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things I don't understand II: hard liquor

brescd01

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I tried to learn about wine and while I was listening to an audio course on the subject I developed headaches related to wine. Then I moved to beer and I realized some of the beers were giving me headaches too. So now I am onto spirits specifically cognac and armagnac and I would love to learn how to drink them.

I want to love the stuff so that I can buy fine cognacs and serve them to guests. But the stuff BURNS. How am I supposed to drink it? I tried drinking it really, really slowly and it still burns. How does anyone get used to that?
 

Mr T

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It is an acquired taste. See the "how to drink scotch thread." Basically, you cut it with water until you can drink it and then back off the water over time. That burn that you dislike, will come to be a valued part of the drinking experience. And really, at some point you just don't notice it that much and can concentrate on the taste and smell.

Wine gives me headaches too.
 

akatsuki

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The burn is part of the enjoyment on a cold day.

Find something you like the flavor of, water it down and work your way up. I wouldn't start on a peaty scotch, but something mild and watery like a blend or Macallan. If you don't drink hard liquor, you are probably wasting your money on too nice of stuff - often the high end is all about distinct flavors for educated palates rather than people just starting out.

My wife started with bourbon for example - the sweetness of the corn mash was more tolerable for her. She is still not a huge scotch fan, but brandy is ok.
 

brescd01

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Thanks, that really helps! Why doesn't anyone write about this?
 

Huntsman

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It's odd, but I didn't appreciate cognac until after I had pretty seriously explored scotch, returned to cognac and love it. I've never cut a cognac and am really unsure about that, but a little seems ok. I would never suggest cutting a spirit that is under 125pf by more than like 10% the volume, or now it's like Scotch and Water, if you will. Bresch, of course watch the proof of the spirit that you are drinking -- if much over 80pf, it probably will be burn-y and cutting it would likely be advisable.

I would really very strongly suggest you try a serious rum. They are very, very approachable -- Ron Zacapa 23, at $40, is what I would suggest. If you want to try a Scotch, go for Cragganmore ($35); Cognac, Ferrand Ambre ($30), or Reserve ($65); Bourbon, Black Maple Hill or Rowan Creel ($40).

The bourbons definitely need water as they are usually bottled over 90-100pf. Likewise with scotch.

~ H
 

musicguy

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It all depends on the person. Liquor might not be something you'll ever like.

The first time I had vodka I didn't like it. I don't like it still. I hate bourbon.

The first time I had a good single-malt I loved it. Good tequila tastes great to me too.

Try different types of spirits and find one that you like. I recommend drinking them very slowly in small amounts. Especially for cognac, take in the smell, allow the flavor to fill your mouth. It's not like beer where you gulp it down. Imagine how long it would take to drink a beer and spend that amount of time drinking the cognac... or maybe more time like I do, since I associate cognac with really relaxing.

I agree with the burn being part of the experience over time. I also have to be in the right mood to drink liquor. I rarely drink it because of this and instead drink beer.
 

gamelan

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+1. definitely try as many different spirits as you can and you'll eventually settle on a few that you really like. i love armagnacs and gins but can't do vodkas or scotches (trying on this one though). bourbons are challenging but i do enjoy whiskey.

try this the next time you have a cognac or armagnac. dab a little on your wrist and let the liquor evaporate. smell what's left. this is the natural bouquet of the spirit. depending on how complex it is, even with an untrained nose (like mine), i'd be willing to bet that you can distinguish a good 2-3 different aromas in the mix.

damn...wishing i had a bottle of Dartigalongue at home right about now...

-Jeff

Originally Posted by musicguy
Try different types of spirits and find one that you like. I recommend drinking them very slowly in small amounts. Especially for cognac, take in the smell, allow the flavor to fill your mouth. It's not like beer where you gulp it down. Imagine how long it would take to drink a beer and spend that amount of time drinking the cognac... or maybe more time like I do, since I associate cognac with really relaxing.

I agree with the burn being part of the experience over time. I also have to be in the right mood to drink liquor. I rarely drink it because of this and instead drink beer.
 

eg1

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Originally Posted by brescd01
I tried to learn about wine and while I was listening to an audio course on the subject I developed headaches related to wine. Then I moved to beer and I realized some of the beers were giving me headaches too. So now I am onto spirits specifically cognac and armagnac and I would love to learn how to drink them.

I want to love the stuff so that I can buy fine cognacs and serve them to guests. But the stuff BURNS. How am I supposed to drink it? I tried drinking it really, really slowly and it still burns. How does anyone get used to that?


I think part of this is age: as you get older, stuff that tastes like dirt seems less unappealing -- think stink-cheeses, pate, cigars, peaty scotch and so on. YMMV.
 

Ben85

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Originally Posted by musicguy
It all depends on the person. Liquor might not be something you'll ever like.

The first time I had vodka I didn't like it. I don't like it still. I hate bourbon.

The first time I had a good single-malt I loved it. Good tequila tastes great to me too.

Try different types of spirits and find one that you like. I recommend drinking them very slowly in small amounts. Especially for cognac, take in the smell, allow the flavor to fill your mouth. It's not like beer where you gulp it down. Imagine how long it would take to drink a beer and spend that amount of time drinking the cognac... or maybe more time like I do, since I associate cognac with really relaxing.

I agree with the burn being part of the experience over time. I also have to be in the right mood to drink liquor. I rarely drink it because of this and instead drink beer.



I read that and stopped reading anymore. I can only drink hard liquor if it is mixed with something. I'm not a huge fan of the taste. It took me a bit to get use to beer now I love it, just not shitty cheap beer.

I love Tequila though. If its a little chilled all the better. I don't need the salt and lemon like most of the college Nancys out there.
 

Kyoung05

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Originally Posted by Ben85
I read that and stopped reading anymore. I can only drink hard liquor if it is mixed with something. I'm not a huge fan of the taste. It took me a bit to get use to beer now I love it, just not shitty cheap beer.

I love Tequila though. If its a little chilled all the better. I don't need the salt and lemon like most of the college Nancys out there.


How old are you? You sound like me at age ~21 or so - I started to appreciate the taste of beer, but only if it was some pretty high quality micro-brew. Otherwise, I thought the macro-brews tasted like carbonated piss (not that that really stopped me from drinking said carbonated piss only to get drunk). Fast forward almost 10 years, and I actually LIKE the taste of PBR. Same with whiskey - at 21, I thought Jack Daniels was so harsh I couldn't fathom people actually drinking it neat. Now, I still dislike Jack Daniels, but because I find it to be too smooth and watery (and lacking in flavor), while I find bourbons bottled at 100 proof (like Knob Creek) to be very enjoyable, and generally prefer to drink them without any ice or water.

Just keep at it - with age comes experience (and hopefully, wisdom), and you'll begin to appreciate things at a different level.
 

brescd01

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Sorry, 44! I just come from a very un-alcoholic family!
 

blackjack

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Before you rush off toward the whiskey, rum and cognac - you might want to spend some time trying to figure out whether your previous headaches were caused by sensitivity (or straight-out allergy) to congeners - by-products of alcoholic fermentation such as tannin.. If so, then darker hard spirits will also likely trigger those headaches. Better to veer toward clearer spirits lower in congeners such as vodka. Or, even worse, it might be the alcohol itself. If you have a mutant version of the ALDH2 gene, which mostly affects Asians but is also found in Whites, then it's alcohol that is contributing to your headaches and more. In that case, you're better off avoiding the booze. Look for another drug of choice.
 

GQgeek

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it's funny... i was like you and really disliked all hard liquor until i tried one in particular. I still don't like many others, but love that one brand... try different things, even with the same family of drink, and you'll probably find something you like.
 

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