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I ordered a Jameson and ginger ale at a pub the other night and my brother asked me why I wasn't ordering it neat or on the rocks, since it was "pretty good" whiskey. Right now I'm having some good Kentucky bourbon (Willet) with Reed's ginger ale. Is this "wrong"? Does it matter if the ginger ale is good?

I know that this could be considered an opinion question by some but I'm asking if serious whiskey buffs would scoff at this or if they have done so in any specific literature. You know...collectors, bartenders, distillers, etc. What is the reasoning behind the common practice of discouraging mixing good or better whiskeys?

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In practice, Reed's is probably too strong a ginger ale to use as mixer as it might easily not only over power, but clash in flavor. That, though, is only speculation; like cos says, if it rates good to you, and you "know what you're missing", that's your right –  mfg Jun 11 '12 at 19:18
    
I have to agree with the close votes and flags on this question; it's loaded with vague/ambiguous/subjective phrases like "good", "wrong", and "serious whiskey buffs". If you can source this advice as a notable claim - as opposed to something that your brother or "whiskey buffs" said - and tighten up some of the wording so that it sounds less like a poll, then the community and/or mods might consider reopening it. –  Aaronut Jun 15 '12 at 22:44
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closed as not constructive by TFD, Aaronut Jun 15 '12 at 22:45

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

It is about the same thing as putting A-1 on prime rib. Mixers, like cola or ginger ale, tend to mask the flavors of the whiskey, something which is understandable for an 'inferior' brand but is thought of as 'taboo' for a 'fine' blend. The drink that results from mixing your fine whiskey with the mixers is (roughly) 'the same' as if you had mixed a cheaper blend, having concealed the subtleties that aging and craftsmanship have worked to create.

That said...if you like it, it is your drink.

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I agree that the taste is probably roughly the same and I understand the taboo. Sometimes I'm just in the mood for a whiskey and ginger ale and I would rather drink better quality whiskey than cheaper stuff, which I imagine is more harmful to my health. –  regularmike Jun 11 '12 at 14:00
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When dealing with commercial whiskeys I doubt that there is any real difference in the impact to your health. However, one difference that I have experienced is that the top shelf whiskey does give less of a hangover. –  Cos Callis Jun 11 '12 at 14:36
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Well, yes, mixing good whiskey with your average soft drink is going to be a waste of good whiskey, since it's likely to destroy any subtlety in the flavor.

With that said, Jameson is not really a "good" whiskey. It's middle-shelf, and I like it, personally - I wouldn't mix it with cola because I'm not a huge fan of mixing whiskey with cola, but it's not a sin like mixing a single malt whisky would be. I often mix it with coffee myself.

So the answer is that yes, serious whiskey buffs would never mix "good" whiskey with anything except a little water (preferably from the same source the distillery gets their water from). But if it costs less than $30 a bottle it's probably fine.

EDIT: as to your second question, it actually might matter if the soda was "good" too, but I think you'd have to ask the individual about that.

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If you want to get the best out of your expensive bottles of whisky, drink them without mixers like soda water, cola, or fruit juice. There are plenty of fantastic cocktails (even some inventive ones using young peated malts to imbue smokiness in the drink) out there, but you’re better off using blends or inexpensive malts for this as well. The quality improvement in the cocktail from using expensive whisky is just not going to offset the massive increase in price. You won’t be able to taste the fine nuances of a single-malt, and so you’ll end up “wasting” the money you spent on that nice bottle.

http://scotchnoob.com/2011/03/09/water-ice-or-neat/

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