How to Drink Whiskey on the Rocks

Whiskey is a distilled alcoholic beverage made using fermented grain mash such as wheat, rye, corn, and other ingredients. It is among the most consumed alcoholic drinks around the world.

Ten percent of the U.S. population above 21 consumes whiskey multiple times a week, while another three percent consume it every day. [1]

If you are a beginner or have always been drinking whiskey neat, then you are in the right place, as in this article we explain how to drink whiskey on the rocks.

#1. Why Should You Drink Your Whiskey On The Rocks?

The primary flavor of whiskey is obtained from a molecule called guaiacol, which provides a better taste when the whiskey is diluted with the right amount of water or ice.

In a computer simulation by researchers, it was found that guaiacol floats to the top of the glass when the alcohol percentage of your whiskey is around 40-45 percent, which is the alcohol percentage in a classic Jack Daniel’s whiskey.

It intensifies the taste and smell, which can be enhanced by adding even a small amount of water to the glass. In addition, the water or ice will push guaiacol to the top of the drink instead of spreading it in the whole drink.

If the alcohol percentage is even higher, say around 59 percent, then it is even more critical to dilute your drink; otherwise, the guaiacol will disperse in the whole drink. [2][3]

#2. Quantity 

Many people ask me how much whiskey to have on the rocks, and I always say to start with moderate amounts. A 30 mL of drink would work fine. Pour your whiskey in a tulip-shaped whiskey glass for a great whiskey experience.

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I would suggest you not use a polystyrene or plastic cup for drinking your whiskey as they can leach unwanted flavors into the whiskey.

Drinking Whiskey on the Rocks

#3. Feel The Aroma

I suggest smelling your whiskey at least 2-3 times before taking a sip. Simply pull the glass close to your nose and take slow and deep puffs. Now let me warn you that the smell of alcohol may feel overwhelming initially, especially if you are new to whiskey or you are drinking a strong whiskey (40%-45% alcohol) like Jack Daniel’s.

But once that strong smell of alcohol starts fading away after the first sniff, you will be able to detect more flavors of the whiskey, which is a crucial part of the drinking experience.

#4. Try Neat First

Even though I always like my whiskey on the rocks, most of the time, I start by taking some sips neat before tossing ice into it. There are multiple reasons behind this.

  • To start trying whiskey neat first will let you understand the difference in taste when you drink it on the rocks.
  • It lets you enjoy the original taste of the whiskey before you put ice in and dilute it.
  • Even though “on the rocks” is my first choice, some whiskeys are just better to drink neat.
  • Some people might just not like their beverage to be cold.

#5. Now Time For Ice 

Ice is the element that makes your whiskey “on the rocks”. I mentioned above the benefits of drinking whiskey on the rocks now; let us see how to prepare it like a pro.

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Chilled whiskey is great and even better during summers. If you want to cool your whiskey properly, I recommend using 1.5-2 inch large ice cubes.

The purpose behind using large ice cubes is that they will not melt away quickly like smaller chunks of ice. Smaller ice chunks will dilute your drink much quicker and also most probably more than you want.

People even like to add ice balls to their drinks for better aesthetics, which serves the same purpose as ice cubes but looks better and maybe slower to melt due to their often relatively larger size.

If you want your whiskey chilled but do not want to dilute it, then adding chilled whiskey stones would be the best option for you as they are frozen whiskey.

Drink Whiskey on the Rocks

#6. Drink Slow

The real drinking experience lies in tasting the flavor of your drink! Slowly drinking your whiskey allows your taste buds to enjoy all of the whiskey flavors and notice every ingredient in it, which is not possible when you gulp it down.

I would suggest rolling the whiskey around in your mouth before you swallow it to get the best taste out of the whiskey. Many people even kind of chew their whiskey so that it covers their entire tongue and mouth.

I would also recommend breathing from your nose while you drink to get the full aroma of the whiskey.

#7. Know What You Like

When you are a newbie in drinking, it can be hard to understand how to drink whiskey properly or what type of whiskey is the best for you. There are chances that you might like your whiskey neat better than “on the rocks.”

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Drinking matters a lot depending on your personal preferences, and there are many options available for you to choose from. Experiment and decide for yourself your own favorite ways to enjoy your whiskey.

Parting Words

In this article, I explained how drinking whiskey on the rocks can enhance the taste of the whiskey by pushing guaiacol to the top of your drink. I also shared the right way to drink whiskey on the rocks with proper drinking etiquette.

I hope you found my how-to-drink whiskey on the rocks guide useful. I assure you that if you follow all the steps in the right manner, your drinking experience will improve greatly.

Please do not shy away from sharing your views on this article in the comment section and share it with others who can gain insights.

Happy drinking!



[1] – • whiskey consumption U.S.

[2] – Dilute whiskey with water

[3] – Dilution of whiskey