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 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.
- 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.