In December, it's high time to put down that mojito — even if it's still a lot balmier than we were all expecting for an East Coast winter. “There’s a tradition of when it gets colder outside, people switch from light-colored spirits to dark-colored spirits,” says Ron Murphy, Spirits Buyer for Fine Wine & Good Spirits. “So you might drink rum and tequila in the summertime in your margarita, but in the winter switch it up to a cognac, maybe a Bourbon.”
Unless vodka is your consistent drink of choice — which, Murphy says, “is one of those things that’s drunk year round, no matter what” — now’s the time to warm up with a dark spirit like whiskey.
Not all whiskeys are created equal
The basics: If you’re holding a bottle of something called whiskey, bourbon, rye or scotch, you’re holding whiskey. They’re made in different countries and they taste different from each other — but they’re all distilled from fermented grain mash.
“A lot of times I’ll drink Irish [whiskey] in the summer, because it’s a lighter style. Or a Canadian rye, like Crown Royal. The flavor is lighter,” Murphy explains. “In the wintertime, I’ll switch to a bourbon or an American rye, because they’re heartier, they’re warmer — they’re spicier. You get that nice warm feeling when you drink a nice bourbon.”
The warmth comes from “heavier material,” Murphy adds: “bourbon is predominately corn.”
Fruit-forward for beginners
If you’re new to whiskey, start with a flavored version — and no, we’re not talking about shots of Fireball. You can find everything from black cherry bourbon, to apple pie, to maple, designed for sipping.
“You have things like honey bourbons, which are great during the wintertime,” Murphy says. “They’re also really good for people don’t drink bourbon all the time. It’s got that lighter, sweeter edge to it.”
Not ready to go neat?
Here are two whiskey cocktail recipes to try, including a bubbly option for New Year's Eve.
2 oz. Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey
1 tsp. honey
A good squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Pour Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey into a mug. Add honey, a cinnamon stick and lemon juice. Top with boiling water and stir.
1 oz Evan Williams Bourbon, chilled
2 Tbsp vanilla bean syrup (recipe below)
Enza Prosecco, chilled
Add bourbon and vanilla bean syrup to a chilled champagne glass and top with prosecco.
Vanilla Bean Syrup: Combine ½ cup sugar, ½ cup water and ½ vanilla bean pod, split and seeds scraped.
Bring to a boil in a small pot over medium heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature and discard the vanilla bean pod.