Post image for New Poll: Whisky For Mixing

New Poll: Whisky For Mixing

by Oliver Klimek on August 3, 2011

Now here is a true crunch question: What do you think about using whisky for mixing?

When following the whisky community active on the internet, I have come across a lot of avid supporters of mixing whisky but also purists who detest any ‘adulteration’ of their drams apart from maybe a little water. This poll wants to shed light onto the question how these two camps compare in strength.

The possible answers are very straightforward this time: Yes, No or Undecided. The poll will end at midnight CEST on 31st August 2011.

By the fact that I have also published a few cocktail recipes you can deduct that I have answered “Yes”. I have noticed some raised eybrows from regular readers about this attitude, but I really do think that using whisky in mixed drinks is a viable option.

My personal view on this issue is that I do NOT regard mixing as a way to enjoy whisky. I prefer to enjoy whisky neat and with water if needed. When using it for mixing, whisky becomes just an ingredient in a recipe. The subtleties of flavour are lost but the whisky blends with other ingredients to form something new. You can compare this with using wine for cooking. Coq au vin is certainly not a way to enjoy wine, but it is a very tasty wine based dish. A zabaione is a delicious dessert but not a way to enjoy marsala wine. And for me a Manhattan is an excellent cocktail but not a way to enjoy American whisky.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Armin August 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I’m not entirely clear who your question directed at: Is it me personally what I personally would use whisky for and drink it? Or is it how I think whisky should be used and enjoyed by everyone?

You seem to distinguish in your own comments, but which way is your question?

For me personally I wouldn’t mix (except water), but I couldn’t care less what others do with theirs. It’s their whisky, they paid their money for it, so they can drink it whichever way they like. Same as I don’t want others telling me how to enjoy something when I’ve found a way that suits me.

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Oliver Klimek August 3, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Of course the question is about your personal mixing or non-mixing habits. Sorry if this was unclear. I firmly believe that there is no single ‘truth’ how whisky should be enjoyed. I just want to find how many do and how many don’t.

And of course this does not only mean self-mixing but also if you like to drink mixed whisky drinks in bars or at parties.

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Ryan M August 3, 2011 at 2:48 pm

If you can pick one whisky from another in a cocktail such as a Manhattan (I certainly can), how can it not be a method of enjoying whisky? The greater the input, the greater the outcome – provided of course the process is sound.

I drink my whisk(e)y neat, with water, on ice if it’s hot, in cocktails, in cooking, with food, without food, upside down, and inside out. I’ll even occasionally make a long drink with some soda water if it’s warm down here and I feel like a whisky-ish refresher.

Personally, I tend to prefer American whiskies for my cocktails – usually Rye. In no particular order, the whisk(e)y cocktails I enjoy most are; Sazerac (Rye), Manhattan (Bourbon or Sherried Scotch, with Rye, without Cognac), Old Fashioned (always Rye), Mint Julep (Bourbon), Rob Roy (Always Scotch – prefer ~15yo Sherry), and the sours family. (Prefer wine finished Scotch.) I’m also quite partial to a drink called “Grounds for Divorce” which is a cocktail based on Talisker 10 and Porter (beer) which is available at one of the bars here in Melbourne.

I like cocktails because they’re so versatile, they can be refreshing, aperitifs, digestifs, session drinks.. you name it!

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Oliver Klimek August 3, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Of course different whiskies make drinks taste different. But my personal definition of ‘enjoying whisky’ means enjoying the subtleties of flavour I mentioned and that evidently get lost in the mix because they get masked by the strong flavours of other ingredients.

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Ryan M August 5, 2011 at 7:33 pm

There’s the fundamental difference in opinion and taste right there. I rarely reach for a particular whisky when I feel I want to enjoy subtleties.

In my arsenal, there’s big smoky whiskies, big sherried whiskies, big malty whiskies, and big porty whiskies. Some have more than one of the aforementioned attributes. Largely though, there’s a common theme – I like ‘em big, and when the mood is right, thoroughly enjoy the enhancement of the primary, secondary and sometimes (if the barman is clever) tertiary characteristics of the malt. I’m not trying to change, mask, adjust – merely extend, amplify and enhance.

The best examples of this I can think of is a Hot Toddy made with Lark whisky, from Tasmania and a New York Sour – with a Pinot Noir float made with Hellyers Road Pinot Finish, also from Tasmania.

Lark’s is a whisky produced from ale barley, with ale yeast – namely franklin and cascade barley. It’s peated post malting using indigenous peat – which has formed from Eucalypt. It’s distilled in a small, fat, dumpy little still then matured in 50 litre ex-Port casks. By nature, it’s colossal – big, rich oily malt with more spice than you’d find in six home kitchen racks. The sum of all parts, in my opinion is, it’s a rich, warming and comforting drink. Certainly, if that’s what I’m in the mood for, I’ll reach for it.

From Wikipedia: “Pour a shot of whisky into a cup and add boiling water to it. Add a spoonful of honey or sugar. Add a half slice of lemon, two cloves and, if available, a cinnamon stick. Let brew for three to five minutes.”

The honey enhances the oily malt characteristics, the lemon’s acidity adds length and the spice further emphasises that which already exists.

This whisky in a Hot Toddy achieves the same outcome. Warm, comforting and rich, complexities enhanced, rather than diluted.

As for the Hellyers Road Sour, this whisky itself is quite thin, very malty, unpeated and has a light Pinot Noir cask influence in the form of chocolate, red fruit and subtle spice. The egg white and sugar syrup in the cocktail add palate weight and texture, the citrus tames the additional sugar, whilst again adding length, the addition of bitters adds to the spicy characteristics of the whisky and the final Pinot Noir float emphasises the subtleties already there in the whisky.

As I said in my opening statement, a simple difference in opinion and taste, I hope I’ve done a little to justify mine! :)

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Oliver Klimek August 5, 2011 at 7:44 pm

It’s always nice to see how the whisky world can accomodate so many varying views. Just one comment about the “big” whiskies: They have subtleties too. Perhaps you got me slightly wrong. I don’t want to enjoy only the subtleties, but they belong to a whsky because they round off the flavour and get lost in a mixed drink.

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Nathan August 3, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Oliver, for the poll, is there a distinction between using single malts or luxury blends versus bottom-shelf blends for mixing? I would vote emphatically “No” to using good single malt or expensive blends for this purpose, whereas I would say “Always” for the cheap stuff.

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Oliver Klimek August 3, 2011 at 6:40 pm

It’s really just yes or no. Where should you draw the line between cheap and expensive? That’s a question anyone has a different answer to. BTW, I disagree with you here. The better the whisky is you use for mixing, the better the drink will taste. Of course I wouldn’t use a 40 yo in a cocktail, but I would not want to make it with a cheap blend either.

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Nathan August 3, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Oliver, thanks for the reply. I think that’s where the controversy lies. There are a lot of people (me included, not for any philosophical reason, just simple taste preference) who would refuse to use any single malt for mixing purposes.

Whether or not to dump some Johnnie Walker or Cutty Sark into a shaker is really a different question: Do you enjoy the taste of mixed cocktails which include whisky?

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bsod August 3, 2011 at 8:55 pm

I drink whiskey, but my wife doesn’t. One thing I’ve been doing to get her drunk, which is also bearable to me is:
take 2 and 1/2 limes, squeeze the juice out into a 20oz cup
add 5 sugars
mix
add liberal amount of glenfiddich 18 year old single malt scotch (1 – 3 shots)
then fill the cup up with water / sometimes some ice too
(i guess you could use vodka or tequila to be more mexican but the lime is strong enough to takeover whatever you use, i happen to have whiskey handy)

I dont like mixed drinks, like pina colatas, long island iced tea, ‘chick drinks’, i dont care for any of them, but lime i dont mind

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Mark Friedman August 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I personally do like Scotch mixed with water and ice, in a Scotch and water and also with Club Soda and a lemon rind twist with ice especially as a Summer drink, but when one starts to mix Scotch with Sweet sodas such as cola it seems like a waste of the Scotch, which seems overpowered by the Cola flavor. Seems like it would be better to have Cola and a neutral spirit such as Vodka if your main goal was to have an alcoholic Cola drink.

What do you all think of pre-mixed bottles and cans of Scotch and cola?

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bsod August 5, 2011 at 12:02 am

see, its unfair to compare scotch to scotch and cola, it should be a comparison of scotch and cola vs vodka and cola if anything. or maybe compare if you’d like scotch and gingerale more than you like a glass of wine?

people who like liquor, are more likely to be on this site where a liquor product is the main focus, people who like mixed drinks are probably on some other site out there somewhere.. at the end of the day, even if scotch is not less enjoyable when mixed, its still better to get drunk than not.

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sku August 9, 2011 at 6:57 pm

While I most often drink whiskey neat, count me in as pro-mixing as a way to enjoy whiskey. A good whiskey cocktail should reveal new flavors in the spirit by combining the whiskey with other ingredients. To me, a Sazerac is the perfect whiskey cocktail: the spice of the rye takes on new notes when mixed with the anise of Absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters, a bit of sweetness and a drop of oil from the lemon rind. There is an interplay there that enhances the whiskey drinking experience. It’s almost akin to pairing wine with food in that you are creating a contrast for the flavors that reveals different notes and different aspects than you would drinking the whiskey neat.

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Oliver Klimek August 9, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Actually a Sazerac is one that I have always wanted to give a try. But as my Absinthe knowledge is next to nothing it may be better to postpone this adventure until I am in NYC for WhiskyFest

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Jameson | JoySpirits August 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm

I am not against using whisky for mixing…I like sometimes mix whisky with juice, especially apple juice…sometimes I mix it with cola, and you know, any water or juice gives another flavor…that’s why I voted for mixing ))

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