Every fine libation has its decade, and experts agree that we are at the dawn of a new bourbon era. More men and women of all ages are beginning to enjoy small batches, single barrels, and reserves like never before. With this new increase in interest, a question I frequently receive as a bourbon bartender is “How can I get the same bourbon experience at home as I get at cocktail bars?”
Its simple! You can enjoy your whiskey, serve up guests, and accentuate your tasting experience like a pro with the following three essentials.
Ice, Ice Baby!
You may have seen whiskey served in fine establishments or overseas with a single giant sphere of ice that just fit inside the glass. By far, it is the most perfect way of serving whiskey on the rocks I’ve ever seen. Using a single large sphere of ice will last longer your my whiskey every time – The ice itself melts much more slowly than regular ice cubes, chills your drink to the perfect temperature, and one sphere is good for three drinks. If you would like to make whiskey ice balls at home, we recommend The Original Whiskey Ball mold. This specialty ice mold is made of flexible silicon that makes it easy to remove your spheres, and produces perfect circles every time.
Another great ice mold is the Tovolo Sphere Mold produced by Kegworks. They are sold in a set of two and produce two perfect spheres that look awesome in a rocks glasses. Your guests will love them for their novelty, and you will love them for their slow melting and long lasting properties.
Glencairn Whiskey Glasses
Now let me say, Im no bourbon snob. By the end of Happy Hour, you could probably serve me a Bookers neat in an old Mason jar and I would be just fine. But any civilized and respectable adult should have at least a few nice whiskey snifters or rocks glasses.
Bourbon snifters (sometimes referred to as ‘nosing glasses’) aren’t just pretty additions to your cabinet. Nosing glasses are designed to concentrate and release the complex aromas of the bourbon at the mouth with a deep enough “bowl” to allow you to swirl the whiskey. The tulip shape of the glassware will force the bouquet into your nostrils, greatly improving the way you assess your bourbon.
Rocks glasses are another great way to enjoy your single malt or small batch. The wide mouth reduces the nose of some of the stronger whiskeys out there, and makes it easy to add ice (unlike the Glencairn). You can find a set of 12 of the Bormioli Rocco Luna rocks glasses for as little as $36.
There are a variety of other glasses out there, including snifters, Sherry glasses, and Riedels. All the above variations have a profound effect on the tasting experience, so be sure to choose one that will help you get the most out of your bourbon. My personal favorite is the Glencairn Scotch and Whisky Glass.
Its Better With Bitters!
I believe that each and every bourbon drinker should have at least one fine bottle of bitters on hand. Of course, there is no one right or wrong way to improve a whiskey, but If you feel the need to spice things up then bitters are the way to go. There are a handful of essential bourbon cocktails that utilize bitters, including the Manhattan and the Old-Fashioned. In fact, the very definition of the word “cocktail” was defined in 1806 as a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.
There are four big names in the bitters market today. They are:
- Peychaud’s Bitters – Can be found in any gourmet grocery store, or via Amazon.
- Angostura Aromatic Bitters – Currently the most common brand of bitters, and can be found behind most bars, and in a growing number of liquor stores.
- Fee Brothers Bitters – Fee Brothers produces more than 70 bitters blends. To get their full catalog, contact them at (800) 961-FEES, or purchase their top 6 here.
- Gary Regan’s Orange Bitters #6 – A newcomer to the market. There are 12 to a case… and trust me, you will need a case. Its worthy to note that Regan’s Bitters are now produced by Sazerac – A Buffalo Trace company.
There is a fifth name, De Kuypers Orange Bitters, but its becoming increasingly rare. In fact, I have hunted around the internet for an hour and still to no avail. If you can find this stuff for sale anywhere, buy and horde as much of it as you can afford!