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How To Drink

December 3, 2009

This week may turn out to be all about drinking.  December isn’t the worst time of year to dedicate a week to the subject.  I mean, there are all of those holiday parties and family gatherings.  And up in Albany it’s getting dark before 5 p.m.  So if you are one of those people who wait until the sun goes down before you indulge in a tipple, December brings added joy.

“But wait,” you say.  “I already know how to drink.”
Well, maybe you do and maybe you don’t.

It never even occurred to me that people might need guidance on this subject until I bought a loved one a lovely bottle of Bonny Doon Framboise – a luscious raspberry dessert wine that pairs amazingly with chocolate.  And when I asked her how she liked the wine, she hedged.

“It was a little bit sharp.”
Sharp?!?

After some further investigation it turned out the problem wasn’t the wine, it was her.
She was drinking it wrong.

So today, I offer up this little bit of advice.  Especially since just yesterday I was talking about the joys of tasting Harvest Spirits’ Cornelius Applejack and their Core Vodka.  If you don’t know how to drink, I assure you that tasting these spirits would not be a joy.

It turns out the mistake being made with the framboise was that she was drinking it like water.  The wine went straight from the glass down her throat, glancing at the tongue on the way down.  She wasn’t chugging it, shooting it, guzzling it, or gulping it.  She was just drinking it, like one might drink iced tea.

Now I am not suggesting that you adopt a full tasting swish like Gary Vaynerchuck for everyday consumption.

I am suggesting that when you drink, you hold the drink in your mouth for a few moments.  That you allow it to roll over and around your tongue, and let the flavor receptors do their job, before you let it slide down your gullet.

And that holds true regardless of whether you are drinking wine, fortified wine, spirits, or beer.  Although it is absolutely critical if you are tasting distilled spirits.  I am concerned most people do not do this.

Most people, when you ask them what they like about a spirit rely on the same qualifier.  “It’s smooth,” or “It’s very smooth.”  And more often than not if people don’t like something, they will describe it as harsh or sharp.

Frankly, I find these to be horrible descriptors.  If you are tasting, or trying to taste, what you put in your mouth, sharp could be replaced by peppery or spicy.  Harsh could possibly result from a young unaged spirit that demonstrates a bit of raw distillate.  Neither of these are necessarily flaws, by the way.  On the other hand these perceptions could be because you just drank a sipping whiskey, but didn’t really take a sip.  You took a swallow.  And up until now maybe you didn’t know better.

But now you do.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 3, 2009 8:20 pm

    The mister just got a new single malt whisky to try. I found it a little sharp, upon hearing which, he declared “Have you read fussy little blog today?! GO READ IT RIGHT NOW!” I have to say, I’ll probably give it another taste now.
    P.S. As I’m typing this, I’m nibbling on a brandy soaked pear. Yum. Savoring = success.

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