If you’re reading this, it’s fair to assume you know at least a little something about ordering bourbon or whiskey. However, no matter how much knowledge you have, it can sometimes be overwhelming when you’re suddenly faced with a 6-7 page menu of bourbons, whiskeys, and scotches. Of course, you will recognize some of them, but there are sure to be many you’ve never tried before.
So, the next time you visit your local whiskey bar with a group of friends, avoid the anxiety by learning how to order bourbon whiskey like a boss.
Know Before You Go
If the bar or restaurant offers their spirits menu online, check it out before you go. What stands out immediately? What have you heard of, or what whiskeys do you need to lookup?
Make notes on your phone so that when you reach the bar, you’re ready.
Find Out What Your Friends Like
Whiskey is complex, but for those who are unfamiliar, each option may seem the same. Instead of trying to guess what whiskey your friends like, ask them what kind of flavors and foods they like best. Do they like spicy stuff? Have them try rye whiskey. Do they like chocolate, brown sugar, or butterscotch? They may find a higher wheated bourbon more to their liking. See how they feel about other flavors like oak, smoke, or licorice and suggest accordingly.
Of course, you’ll want to know their tolerance level for proof as well, but that may not be as important as the tasting notes. Also, assure them that there is no shame in adding ice, water, or even ordering a cocktail instead of straight whiskey. No matter their choice, drinking should be fun, and whiskey should never be pretentious.
Keep Price in Mind, But Also Take Advantage of Rare Finds
Some bourbons, whiskeys, and scotch can be challenging to find. But, one of the best things about visiting good whiskey bars around the country is the opportunity to try out those rare finds. Sure, that 1-2 ounce pour is expensive, but it’s far cheaper than a whole bottle.
So, when you’re facing an option to taste a rare find, we implore you to take that option. And savor every last drop.
Educate The People Around You
No one wants to be “that guy.” You know, the one who drones on and on about notes of this, hints of that. But, what people can appreciate is someone who shows them how they can enjoy their drink more. For example, unless someone has attended a whiskey tasting seminar, they probably don’t know about “the chew.” That first drink of a high alcohol spirit that explodes in your mouth and shocks your taste buds into submission. For many, that might be the only sip of whiskey they’ve ever tried because it was too intense. And that’s a shame.
Aficionados like yourself know what to expect from that first sip, and that one should never judge a spirit on that alone. But, luckily, you’re there to show them that the magic happens on the second and third sip.
Ask Them What They Think
Everyone loves to be asked for their opinion. However, those less experienced with whiskey may be hesitant to speak up. After all, no one wants to say the “wrong” thing. But, as you know, there is no wrong answer. What you taste is what you taste. It’s subjective. Through some encouragement, maybe they’ll open up and provide some interesting tasting notes even you might have missed.
Level Up Your Whiskey Knowledge
Congratulations, if you’ve followed all the steps from above–do your homework, introduce others to the spirit we all love, educate them on taste, smell, and how not to feel intimidated–that’s a whiskey ambassador if we’ve ever met one.
Here are some more ways you can level up your whiskey knowledge:
Keep a Whiskey Journal
There are phone apps, templated journals, and even blank notebooks you can buy for a dollar. Whatever method of journaling you prefer, keeping one about whiskey is a great way to remember what you like and don’t like. Also, keep notes on taste, aroma, and price so that you’ll always be ready to add a new bottle to your collection or a unique flavor to your palate.
Develop Your Palate
The best whiskey connoisseurs from around the world weren’t born able to discern different notes of whiskey. They developed their palates over time and practice.
Our friends over at David Nicholson wrote a blog recently about this very topic. You can check it out here.
Post Your Reviews Online
There are subreddits and forums dedicated to people who love drinking and talking about whiskey. Why not join them? Even if it’s a little uncomfortable at first, it can be very satisfying to find a community of like-minded individuals. Also, consider posting your own reviews on those forums to help you learn how to talk about whiskey even better than you do now.
Drink More Whiskey
Do we need to convince you of that one? We don’t think so. Cheers!