You probably didn’t start drinking Bourbon with your cheese sandwich in third grade. OK, let’s hope not. But where did you start?

Drown it in Coke: Your first taste of whiskey was probably one part shock, one part, “OMG, what the hell is that?” and many parts Coca Cola. Fortunately, you were also drowning less-than-top shelf hooch, so at least it wasn’t a total travesty. But, you were drinking whiskey. No crushing a six pack of Miller Lite for you, you’ve arrived!

Dialing back the mixer: At this point, you’ve probably figured out that all that sugar doesn’t do much for your head the next day. (or if you’re in this stage now, you’re welcome – cut back on the sugary stuff, it will help!). Minimizing the mixer also lets a hint of the actual whiskey taste show through. For some, that’s reason enough to put more mixer in, or to leave whiskey altogether. That’s fine, more for us.

Venturing into just a couple ice cubes: Maybe you’re trying to be healthier, so you’re cutting back on sugar. Or, with that little hint of whiskey flavor coming out, you’re finding you actually (gasp) like it? But you’re not completely convinced, so you load up on ice. Chances are good it’s either machine ice or regular old home freezer ice: either way, as it melts, it’s changing the way your whiskey tastes. You don’t know that, but you will soon.

Whoa – just a little water you say? You’ve probably been experimenting with less and less ice. Now you’re wondering what temperature is doing to the taste of your drink. Some things taste better ice cold, some don’t. You wonder what would happen if you just added some plain water to your whiskey. Or, if you’ve been hanging out here at Pancakes And Whiskey, you’ve read about how different things affect the taste of your whiskey, or you’ve read reviews and you’ve noticed some people don’t really add anything to their whiskey. So you start by adding the equivalent of a couple of ice cubes of water. Now more of the flavors and aromas of the actual spirit are coming through. By Jove, you’ve found it! But then you start thinking again….

Feeling cool ordering whiskey neat: Yep, now the real fun starts. You’re not mixing anything into your whiskey. You’re sipping cautiously – and finding you LIKE the taste! Granted, some bottles are way better sippers than others, but you’re willing to find that out, and not let it deter you from trying something new. Now the world of whiskey is at your fingertips! Bourbon – rye – Irish – Scotch – Canadian – Japanese. You want to try everything!

Don’t be that guy: You’ve left your Coke and ice cube days behind. There’s applause from the crowd. Adoring fans throw themselves at your feet. No. They don’t. Women don’t throw themselves at you, and men don’t build you bookcases (I’m looking at you, Woodford ad agency). So please don’t act like those things are actually happening to you. You’re drinking whiskey, not curing cancer. Share your newly-found knowledge, don’t lecture. Ask questions, have a conversation with other fellow whiskey drinkers. I can guarantee you there will be people that know more than you do (and some may be women – another collective *gasp*).

Comfortable in your whiskey-ness: You didn’t become That Guy, and you’ve acquired a modest collection of good booze. You might not own a bottle of Pappy but you know what it is (but really, there are many better, more affordable bottles, I would say don’t fall for the hype). You know the basics of how it’s made, where to get the bottles you want, which bar serves your favorite dram. You help your friends that have questions when they want to buy a bottle. Congratulations! You’re a whiskey connoisseur without the snob, someone that knows what’s what and can share that info without being a jerk. Nicely done!

I remember when…. Honestly, I have no idea how this part personally works. But I’ve witnessed the reminiscing over finding things on sale Back In The Day, or when things were more plentiful (or didn’t exist at all). Will the next generation of whiskey drinkers be able to do that? Say things like, “Back when Balcones was still made by Chip,” or remember when you couldn’t buy liquor on Sundays? I think it’s a great time to be drinking whiskey – if you’re so inclined, you can find some of the old stuff (for a price) and there’s a ton of new and interesting stuff on the shelf. OK – enough chitchat – it’s time for some whiskey! Cheers!

Article by: Jeanne Runkle

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