In honor of World Whisky Day this Saturday, May 21, we sat down with Angela Dugan, co-owner of Dugan & Dame, handcrafted organic tonics and bitters, and head mixologist at Kapow, Penelope and Shaker & Pie, to get tips for novices and advice on how to grow our whisky bars at home.
As one of the most consumed spirits in America, whiskey is on a thriving trajectory. It’s certainly having its day on the drinking scene with old fashioned cocktails popping up on menus around town.
The distilled liquor can be made from a variety of ingredients like corn, barley, rye and wheat. A whiskey is from the States or Ireland while a whisky (no e) comes from Scotland, Canada, Japan and a few other counties. Scotch can only be produced in Scotland like bourbons are only from America.
While some have been sipping on this caramel-hued spirit for years, others are just discovering its allure and with such a vast variety of brands, expressions, styles and price points it can definitely get overwhelming.
Where to start: Stay within the bourbon category. To oversimplify it for a newbie, bourbons are primarily made with a corn base so they will be a little sweeter and friendlier on the palate.
To sip or to mix? Start with mixing it into a cocktail. It’ll have a sweeter profile and be smoother. To go straight to the spirit is pretty intense. With that said, Maker’s Mark is approachable with a good price point and tends to be a decent sipping whiskey (Note: it’s labeled as a whisky (without the e) even though it’s made in Kentucky because the company is honoring its Scottish heritage). Other categories have completely different profiles – ryes have a spice to them and Japanese whiskies tend to be smokier. So it really depends on your taste.
Favorite cocktail? Old fashioned is the trendiest, but it’s also the most versatile to play with. It’s the go-to because it’s so simple with just the whiskey, bitters and sweetener, but that can be honey syrup, maple syrup or something with fruit. Bitters also can change the profile. Plus you can make it more acidic or sweeter. It’s my staple.
Starting a home bar: Entry-level go-to whiskeys are always Jack Daniel’s and Jim Beam. But it’s more fun to pick a brand – like Redemption – and then choose their bourbon and their rye, etc. and have an entire line at home. Then you’ll understand the expression of one distiller using different grains and taste what those grains do to the whiskey. It’s a great way to understand the versatility of whiskey.
Proper storage: Bottles don’t have to be tucked away in the cupboard — you should showcase them — but keep them out of the light and away from heat.
Favorite food pairing? Whiskey can go with anything and it depends on the whiskey but I like pairing it with chocolate.
Final advice: Don’t be afraid to venture out and don’t listen to anyone else. It’s what your palate prefers. So just start tasting.
Recipe for novices:
2 oz Dewar’s 15 year
.5 oz Orgeat
2-3 dashes of D&D chocolate bitters
orange + lemon peel twist
Add whisky, orgeat, and chocolate bitters to the glass. Add ice to the glass and stir until chilled. Garnish with orange + lemon peel twist.