BY NATHANAEL TUCKER
Mixology: A primer on how to not get burned
For the purposes of this column, the discussion will be limited to the islands that made these distinct spirits popular. Scotch and Irish whisk(e)ys share many distilling qualities, making them at base, a variation of the same alcohol. But as the French say, vive la difference.
Scotch: If you’ve ever wondered what that blowhard at the bar pontificating about how much better his single malt is talking about, here’s a quick tutorial.
Scotch whisky (note the omission of the “e” in most Scotches) comes in a variety of forms such as single malt, single grain, blended malt and blended grain. These guys are serious about how their whisky is made. The main point of distinction is the “single” and “blended” part of the title. “Single” signifies that all the whisky was made at one distillery but comes from many different barrels. “Blended” is a product of more than one distillery. As for the second part, if the title includes “malt,” it is made only from malted barley. “Grain” means another grain such as wheat or rye are included with the barley. So, if said blowhard really likes his single malt, it just means that one distillery really knows how to distill malted barley mash and bottle it so you’ll pay a bunch of money for it. Also, the barley in most Scotch is toasted over a peat fire. This imparts a distinct smoky, mossy, earthy flavor to the whisky. Scotches are usually also distilled twice (as opposed to Irish whiskey, which is distilled three times) so it has a richer flavor. For a novice looking for a good Scotch drink, try a Scotch and Soda. You’ll still taste that distinct flavor, but tamed a bit by the soda.
Irish: There’s always someone carrying on about Catholic vs. Protestant Irish whiskey. Don’t argue with them. It’s pretty much bunk, but it can also be fun to poke the bear depending on how much they’ve had to drink.
Irish whiskey distinctions are similar to the Scotch variety with names like single malt, single grain and blended. Again, “single” refers to how many distilleries made the whiskey, “blended” comes from more than one distillery, and grain whiskeys include more than just barley. The Irish also have one other distinction: single pot still whiskey. This stuff is made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley completely distilled in a single pot still. Irish, as mentioned before, is usually distilled three times, which tends to mellow the spirit, giving it a smoother flavor. Irish is arguably easier to drink for someone experimenting with whiskey. One of my favorite sippers is a Whiskey Ginger with Jameson.
Scotch and Soda
Fill a tub or Collins glass with ice, add 2 ounces Scotch whisky, 2 to 3 ounces soda water and a twist of lemon. To properly twist a lemon, peel a long slice of lemon zest, curl into a pig tail and pinch over the drink expressing the oils. Rub the zest over the rim of the glass before dropping it in.
Fill a tub with ice, add 2 ounces Irish whiskey, top with ginger ale, a dash of bitters and sip. I only drink ginger ales and ginger beers that have more kick than that stuff in the big, plastic, green bottle. You can find single bottles or six packs at grocery stores and once you’ve tried one, you won’t go back.