Whiskey on the rocks isn’t to everyone’s taste, but new research confirms that whiskey really does go better with water. According to CNN News, adding water is the best way to drink whiskey even though those who try the mix can find themselves the object of derision.
Some dedicated whiskey drinkers at your local bar may insist that the grain-based alcohol should be taken neat, but many serious whiskey aficionados have for long been in favor of the on-the-rocks version. In Ireland, it’s also common in the cold, damp, winter months to warm up with a hot whiskey. The popular hot drink is made with whiskey, hot water, lemon, sugar, and cloves, and for the Irish, it might be considered the best way to drink whiskey when it’s cold out.
A new study published in nature.com’s scientific reports section shone a light on what exactly makes the difference when whiskey and water go together. The authors of the study took a close look at the contents of those specially-designed whiskey glasses and examined the molecular chemistry of the golden liquor.
A molecule called guaiacol is the invisible ingredient in every rich sip that changes the taste experience when it reacts to water. Guaiacol gives the smokiness that’s so closely associated with the taste of whiskey, and it has one part that likes water and one that dislikes water. Under different concentrations of H2O, the potency of the molecule changes, and that affects the depth of taste.
The ratio of water to alcohol in your glass of whiskey is essential to achieving exactly the right taste. More water pushes the smoky guaiacol to the top of the glass, and that means the enhanced flavor is right where your taste buds and sense of smell will find it. According to The Verge, the best way to drink whiskey happens when the magic number is 40-45 percent alcohol, which is achieved with bottled whiskey by adding a small amount of water.
Whiskey in the cask has a much higher alcohol concentration and can be dangerous to drink neat. If you toss back too much cask-strength whiskey, which is at least 59 percent alcohol content, you can end up damaging your esophagus as the whiskey burns its way down.
For those wondering whether whisky and whiskey are the same things, the travel blog, travelandleisure.com, explained that the difference is far more than a disagreement over one letter. Whisky is distilled in Scotland, Canada, and Japan, while whiskey is produced in Ireland and the United States.
Both words have their origin in the Scottish and Irish Gaelic language. Uisge-beatha is the Scottish Gaelic name for the amber alcohol, while Uisce beatha is the Irish version. In both languages, the literal translation is “water of life.”
If whiskey (or whisky) is the water of life, then clearly the best way to drink it is with added water, but not everyone agrees. There’s even an old Scottish air called, “She’s Sweetest When She’s Naked,” that refers not to a beautiful woman, but to whisky. Whisky or whiskey with no water or ice added is known as “neat” or “naked.”
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