Ordering Scotch whisky at a bar can be an intimidating experience. Connoisseur worlds are often unfriendly ones, and people feel pressure to make it seem like they know what they are talking about.
Thankfully, whisky terminology is not too intimidating. It is only drunk in a few different ways. The larger problem with ordering whisky is getting it the way you like it! Once you have read and understood this article, you will know more about the different Scotch whisky presentations than most bartenders do. Generally, a good indication on whether a bar will understand whisky is the range that they carry. If they sport a number of 12 year old or older varieties, they will probably understand what you mean when you ask for your whisky neat. If you are presented with a choice of blends only, you may have to be more descriptive in your request.
Understanding Whisky Terminology
The most common presentations for whisky are:
- Neat – no ice
- On the rocks – with ice
Other spirits are occasionally served straight up, which is shaken or stirred with ice in the same manner that a cocktail is made. Whisky does not benefit from this process and is not served in this way. Sometimes the term straight up is confused with neat but they are in fact completely different methods.
Learning the Pronunciation
Don’t know how to pronounce Bruichladdich, Aberlour A’bunadh, Laphroaig or Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist? Esquire magazine asked Scottish actor Brian Cox to come in and pronounce a ton of whisky names whilst sitting and sipping Scotch rather humorously.
- Caol Ila
- An Cnoc
Insisting On The Right Glass
If you’re shelling out the ridiculous prices required for a dram of Scotch in a bar, it is your right to ensure it is in the glassware that you want. Ideally, you would drink it in a Glencairn glass, but many bars won’t have one. If not, ask for a snifter. Drinking from a rocks glass isn’t ideal for appreciating a good whisky that is poured neat. If you’re drinking on the rocks, a rocks glass is fine.