No matter who you are or where you go, a true old-time Scotch drinker is always respected. I don’t mean kids who drink Dewar’s and soda, I mean us men and women who have been a round the block a few times, played out a few hands for better or worse. Joes and Janes who won’t settle for cheap whiskey or a glass of beer. The vintage cocktail set. The hep cats (or hip crowd). The people who live in that ring-a-ding noir somewhere between 1950 and the cocktail lounge.
Don’t be disappointed if I don’t go into a long-winded spiel about how great Scotch is, which liquors are best, or the difference between blended and single malt spirits. You can find that jazz a million places on the net. No, this is just about how very cool Scotch can be.
••> In the early ’90s I had the honor of seeing live, in person, the Chairman of the Board. Frank was singing for his 70th Birthday tour, and Frank Jr. was conducting the orchestra. Steve and Edie opened for him, and when they went off, someone came on with a small table, two glasses, a bucket of ice, a bottle of water and a bottle of Chivas-Regal. He poured one glass full of water and the other full of Scotch. Frank swung a few tunes, cracked a few jokes (including introducing his son as the orchestra leader followed by “His mother called and said he needed a job”), and then went into a little monologue about his career. Part way through he went over to the table and reached for a glass. First he reached for the water, stopped, shook his head and drank the Scotch. After the applause died down, he said, “And now, I’d like to thank my two best friends for being here with me tonight. Mr. Chivas and Mr. Regal.” The place roared with laughter (everyone thinking he was thanking Steve and Edie).
Hands down, that alone puts this libation at the top of the cool list, along with the Martini and (for the Tiki lovers) the Mai Tai.
How do you take it?
Ask ten different Scotch drinkers what they drink and how they take it, and you’re gonna get ten different answers. Some like it neat. Others drink it on the rocks. A few still mix it with soda, and a lot take it with a splash of water to bring out the flavors. If you want to sound like a hipster from the ’50s order three fingers neat. I like mine double on the rocks with a splash. It’s amazing how many bartenders ask me ‘a splash of what’. These kids today.
Order Johnnie Walker Blue Label and people will know either you have so much money you don’t care what it costs, or you’re just showing off. Order ‘Scotch’ and people will know you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Call Johnnie Black or Chivas-Regal and drinkers will know you’ve got the good sense to order 12 year old booze; ask for The Glenlivet (or any of the decent Glens) and they’ll respect you as a single-malt cat. Order Macallen and they’ll know you’re trendy and read Playboy. If you’re at a swing dance, drop your hat on the bar and proclaim ‘Black & White and soda with a twist, Jackson.’ If you’re at the yacht club, quietly ask for a Cutty Sark and lemon. Order The Balvenie and they’ll know you’re a serious SOB.
Depending on where I am, I either order Johnnie Black or The Glenlivet on the rocks with a splash. It’s fun to watch waitresses squirm when they’ve never heard of either one. If you order Glenlivet in Key West, you’re probably going to get Johnny Black anyway, so that’s what I order when I’m down there. If I’m at an old-time lounge, I’ll order the Glen, or maybe even Chivas. If I’m in a strip club and my friend Sam is buying, I’ll order Johnny Blue all night long 😉
1. Dewar’s is for stripping the paint off the deck of your boat, not for drinking.
2. Blended Scotches are just as good, but very different from, Single Malts. In my opinion Single Malts are more flavorful and robust, but not as smooth as the good quality blends.
3. Every brand of Scotch tastes different, but has the same basic element of damned good. Chivas has a nice oak flavor. Glenlivet has a sort of butterscotch thing going. Johnny Black is just somewhere in between. That’s just my opinion, and open to debate. Some Scotch ‘enthusiasts’ will give you descriptions of flavor like a wine taster (‘notes of butterscotch and mocha underlay a rich peat and rustic oak aroma’). That’s fine if you’re into fluffy words. Just give me the booze.
4. Try different types of Scotch. Try the top shelf bottles like the above-mentioned, try the $60 bottles, try the $200 bottles. Decide what you like and how you like it on your own. Don’t copy-cat some other cat’s tastes. Be part of the club, but don’t play by the club’s rules. And most of all, don’t be a Scotch snob. Drink it, like it, let it speak for itself.
Well kids, that turned out a couple of tick-tocks longer than I imagined it would. Must be the booze.
“Drink up all you people, order anything you see. Have fun, you happy people, the drinks, and the laughs, are on me.” -Angel Eyes