The Trick Beginner Whiskey Drinkers Should Know


Photo credit: StockFood/Greg Vore

If you’re intimidated by whiskey, consider this: Every aficionado was once a beginner. For even the most discerning of whiskey drinkers, there was a time when the fiery elixir was absent from their drinking repertoires.

And there’s no shame in that. David Escovitz, the general manager at whiskey-centric restaurant and bar Char No. 4 in New York City, isn’t judge-y when it comes to drink preparations.

"Typically what I recommend to guests who are new to whiskey is to first try it neat, as that’s how it was bottled," he recently told us. "But then add an ice cube or a few drops of water and bring it to a level that you want.”

Related: Why You Need to Try Whiskey, Coke and Peanuts

Adding water to whiskey is far from blasphemous, Escovitz said. In fact, adding water to whiskey is a longstanding tradition in Ireland and Scotland. Taste is hugely influenced by smell, and since whiskey has a high alcohol content, the fumes it gives off can rattle a person’s senses.

"By adding a few drops of water, it will break the surface tension of the whiskey, suppress some of the alcohol fumes, and typically allow the whiskey to sort of open up,” he explained. This means that underlying flavors in the whiskey—like, for instance, the spices and orange notes of a Glenlivet 18 Year Old Scotch or the honey and burnt sugar flavors in Four Roses bourbon—can be more readily discerned.

Ice can do the same thing, although Escovitz notes that some believe doing so “closes down the flavor.” Not that it’s stopped him from plunking a cube in his glass.

"Can you imagine? It’s July 20th and you come in for a whiskey," Escovitz posed. "Why would you want to drink something at room temperature?" 

Can’t argue with a professional. 

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