How To Drink American Whiskey – Audio

American whiskey distinguishes itself with a boldness that captures the essence of American heritage and innovation. But if you’re not clued in on the right way to taste it, you might miss out on the awesome flavors the best American whiskeys have to offer.

We’re here to guide you on how to properly savor American whiskey, covering the selection of the right whiskey, the ideal glasses for the occasion, and how to taste it like an expert. Let’s raise a glass to the vibrant tradition of America’s standout whiskeys.

What is American Whiskey

If you want to dive deeper into this subject, check out our full overview of American whiskey.

American whiskey is a bold embodiment of the United States’ distilling heritage, encompassing a variety of styles such as Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey, Rye, and Corn Whiskey. Each style is defined by specific legal definitions, production methods, and geographical indications. Central to American whiskey is its production from a fermented mash of cereal grain, adhering to stringent regulations that dictate ingredients, aging processes, and labeling requirements.

This rich diversity reflects the historical and cultural fabric of American whiskey, appealing to a wide range of taste preferences with flavors that span from sweet and smooth to bold and spicy. The introduction of American Single Malt is a testament to the ongoing innovation and craftsmanship within American distilling, further broadening the horizons of this revered spirit category.

Choosing the Right American Whiskey

Selecting the ideal American whiskey is a nuanced process that hinges on accolades, age, and flavor profile. Accolades offer a reliable benchmark, spotlighting whiskeys that have garnered praise and awards for their outstanding quality. The age of the whiskey significantly impacts its character; longer maturation periods often yield a richer complexity and depth of flavor.

Understanding the whiskey’s flavor profile is crucial for matching it with individual preferences, whether one leans towards the sweet and fruity or the spicy and bold. By meticulously considering these factors, whiskey enthusiasts can adeptly navigate the vast and varied American whiskey landscape to discover a spirit that truly resonates with their taste and the occasion.

Guide to choosing American whiskey by accolades, age, flavor.
How To Drink American Whiskey – Choosing The Right Whiskey

By Accolades

Selecting an American whiskey by accolades means focusing on those that have garnered awards and recognitions from prestigious competitions and critical reviews. This approach ensures a choice rooted in quality and craftsmanship, guiding enthusiasts towards selections that have been universally acknowledged for their excellence.

By Age

If you want to learn more about how aging influences the value of whiskey, check out our article on whiskey collecting.

The age of an American whiskey significantly shapes its flavor profile and complexity. Generally, older whiskeys are revered for their depth and character, a result of extended interaction with the oak barrels during maturation. When choosing by age, it’s important to consider how the aging process enhances the whiskey, with longer-aged expressions tending to offer a richer and more nuanced flavor experience.

By Flavor Profile

Choosing American whiskey by flavor profile caters to personal taste, ensuring a match with one’s preferred sensory experience. Whiskey flavors can range from sweet (with notes of vanilla and caramel) to spicy (featuring hints of cinnamon and pepper). By understanding these flavor nuances, individuals can select a whiskey that best aligns with their palate, whether they’re in search of something smooth and mellow or bold and intense.

Preparing to Drink American Whiskey

Preparing to enjoy American whiskey to its fullest involves thoughtful consideration of glassware, dilution, and the choice between ice or no ice. The right glassware is pivotal, as certain shapes are designed to amplify the whiskey’s aromas and flavors, enhancing the overall tasting experience. Dilution, achieved by adding a bit of water, can unveil deeper flavors and soften the impact of alcohol, making the whiskey more approachable.

The decision of adding ice hinges on personal preference; while some appreciate the cooling effect and gradual flavor evolution as the ice melts, others opt for their whiskey neat to experience its unaltered essence. Each of these steps plays a vital role in crafting the perfect whiskey drinking experience.

Guide to American whiskey: glassware, dilution, ice tips.
How To Drink American Whiskey – Preparing To Drink


Selecting the ideal glassware is a pivotal step in the whiskey tasting journey. Glasses designed with a narrower opening, such as the Glencairn or snifter, are highly recommended. These shapes are adept at funneling the whiskey’s aromas directly to the nose, enriching the sensory experience.

The choice of glass significantly influences the perception of the whiskey’s flavors and aromas, underscoring the importance of this selection.


Dilution refers to the practice of adding a slight amount of water to the whiskey. This technique can unlock a spectrum of hidden flavors and aromas by lowering the alcohol’s concentration. It renders the whiskey smoother and more approachable, revealing intricate notes that might be overshadowed by the potency of alcohol.

The key is to add water judiciously, allowing personal taste to guide the exact amount, ensuring the essence of the whiskey shines through.

Ice or No Ice

The choice between ice or no ice boils down to individual preference, shaped by one’s desired whiskey tasting experience regarding temperature and dilution. Introducing ice cools the whiskey and gradually dilutes it, softening the sharpness of alcohol and subtly transforming the flavor profile over time. Conversely, opting for whiskey neat—sans ice—presents the spirit in its purest form, offering an unfiltered encounter with its full flavor and complexity, as envisioned by the distillery.

How To Properly Taste American Whiskey

If you want a broader view on how to properly taste all kinds of whiskey, check out our article on the whiskey tasting process.

Tasting American whiskey the right way unfolds in a three-step sensory journey: nosing the whiskey, assessing the palate, and admiring the finish. The first step, nosing, involves deeply inhaling the whiskey’s aromas to detect the wide range of scents it offers, from the most delicate to the most robust. This primes the senses for the flavors to come.

Next, assessing the palate is where one truly encounters the whiskey’s taste, carefully discerning the balance of sweetness, spice, and other flavor notes. The final step, admiring the finish, focuses on the aftertaste that lingers, an indicator of the whiskey’s quality and the complexity of its flavor profile. This methodical approach not only elevates the tasting experience but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the artistry behind American whiskey.

Guide on savoring whiskey steps: nosing, tasting, finishing.
How To Drink American Whiskey – How To Taste

Nosing The Whiskey

Nosing the whiskey marks the critical first step in the whiskey tasting journey. It involves deeply inhaling the whiskey’s bouquet to identify the spectrum of aromas, from oak and vanilla to fruity and floral undertones. By gently swirling the glass, allowing the whiskey to aerate, a wider array of scents is released, preparing the palate for the flavors to come.

This preparatory action is key to unlocking a fuller appreciation of the whiskey’s complexity.

Assessing The Palate

Following the nosing, assessing the palate is where the actual tasting occurs. This phase involves savoring a sip, letting the whiskey evenly spread across the tongue to reveal its full flavor profile. Here, the anticipated aromas transform into tangible tastes, from sweet caramel and rich vanilla to spicy rye or smooth fruitiness.

Attention to the evolution of these flavors—from the initial contact to their peak—provides a comprehensive understanding of the whiskey’s character.

Admiring The Finish

The concluding step, admiring the finish, focuses on the enduring flavors post-sip. A high-quality American whiskey will have a memorable finish, whether it’s smooth and lingering or bold and warming. This aftertaste is a reflection of the whiskey’s quality, offering a final note that encapsulates the essence of its craftsmanship.

Contemplating the finish allows for a moment of reflection on the journey the whiskey has presented, from its aromatic introduction to its flavorful denouement.

Best Cocktails For American Whiskey

American whiskey shines as the foundation of some of the most iconic cocktails, blending its complex flavors with various ingredients to achieve a perfect equilibrium. Classics like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan underscore American whiskey’s adaptability, allowing it to remain prominent amid the simplicity of sugar and bitters or the nuanced depth of vermouth. The Mint Julep offers a refreshing take, combining the whiskey’s warmth with the coolness of mint, making it an ideal choice for warmer weather.

On the other hand, the Whiskey Sour introduces a tangy dimension, tempering the whiskey’s boldness with the crisp acidity of lemon. These cocktails not only celebrate the multifaceted flavor profile of American whiskey but also its integral role in cocktail culture, inviting a delightful exploration of its mixability and allure.

Classic American whiskey cocktail infographic.
How To Drink American Whisky – Best Cocktails

Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned stands as a testament to cocktail simplicity and elegance, utilizing a classic concoction of American whiskey, a touch of sugar, a few dashes of bitters, and a splash of water. Garnished with an orange peel or a cherry, this drink accentuates the whiskey’s rich flavors, making it a revered choice for those who appreciate the spirit’s unadulterated taste.


A sophisticated ensemble, the Manhattan combines American whiskey with sweet vermouth and bitters, creating a cocktail that is both complex and harmonious. Typically garnished with a maraschino cherry, this drink elegantly showcases the whiskey’s warmth against the vermouth’s herbal undertones, offering a refined tasting experience.

Mint Julep

The Mint Julep, synonymous with Southern hospitality, melds whiskey with fresh mint, sugar, and crushed ice, served in a chilled silver or pewter cup. This cocktail is celebrated for its refreshing qualities, where the briskness of mint splendidly complements the robustness of the whiskey, providing a cooling respite on warm days.

Whiskey Sour

The Whiskey Sour artfully marries the boldness of American whiskey with the tanginess of fresh lemon juice and the sweetness of sugar. Often adorned with a lemon slice or cherry, this cocktail strikes a delightful balance between refreshing and rich, showcasing the whiskey’s ability to blend seamlessly with diverse flavors.