Get Your Party Started: Whiskey and Hors D'Oeuvres

Inviting friends and acquaintances over for drinks is always an exercise in indecision. What drinks do you serve? Do you just make finger food, or put out an entire spread? Add to this the fact that you are done with the whole chips, dips, and cocktails affair – something a little more sophisticated is in order. You have already sent out your invites, and thanks to all the procrastination, the d-day has arrived and you are unprepared and undecided as ever. Panic kicks in and the world starts swirling. Hold on to your horses, we understand your predicament and are there for you. How about treating your guests to some fine whisky and a select spread of epicurean delights?

To begin with, please note that you do not HAVE to serve wine alongside a cheese board – it’s not etched in stone, and even if it is, chisel it out. Whiskey surprisingly pairs quite well with cheese. All you need to know is that, just like wine, whiskey also has several flavor notes – ranging from fruity and flora, to nutty, woody and spicy. There is a rule of the thumb – think about flavors that go well with a particular kind of cheese and then look for a whiskey which echoes those. For example, Pyrenees Brebis is usually paired with red fruits. In the same vein, an Auchentoshan Three Wood, which is aged in Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks, constitutes a good choice as it carries notes of black currents which go well with the sheep’s milk cheese.

Just because finger food conventionally invokes images of breaded, battered and deep fried stuff, it does not mean you can’t break molds. If you don’t want to bake, you can easily buy soda crackers off the shelf. Dress some peppery arugula or watercress with lime, salt and olive oil. Slice some smoked salmon, or any smoky charcuterie and place it on your board, along with the salad and crackers. Mix some horseradish or wasabi with sour cream and scallions and serve with the board. Your guests can create their own canapes – a fun, exciting and engaging alternative to clinically serving plated food. The ideal dram to accompany the spread can be a Laphroaig or Talisker, as the smokiness of these whiskies complement the umami flavors of the smoked fish or charcuterie.

We would advise you to keep away from dips like salsa or humus. Instead, you can serve a smoky bademjan, dressed with fresh pomegranate kernels and mint. You can also serve liver or kipper pâté on slices of toasted sourdough bread. Don’t forget to rub your toast with a piece of garlic while it’s still hot for an unparalleled flavor. Really peaty single malts like Ardbeg, or something a bit more complex with floral notes like Highland Park will be stellar with the dip and pâté.

It is quite simple – acquaint yourself with the flavor profile of your whiskey. Reading about it also helps discern those tastes which untrained palates sometimes have problem with identifying. Once you know your range of flavors, it’s just a clever job of mix and match to produce surprising and wondrous combinations.

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A Deep Dive into the Rusty Nail

Rusty Nail is known to be one of the most popular Scotch Cocktails of all time. According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the Rusty Nail made its first appearance in 1937. It has been categorized under The Unforgettables in The Big Book of Cocktails and tastes very rough, as indicated by its name.

This wonderful concoction is made by mixing Scotch (malt) whisky and Drambuie (a sweet, golden colored 40% ABV liqueur made from Scotch whisky, honey, herbs and spices) and is commonly served in an Old Fashioned Glass.

The smoky savor of well-aged Scotch is abridged by adding Drambuie to the concoction, which makes the aroma slightly sweeter. It also imparts herbal nuances to it, without overpowering the characteristic undertones of the Scotch.

Quite a few variants of the Rusty Nail are served at different bars and restaurants around the world and various well-aged liqueurs are used as the base spirit. One has to serve this mix in glass full of ice-cubes. The shaken version of this cocktail is served in a Stemmed Glass or a Martini Glass.

Straight Up Nail is the neat version of this concoction, which is generally served without ice or garnish.

Make your own Rusty Nail

Pour lots of ice into an Old Fashioned Glass and add 30ml Scotch to it. The Black Dog Centenary can be a good bet. Stir the Scotch well with the ice while pouring 15ml Drambuie into it. Stir the mix carefully and add a dash of lemon juice into the mix. You can use cracked ice to keep this drink chilled for a longer time. If you are a Scotch lover, we ask you to popularize this once favored drink again, rescuing it out of oblivion.

Whiskey Met Sandwich and It was a Romance to Remember

Few things in life are more gratifying than sinking your teeth into a toasty grilled cheese sandwich oozing warm, gooey cheddar, on chilly winter evenings. So astonishingly simple, yet so satisfying— this classic dish continues to reign among favorites. How does one top such a meal? By accompanying it with a choice dram, of course. 

Here are some ideas for sandwich and whiskey pairings that are certain to elevate your gastronomical experience and make it a truly spiritual one.

Pour yourself a glass of Islay Scotch with that grilled bacon and cheese. The characteristic smokiness of peat matches the fatty, salty meat and cheddar marvelously. Scotch is unique because of its extra bite to the tongue. Cheddar too, has a zing that is accentuated by the Scotch. The Macallan Single Malt and Johnnie Walker are both good options. 

Peaty whiskies in general, such as bourbon, are perfect with barbequed meats. The earthy peat heightens the slightly charred aftertaste, while the sweetness of the marinade serves to balance the smokiness. Try a pulled pork sandwich with a dram of Woodford Reserve. Your taste buds will thank you.

A hot ham or pastrami sandwich dipped in a light gravy, is complemented splendidly by rye whiskey. Rye is spicy and grainy, with a stronger kick than bourbon. It combats the peppery, briny tang of the meat excellently. Rittenhouse and Wild Turkey produce quality rye whiskies that are great choices.

If a spicy chorizo is your sandwich meat of choice, why not wash it down with a sweet bourbon? It will even out the chorizo’s pungent paprika heat without competing with its robust flavor profile. The Jack Daniels Single Barrel makes a prime candidate for pairing, as does the Four Roses Small Batch.

Whether you like to whip up your own sandwich creations or haunt your favorite diner, make sure to pair it with a glass of fine whiskey next time.