the pleasure of a beautiful and complex nose.

                              In terms of amounts, it's really a matter of trial and error and personal preference. Pour a dram, add a little water at a time, and taste. Sometimes even with the same whiskey, you may want more or less on different occasions, depending on how you're feeling. I use a small spoon from a tea set I found at a second-hand store, but anything works. If you want to go really booze-geek, you can get a medicine jar and eyedropper. The really high-end bourbon bar we have in DC (over a thousand bottles of whiskey) provides vials of distilled water with eyedroppers for customers to tailor their drink to their preference. My suggestion is start with a a little and take small sips, adding until the burn is less up front an more a soft part of the overall drink, and you can start to taste a richer array of flavors underneath the alcohol. Once you find that sweet spot, sit back and slowly enjoy your dram. Cheers!

                              1 Reply
                              1. Me thinks there is enough to worry about in the world without having to eat or drink things in ways you don't like . . .

                                Prefer your Bourbon with a bit of water and ice? Hey, not even the LAPD's SWAT team is going to kick in your front door with guns blazing if you add a little water and an ice cube!

                                Prefer your Tequila with grapefruit juice and club soda? Well, I can't speak for the Federales, but I'm pretty sure the FBI's HRT won't take you out as they rescue your poor captive bottle of Patron.....

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: zin1953

                                  Question: What if you served a very nice California Cab from your cellar and someone requested ice be put in their glass? How would you feel about serving this individual again from your cellar?

                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    >>> Question: What if you served a very nice California Cab from your cellar and someone requested ice be put in their glass? <<<

                                    No one simple answer . . . heck, I'VE PUT ICE IN MY GLASS OF RED WINE from time-to-time. When it's 100+ outside, and you're trying to taste Cabernets at the Napa Valley Library tasting, or a ZAP event . . . .

                                    The problem is that I don't pull out "very nice [and presumably well-aged] California Cab" for just anyone, and the odds are no one I know would put ice into, say, a 1991 Ridge Monte Bello Cab. (Not to mention which I have very few bottles of California Cabernet in my cellar to start with!) Now, if it was 100+ outside, I was serving the wine in the sun? OK, why not? (Though I'd rather put the bottle itself in an ice bucket.) Then again, if it were 100+ outside, I doubt I'd be opening an old bottle of California Cab to begin with, so that's a rather moot point, don't you think?

                                    If you listen to the (perhaps) apocryphal tales of the internet, every wealthy individual in Beijing and Shanghai is savoring their glass of Château Pétrus only when mixed with Coca-Cola -- um, OK. Well, I guess they like it, but I don't care to try it that way myself. Besides, wouldn't Dr. Pepper work better?

                                    And, of course, you are comparing apples to oranges -- or, rather, distilled spirits to fermented grape juice -- so the whole question is rather pointless, IMHO (not to mention, drifting towards being on the whole board and/or under threat of deletion by highly sensitive and humourless moderators). But every distiller I've ever spoken with has spoken of how the addition of a small amount of water opens the bouquet, so . . . .

                                    >>> How would you feel about serving this individual again from your cellar? <<<

                                    Wouldn't that depend upon who the individual was? If it's my wife, wouldn't I feel differently about opening the bottle than if it was the boorish, annoying "plus-one" of that cousin-in-law that I can't stand anyway? Or if it was my elderly, terminally ill long-lost uncle who has no children of his own, but also has a $100 billion estate? Or . . . or . . . or . . . .

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      "And, of course, you are comparing apples to oranges -- or, rather, distilled spirits to fermented grape juice -- so the whole question is rather pointless, IMHO (not to mention, drifting towards being on the whole board and/or under threat of deletion by highly sensitive and humourless moderators). But every distiller I've ever spoken with has spoken of how the addition of a small amount of water opens the bouquet, so . . . ."

                                      Yes but you also added:

                                      "Prefer your Tequila with grapefruit juice and club soda? Well, I can't speak for the Federales, but I'm pretty sure the FBI's HRT won't take you out as they rescue your poor captive bottle of Patron....."

                                      So that's not about opening up the bouquet or anything but personal preference (like adding ice cubes to a nice cabernet).

                                      "Then again, if it were 100+ outside, I doubt I'd be opening an old bottle of California Cab to begin with, so that's a rather moot point, don't you think?"

                                      No I don't. I brought that up because we've all witnessed at least once guests in restaurants being served wine from the cellar and proceeding to transfer ice from their water glass into their wine. Now the FBI etc won't arrest anyone for that but we know that the wine won't show it's best that way.

                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                        Along Chestnut St. from 69th to the Penn campus in West Philly, I saw equal portions of draft beer and cheap red wine combined for a spode, but I have never seen anyone transfer ice from their water glass into their red wine. Not classy...

                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                          Actually, it was the OP who wrote,

                                          >>> "But, even after all these years and all these bottles, I still prefer a little ice, a little water/soda or both in my drinks. (With tequila, I like grapefruit juice and club soda)." <<<

                                          The whole point is NOT how to make X wine or Y spirit "show it's [sic] best." but rather to have something the way YOU like it . . . would you tell your guest that you won't barbecue his steak well done because the beef won't "show its best"?

                                          I prefer my beef rare, indeed *very* rare, and yet I understand the concerns of some restaurants serving rare hamburgers and the risk of E. coli: some places will refuse to cook their burgers anything less than medium-well. That's OK; I simply refuse to order hamburgers there.

                                          None of this thread is about how to show __________ at its best. It is ALL about enjoying your (food and) drink.

                                          There are a lot of people who enjoy their malt whisky and/or Bourbon neat.

                                          There are a lot of people who enjoy their malt whisky and/or Bourbon with a splash of water and/or a single cube of ice.

                                          There are a lot of people who enjoy their malt whisky and/or Bourbon in a cocktail.

                                          I don't see anything wrong with any of the above. How you and I might enjoy it is irrelevant; we aren't speaking of ourselves. The OP is asking a simple question: "Did you have to get used to the taste of drinking spirits 'neat'?" and goes on to state,

                                          >>> I am NOT AN EXPERT, just someone who likes a cocktail.

                                          But, even after all these years and all these bottles, I still prefer a little ice, a little water/soda or both in my drinks. (With tequila, I like grapefruit juice and club soda). <<<

                                          So my point is simply this: if you prefer your tequila with some grapefruit juice, or you prefer your Bourbon with a little ice and water/soda . . . that's GREAT! Why feel compelled to drink it straight, if you don't enjoy it that way?

                                          Wine is GENERALLY always served "straight," except for things like Sangria and other types of punch, or certain cocktails . . . but -- hey! -- if the Chinese want to add Coke, I have a sneaking suspicion that the owners of Pétrus might be secretly horrified on a personal level, but as owners, they are just happy someone is paying such ridiculously high prices for their wines . . . .

                                          1. re: zin1953

                                            I served my employees glasses of Dom Perignon mixed with guinness. Some of them thought it was a waste of good champagne. Others thought it was a waste of good guinness.

                                            1. re: kagemusha49

                                              Black Velvets are a time-honored cocktail . . . .

                                            2. re: zin1953

                                              I just wonder if you'd be so liberal in attitude if it were your bottle of Petrus being introduced to a glass of coke over rocks;]

                                              1. re: Chinon00

                                                I'm not sure where this is coming from . . . especially after nearly four months.

                                                Wine is certainly different from spirits, and the OP was all about whether or not he should just keep drinking a spirit neat until he likes it (i.e.: force himself to drink something he doesn't enjoy until he acquires a taste for it). My feeling is "Why?"

                                                There is also the issue of OWNERSHIP. You are not only switching the conversation from spirits to wine, but you are changing ownership from his bottle (or the restaurant/bar's bottle) and drinking something straight or mixed and is SUPPOSED to be consumed either straight or mixed.

                                                But I also don't understand why you would think my answer is any different than it was on August 4th when I answered your previous question:

                                                >>> Question: What if you served a very nice California Cab from your cellar and someone requested ice be put in their glass? <<<

                                                Pétrus or (e.g.) Ridge Monte Bello, why would it -- or four months -- make a difference to my answer?

                                                Happy Thanksgiving,

                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                  I wouldn't. My brother and SIL came out here to stay for a few days shortly after I returned from a 2-month gig in Bulgaria. One of the treasures I brought back was a bottle of Zurbrowka (bison grass vodka) which is illegal in the US.

                                                  I'd poured myself and my brother a shot so he could taste it, and I told him I planned on savoring this bottle as long as possible. A couple of days into the visit I notice the bottle is a third gone. It's not my brother. It's my SIL, who's pouring it into grapefruit juice.

                                                  I pulled it from the freezer and hid it in the basement.

                                      2. "should I just not worry about it and keep adding an ice cube or water to my drinks?"

                                        Absolutely not. Just because that's how you enjoy it is no reason to not drink it the way someone else enjoys it instead.

                                        1. There's no right way to enjoy a single malt scotch (except if its with lemon of course).

                                          If you like a bit of ice, so be it.

                                          I like mine neat, and room temp.

                                          1. When I lived in Germany, I had a landlady who also had a pensione. Whenever I walked by the guests to my apartment, they would ask me to join in for a beer and schnapps (schnapps just being generic for a shot). The schnapps with beer was often something called Korn, a distilled white spirit. This is how I learned to sip spirits.

                                            During the winter then, the other folks in the apartments would ask me to have a weinbrand, so I learned how to just sip brandy. When I bought whiskey from the army class XI store, the Germans would just sip that in a nice shot glass.

                                            Good lessons from being in Germany for four years and 30 years later I can still enjoy sipping about anything. Part of it, of course, was the spirit of the people I was surrounded by constantly "prosit-ing" one another and having fun.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: shoo bee doo

                                              What I learned from my time in Germany is that "schnaps" is both a clear, fruit based brandy spirit akin to a French eau de vie [and that when I was first offered it after dinner in Southern Germany at the tender age of 20, I proceeded to hammer it down in one gulp to the delight of my hosts], as well as the generic term for a shot of liquor as you mention. All I remember about Korn is that it looked like vodka, albeit with a cereal-like taste for lack of a better explanation. Did you enjoy the warm Gluhwein served in the Winter as well? I saw it recently in an American Aldi's last Christmas and I got a good chuckle over it.

                                              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                hawkeyeui93, I was definitely introduced to Gluhwein on a cold, snowy night in a small castle near the small farming village where I lived. I lived there in my 20's also and all these associations with the spirits and Gluhwein were so romantic at that time.

                                                Yes, I'm sure they were impressed with your being able to "hammer it down."

                                                1. re: shoo bee doo

                                                  but gluhwein is most definitely not a spirit -- it's wine (usually red, but can be white) warmed with spices (and wonderful on a chilly night...)

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Yes, of course, gluhwein is not a spirit. Definitely a separate thing expecially wonderful on cold nights and during the holidays.

                                                    I wanted to mention that "schnaps" was a generic term for anything served in a shot glass, be it korn, vodka, whiskey or any of the clear or colored brandies. At least it was in the Hessen part of Germany.

                                            2. If you ask me, which you indirectly did by posting this, then I will tell you this.......you shouldn't be worried about what any of us think about the way you enjoy your beverage of choice.

                                              Try it neat......throw in some ice....pour some water....the bottom line is just enjoy what you enjoy and don't worry about the rest of "us" or the world. Just enjoy!! Cheers!!

                                              1. Paul F: My answer is "follow your palate"... There's absolutely no right or wrong way anymore than there's a right or wrong way to take your coffee... until the day I die I'll never drink coffee black but other friends of mine won't have it any other way but black...

                                                Personally I mix the majority of all types of high-alcohol spirits with some kind of mixer most of the time... even great bourbons (sorry purists :)

                                                ....the ones I most consistently drink relatively neat are scotch and irish whiskey but I still add a splash of water to both.... there's something about the scotch flavor profile that lends itself to little or no dilution for alot of palates, you might try starting there...

                                                1. I prefer my Whisky neat. I know it's pedestrian, but for day-to-day I love a Jameson neat. I've never had whisky any other way. I say drink it how you like it though/

                                                  1. This article from Slate discusses the issue in the thread.

                                                    It talks about how some distillers are lowering the proof and Slate feels this is a good thing. But no matter how you feel, it's an interesting article on how the level of an alcohol in a spirit impacts taste and enjoyment.


                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: PaulF

                                                      Why paid spirit prices for water. I'll add my own.

                                                      Alcohol carries flavor and in whiskey I'd prefer to find my sweet spot, thank you

                                                      1. re: PaulF

                                                        I think the Slate article is pretty misguided. When sipping fine whiskies or other spirits, it's easy enough to water to your taste, but impossible to "unwater" them. The Maker's Mark flap was about reducing value and changing the flavor of a popular product, not people wanting more and more alcohol per drink as the author implies (ignoring the fact that it may have been a marketing gimmick in the first place).

                                                        How come making a cocktail drowns out the aromatics and body of a high-proof spirit, but having the distiller water it down is favorable? How is an 80 proof spirit the same as a 100 proof spirit in a cocktail? Wouldn't that invalidate the author's entire argument that proof matters to taste? What about the fact that inspired by Dave Wondrich and Wayne Curtis, people want high proof recreations of historical spirits to make the drinks from those days?

                                                        And Lemon Hart 151 is prized for its flavor not its flammability. Bacardi 151 has been around for ever and used for flammable drinks, but that wouldn't fit into an article on the "dangerous trend of higher proof spirits."

                                                        1. re: nickls

                                                          I want to be clear:

                                                          I didn't agree or even disagree with the article.

                                                          Just wanted to share it.

                                                          I pretty much agree with what you're saying. But as it relates to the original premise of this thread, I thought it was interesting. When I started the thread, I was sort of not sure about the idea of adding ice or water. I wasn't sure if it was better to keep drinking my drinks as the distiller intended to get the full experience or adding a water/ice gave the full experience. Basically, the advice from most was: it's your drink, drink it the way you like it and that's what I do.

                                                          Still, I thought the Slate piece was an interesting conversation starter (or continuer).

                                                          1. re: nickls

                                                            Nickls - not to mention his statement about barrel evaporation is not complete, this is dependent on the humidity in the environment - rum aged in the tropics loses far more alcohol relative to water.

                                                            1. re: ncyankee101

                                                              For what it's worth -- this topic makes me appreciate CH even more. Smart people who know what they are talking about.

                                                              1. re: ncyankee101

                                                                In a multilevel bourbon rickhouse barrels stored high in the rickhouse are hotter than those stored at a lower position. Because water is a smaller molecule it passes through the barrel at a higher rate than the alcohol so these barrels will often increase in alcohol level compared to the lower barrels. This is how it was explained to me by a respected master distiller

                                                          2. It is really up to you.

                                                            We like the tradition here, as described by shoobeedo during his experience in Germany.

                                                            Small glasses, friendly guests or neighbours, with single grain Scotch, Cognac, or a good Grappa. Usually served in the late afternoon, or evening, after the meal.

                                                            After travelling frequently to Brasil since 1970, I have discovered a few well aged, oak barrel Cachaça varietals that are better served neat, rather than as a mixed drink or cocktail such as a Caipirinha.

                                                            Weber Haus is an excellent oak-aged Cachaça in that category. If you know someone who is travelling there, or can get your hands on a bottle, savour it. It is worth it's weight in gold. A website link:


                                                            Sampling the product neat:


                                                            Cheers / Prost / à votre santé

                                                            1. Not get used to the taste of drinking spirits neat, rather the cost of the spirits I wanted to drink neat :-)