‘Tis the season to gather with friends and toast, well, everything! Over the next few weeks, chances are you’ll raise a few glasses honoring the year gone by and the year to come, welcoming friends and family, or simply seeking a libation to lubricate conversation at your company’s holiday function.
Regardless of the situation, you’re likely to see more people pouring whiskey drinks into their glasses this year. The 2015 State of the Beverage Industry report shows that whiskey sales have outpaced vodka sales for the last four years. Americans bought more than 2.7 billion dollars worth of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey alone last year, and that doesn’t include Irish whiskey, Scotch whiskey or blends.
One problem – there are plenty of people out there who don’t like whiskey. Or, should I say, who think they don’t like whiskey. Swig sat down with bartender Vince Potter at C.Grace Cocktail Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina to learn more about whiskey drinks for people who don’t like whiskey. He compared the drink to vintage clothing.
“People think about whiskey as their dad’s drink and their grandma’s drink,” he said, “but then it’s like these guys who discover Old Spice Classic for the first time and realize they kind of like it. Or someone who goes to three thrift stores in one weekend, but doesn’t want to buy everything they saw. It’s deep and enticing, and it’s something that people are a little bit afraid to jump into sometimes.”
Potter says the best way to start with whiskey is a conversation.
“The best advice I can give is to sit down with somebody at a bar that you think is cool and talk with a bartender who’s a little bit chatty on a slow night. You can discover 50 new drinks that you want to try,” he said. “I’ve had people come in on a Sunday evening, or a Wednesday night, sit down and say ‘I like steak. What whiskey should I be ordering with steak?’ and we sit here and walk through all sorts of pairings. In my opinion, that’s the best introduction you can have to a new spirit: a conversation.”
The holidays are busy, though, so if you don’t have time for a sit down with your favorite bartender this month, Potter provided us with a few suggestions that will get you through the holiday rush.
If you like sour and bitter drinks, Potter recommends a Missouri Mule. This cocktail has a few notes of grapefruit in the background, and if you’re a history buff, comes with an added piece of trivia: it was created for President Harry S. Truman.
1 oz Bourbon
1 oz Applejack
1 oz lemon juice
¾ oz Campari
¾ oz Triple Sec
Add all ingredients and ice to cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Prefer something sweeter? Try a Gold Rush. With ingredients most people have at their home, Potter calls this drink, “simple, round and super approachable.”
2 oz Bourbon
¾ oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ oz honey syrup
Honey syrup uses the same theory as simple syrup. One part honey and one part water, heated over medium heat until the honey is dissolved. Chill the syrup. Unused portion should last about a week.
Combine ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Shake well, then strain into and ice-filled old fashioned glass.
If you’re willing to get more adventurous, Potter had more suggestions. Do you prefer a more traditional drink? Potter recommends a Manhattan or a Sazerac. For people who like dirty martinis, he recommends trying a Whiskey Smash. If you’re looking for something sweeter, try a Whiskey Flip.
“This is great for a Whiskey Sour fan who’s looking to branch out,” he suggested. “Instead of just incorporating an egg white, put the whole egg in there and leave out the citrus. You’re going to get something that’s rich and sweet that’s like an eggnog and very delightful. With sugar and cinnamon, it makes a great winter warmer.”
C.Grace serves their own take on the drink – a Salted Caramel Whiskey Flip. This is basically bourbon served for a sweet tooth. I sampled another version – the Mexican Chocolate Flip – and can verify that the flip lives up to its billing as a sweet, nog-like warmer. Potter says they incorporate a bit of sherry to achieve the woody notes that you’ll find in this version.
So, what does the bartender pour when he wants a whiskey drink?
“My favorite this week is a Boulevardier,” Potter said. “It has bourbon, Campari and gin. It’s bitter, it’s round, it’s a little bit dry, it’s spirituous, it’s great.”