Tod and Ryan have danced around a maypole regarding liquor, due to Russell’s musings.  It being past time for a bit of pontificating, I’ll elucidate the proper alignments of the fruit of the vine and the grain with human endeavor.  First, lest one be confused by the lack of reference to these in the rest of the post, the basics:

  • Beer
    • Beer goes with everything.  I need to write a whole ‘nuther post on beers, the various types, and how you should drink them.  This is low-priority, the League spills a lot of ink about beer everywhere on the blog.
  • Wine
    • Wines go with lots of different things.  Wine also deserves a series of posts, but Jaybird and Wardsmith have touched on these already.  Search the blog, there’s too many to link.

That out of the way, let’s talk about the hard stuff today.  Apéritifs and digestifs are both outside the scope of this post and (truly) not my highest area of expertise in any event.

Whisky (and/or Whiskey)

Whiskey includes Rye, Bourbon, Scotch Whisky (commonly just referred to as “scotch”), Irish Whisky, and a number of other national varieties.  They can be served neat (no water, no ice), on the rocks, watered down, or mixed in a cocktail.  Generally speaking, a 750 ml bottle should cost more than $15 to avoid eroding your stomach lining (actually, this rule applies to most of the below).  They should be consumed in the following manner:

Scotch, single malt or blended: neat, or watered down if and only if if (nod to Corey) the source bottle is cask strength, otherwise water to the discerning palate and nose.  Drink 3 to 5 oz for decompression purposes.  Suitable for stressful days wherein resetting of the mind to a more relaxed state is desirable.  Never mix single malt scotch in a cocktail; all such cocktails are an abomination.  Blended scotches can be put in a cocktail, particularly a highball.  Suitable for philosophical, religious, artistic, engineering, tradesman, mathematical or political conversations.

Irish, single malt or blended: neat, or on the rocks.  Do not water down Irish whisky under any circumstances.  Can be used to make God’s Blessings, otherwise never mix in a cocktail.  Consumption in excess of 6 oz is not recommended unless mild (shoulder punching) to severe (face punching) degrees of violence are acceptable, depending upon the tolerance and heritage of the consumer and their drinking partners.  Do not mix large quantities of Irish whisky with political conversations unless strenuous disagreement is acceptable, all other topics are suitable.

Bourbon: on the rocks, watered, or mixed in a cocktail.  (edited to add) Two Bourbon drinkers who exceed mine own experience have taken some issue with this in the comments.  Upon review, we accept Mr. Thompson’s proposed alternative. (/edited) People who drink bourbon neat are seriously dangerous alcoholics and/or geniuses.  People who drink bourbon neat are seriously dangerous alcoholics and/or geniuses unless said bourbon be wheated, in which case the person merely has good taste.  Treat with care.  Bourbon is an educated working man’s drink, more suitable for engineering, artistic, or tradesman conversations.  With certain consumers, can produce the same reactions as Irish whisky.

Rye: on the rocks, or mixed in a cocktail.  Rye is sharper in taste than is acceptable to most post-1930s drinkers in the U.S.  Otherwise, treat as bourbon for context; a Manhattan is a recommended cocktail.


Vodka is made primarily in Scandinavian countries and Russia, of course.  It is the national drink of countries who are partially north of the Arctic Circle for several reasons.  Vodka should never be served neat unless it is in a suitable shot glass and chilled to near-freezing, else serve with tonic or as part of a cocktail.  Like scotch, vodka is suitable for philosophical, religious, artistic, engineering, tradesman, mathematical or political conversations, but with the mild twist that fatality, angst, hubris, incommensurability, or depression should be involved.  High quality vodka is a must for consumption in excess of 4.5 oz.  Well vodka is acceptable for a single cocktail, or a maximum of two.  A quality Bloody Mary is one of the better cocktails in existence and the only one that can justifiably be consumed prior to midday.  If you find a bartender who makes a good one, enshrine them in memory.


Gin is the drink of Imperial England, and should be regarded as such, with all that entails.  The ubiquitous Gin and Tonic is historically medicinal, used to ward off malaria.  Like bourbon, neat consumption of gin is a warning sign of incipient drinking problems; gin should always be taken in on the rocks or as part of a cocktail.  Gin has been a mixologist’s primary ingredient for over 150 years, it is particularly suitable for the production of quality cocktails.  Like scotch and vodka, any number of topics can be discussed while drinking gin, but two particular incarnations are of note.  A Tom Collins should be consumed when discussing matters of the polis, and a martini is a drink to be consumed only when discussing matters weighty and of import (this includes after-dinner consummation of relations between interested couples).


Tequila often has a bad name among American consumers of alcohol due to cultural factors outside the responsibility of the drink itself.  Poor quality tequila distributed in the form of a margarita to college-age Americans has led to a social context with… well, with a lot of context, good and bad.  High quality tequila is like high quality vodka; it is a different taxonomic class of liquor and should be treated with proper deference.  High quality tequila can be consumed neat; otherwise limit your consumption to 6 oz or less consumed in said margarita form.  High quality tequila is suitable for philosophical, religious, artistic, engineering, tradesman, mathematical or political conversations; good to moderate quality tequila is better suited for artistic and tradesman conversations.  Recommended non-margarita cocktail is a Long Island Iced Tea, which qualifies as a recommended cocktail for a number of other spirits.


Rum is similar to Gin in that it is best consumed as part of a cocktail.  Rum cocktails gravitate towards the extremely sweet, and thus should be consumed with abandon when lack of decorum is desirable.  Note that an overabundance of sugar leads to killer hangovers, so follow the rule of one and one religiously when consuming rum drinks.  Rum drinks are not suitable for conversations, but instead physical activities such as dancing or… ah, other vigorous particularly intimate physical activities.


Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.


    • Also, am I right that this post could have easily have come from an early-era collection of O’Rourke essays?

      • P.J. gives quite the proper amount of attention to that which alters his mind state. Those musings of his are often his best.

      • People who talk about manly drinks should try and drink boilermakers with me. There are no other “manly” drinks.

        Less humorously, the fact that other people think drinks in general have a sex-characteristic is telling on several levels.

        • There’s a restaurant here in DC that serves a modified boilermaker made of Bulleit bourbon, lemon, and Fat Tire (they call it a Boiler Room). I ordered it one night when they were out of Fat Tire, so we decided to make it with a Miller High Life instead. It was… phenomenal.

          God, that’s embarrassing to admit.

          • As will I.

            Fair warning in advance, though, that by the end of the evening I will be calling you all my best friends, and excitedly suggesting that we just quit our jobs and open our own bar, *right here*!

        • “Less humorously, the fact that other people think drinks in general have a sex-characteristic is telling on several levels.”

          Ten explain the apple-tini, smart guy.

          • The Appletini is an attempt to get people with a sweet tooth to drink vodka instead of Rum drinks.

            This is improper for several reasons.

            (correlations are not the same as characteristics).

          • Hmmm….

            No. I’m almost buying it, but not quite.

            I think the Appletini was created as a very specific and targeted attempt to allow young women to get drunk.

          • There is a high correlation between “young women” and “people who prefer sweet drinks”.

            Generally speaking, there is a high correlation between “young women” and “people who young men want to get liquored up so as to improve their chances of not looking like a total dork to said person” (there is also the less charitable and more common explanation as well, granted).

            If you’re trying to get someone to loosen up (and this usually at least subliminally includes yourself), you already have an entire class of liquor dedicated to the task: drink Rum Drinks.

            Appletinis are an attempt to make a Rum Drink that makes you *look* like you’re sophisticated and want to discuss matters that are weighty and of import when all you really want to do is have fun. It’s inherently dishonest.

            If you want to talk about matters that are weighty and of import, order a couple of martinis. If you want to dance, get a couple of Mai Tais. If you want the second, but you want to *look* like the first, you’re probably a pretentious ass.

            There’s nothing wrong with Mai Tais. There’s something culturally disturbing about appletinis.

            They do taste good, though.

          • This may be true. (About the Appletinis, that is. The part about Mai Tais is absolutely true.)

            If you *are* right about the Appletinis, however, I must say that whoever decided that the way to make a drink look sophisticated was to make it neon green and put it in a sugar rimmed glass wasn’t very good at making things look sophisticated.

          • That’s another reason to regard them as inferior. Poor execution.

          • A perfectly acceptable middle-ground drink is the Sidecar. Doesn’t take itself too seriously, but also thinks it will sit out the limbo, thanks all the same.

        • No, I do not have a fondness for Midori. I’m comfortable with my sexuality; that does not mean I wear a skirt.

          • My (blessedly brief) Midori sour phase overlapped almost perfectly with my exuberant just-out-of-the-closet period. In celebration of snapping out of it, I developed a fondness for dry (gin) martinis, which persists.

          • That’s funny. I think of Midori-ish drinks as being starter drinks for that period of time between when we want to get drunk but are still used to sodas and that period of time when we have acquired a taste and can sip at gin and scotch without gagging.

            Like how we all start with the mild salsa as kids and work our way up to X-Tra Caliente!

  1. This is one of my favorite posts in the history of the League. My goodness was that well done.

    The vodka and rum sections had me laughing out loud. And the Bloody Mary advice is downright SAGE.

    • Thanks, Ryan.

      Just speaking from the heart, in this case.

  2. My first mixed drink was a Rob Roy.

    I was 20. I had asked, goofily, for a Roy Rogers.

    They brought me a Rob Roy.

    I was *BLITZED*.

  3. I’m amused that nobody is asking what the rule of one and one is.

    • I took it to mean “drink only one,” though I suspect you might mean you have to drink a glass of water for every one of the alcoholic beverages consumed.

      • The second.

        I follow the rule of one and one pretty religiously; for every cocktail/drink, consume one glass of iced water in a highball glass (~6 oz).

  4. People who drink bourbon neat are seriously dangerous alcoholics and/or geniuses.

    I’m a genius? Who knew? I’m certainly not an alcoholic, but ice is to be added to bourbon only when the ambient temperature is above 90 degrees.

    Otherwise, an outstanding post.

    And for fun, here’s my bourbon horror story. Some years back a college student learned that I drank Maker’s Mark, and excited about our kindred interest invited me to a party. Where he proceeded to mix the Maker’s with Coca Cola. Unkind words were exchanged, and we never drank together again.

    • Dang. I am not a genius. So this post would have been useful to read before last night’s round of neat bourbons! At least I don’t have to go through the denial phase . . .

    • I submit that an amendment to the rule on bourbon may be in order. The amendment shall read: People who drink bourbon neat are seriously dangerous alcoholics and/or geniuses unless said bourbon be wheated, in which case the person merely has good taste.

      This would result in exempting Maker’s Mark and Pappy Van Winkle as well as putting fans thereof in the appropriate classification.

  5. You know I’m really seriously engaged in a bender when I ignore the “no cocktails” rule for Irish Whisky and make one of these:

    Note: do not order one of these in the presence of anyone who is actually Irish (as opposed to Americans of Irish descent), especially if you’ve been drinking Irish whisky with them.

    • My brother is a brewer, and New Year’s Eve the brew-pub he works for had a fancy five-course dinner paired with five different beers.

      I had work and didn’t have the $50 admission fee, so I just stopped by to drink at the bar, but I did manage to score a free desert:

      An Irish Carbomb Custard (paired, of course, with the stout). Stout-based custard on the bottom, with Irish Cream custard layered on top. It was amazing. I’m now tempted to try the drink.

      • If you try an Irish Car Bomb, be forewarned that you have about 6 seconds to down the thing before it congeals.

        It’s like a boilermaker with a timer.

  6. “Scotch, single malt or blended: neat, or watered down if and only if the source bottle is cask strength.”

    Unnecessarily limiting. You can often water sub-cask strength whisky to good effect. Try it some time. Get a dram of something you enjoy and add water one drop at a time, nosing between drops. You’ll be surprised by how much change there is with each drop added.

    (A malt enthusiast group that I use to know held a tasting just for the *water* to be added to their whisky. If memory serves, Poland Springs was their consensus winner.)

  7. Figure this out: I like Long Island Iced Teas. I like Margaritas. Both contain tequila. Yet tequila itself I find terrible (tastes and smells like onion to me). And I’ve tried brands just this side of Patron, still haven’t encountered a tequila I can stand as shots.

    My favorite hard liquor…I’d say toss up between rum & whiskey. Rum I lean more towards for mixed drinks, while whiskey I’ll take just over ice.

    • I have a story about tequila wherein it is assigned terribleness not through its own fault.

      That’s a topic for another day.

      Tequila is a lot like Gin, actually. They both have a distinct flavor that a lot of people don’t like, raw, but that blends in odd ways with other things that results in a concoction that those same people like… so it doesn’t really surprise me that you’re one of those.

      If I’m stuck on a desert island and I have a couple of casks that washed overboard with me, and I get to pick what’s in ’em, I pick whiskey myself.

    • And I’ve tried brands just this side of Patron, still haven’t encountered a tequila I can stand as shots.

      Good tequila should not be drunk as a shot, but rather should be sipped and savored.

      • I wonder how much of the appeal of good tequila is attached to things in your head. By which I mean, this summer when it is 85 degrees I will enjoy sipping on some fine Patron Silver. But the thought of doing so now under cold and grey Oregon skies has no appeal whatsoever.

  8. “High quality tequila can be consumed neat; otherwise limit your consumption to 6 oz or less consumed in said margarita form.”

    I would also add that high quality tequila is the best liquor for body shots. Not those body shots that the barely legal kids do in Cancun over spring break, but the shots that you and your partner do behind closed doors when the kids are staying with their grandparents for the weekend.

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