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The best 3 ways to drink scotch for beginners

Looking to broaden your scotch horizons? Naturally, we approve. 

Whisky is loved all over the world, and yet it’s not a drink that many begin their spirit drinking journey with. There’s often an element of mystery and undue intimidation surrounding how to drink scotch, and we’d hate this to get in the way of you enjoying a dram.

This simple guide on how to drink scotch will bust myths and give you the know-how you need to begin drinking whisky, and find what variations and combinations float your boat and tickle your tastebuds.

Before we dive in, we want to share that there’s no right or wrong way to drink scotch. Regardless of whether you’re a total whisky novice or a longstanding scotch enthusiast, you do you. 

But we appreciate that when you’re brand new to a concept, you need a little guidance and knowledge to actually discover how you like to enjoy it. 

So, let’s get into it…

how to drink whisky

What exactly is scotch?

Whisky and scotch – you’ve probably heard these terms being used interchangeably, but is there a difference? 

Yes, indeed. 

Scotch can only be made in Scotland. It’s the most well known type of whisky, which makes sense seeing as whisky making did originate in Scotland, but whisky is actually made all over the world. Bourbon whiskey was invented in America, and Japan is known for their distilleries in Honshu that make creamy, spicy whisky.

All the scotch we make is pure single malt, meaning it only contains malted barley from a single distillery, and that distillery is located near Ballindalloch in Moray, within Scotland’s Speyside region. You can even pay us a visit if you’re ever in the area. 

As the oldest legal distillery in the Glenlivet parish, we’ve been making smooth and full bodied single malt scotch in Speyside for two hundred years, and not much has changed in that time. 

To cut a long story short, barley, water and yeast are the magic components that create our whisky collection. It’s an artful process of malting, milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation (try saying that five times in a row) that produces the unique drink that you can then enjoy neat, on the rocks, or within a refreshing cocktail.

That brings us nicely onto the subject of the different ways you can enjoy our single malt whisky…

Best ways to drink scotch

One of the best things about drinking whisky is that it can be as simple or elaborate as you like.

Scotch is an incredibly versatile spirit, making it a great foundation for all manner of drinks. You can serve scotch on its own over ice for a sophisticated beverage that allows you to appreciate whisky’s complexity.

You can also combine it with soda, fruit juice or tea for a delicious highball that makes the whisky accessible without any compromise on flavour. Or use it to craft classic cocktails such as a Mint Julep, a Sazerac or a Hot Toddy which really lean into the character of scotch by pairing it with contrasting or complementary flavours.


The simplest way to drink whisky as a beginner is to try it neat, cleansing your palate after each sip with a little cool water. You can also add a few drops of water into the whisky directly. This helps open up the flavours of the spirit while also reducing whisky burn. Just don’t add too much water at once!

Drinking it neat is a particularly good option for aged or rarer whiskies that deserve a sip without any other ingredients impacting the flavour. Drink at room temperature without water first to note the bottle’s individual notes.

We know that trying a spirit neat can seem intimidating, but just take it back to the basics. Add about 2 ounces or 60ml of your choice of scotch to a glass; we highly recommend a tulip glass, but any will suffice.

You don’t require any special skills to drink whisky this way – take a sip and see what happens. Cleanse your palette with some water and then take another sip. If you find it a little too powerful, then add a few drops of water to your glass instead. Compare your thoughts with friends and see which flavours stand out to you, or simply enjoy the scotch without thinking too much into it.

It’s not a test or a competition, it’s just you and some whisky.

On the rocks / with water

If you’re worried about finding neat whisky a little too harsh on your tastebuds as a scotch beginner, you can drink it on the rocks or with a splash of water.

On the rocks is a fancy way of saying with ice, and it has the effect of both cooling your whisky down and diluting it slightly, which will tone the “burn” down a little.

There’s a fair amount of debate on whether whisky drinkers should water or cool whisky down, and some avid scotch sippers are adamant that whisky should always be drunk at room temperature, as they believe it better highlights each individual flavour.

Feel free to read more about whether you should drink whisky with ice, but remember that it comes down to personal preference. The best way to drink whisky as a beginner is the way you enjoy it most. You’re the expert when it comes to your own preferences.

How to drink scotch on the rocks
On The Rocks The glenlivet


Scotch on the Rocks. The Glenlivet way.


ml oz
Ingredients Unit
The Glenlivet 12 Year Old
50 ml


  1. Pour your whisky.
  2. Add as much ice as you like.

In whisky cocktails

If you want to experience the versatility of good scotch, a whisky cocktail is the way to go. There really is scotch cocktail creation to satisfy all tastes, and it’s a fantastic way to drink scotch as a beginner. 

We recommend starting with a timeless classic such as an Old Fashioned. We prefer making this American invention with The Glenlivet 18 Year Old, along with the classic components of bitters, sugar and fresh orange for the garnish.

Or if you prefer a tarter tipple, the Whisky Sour could be your cocktail of choice. This quintessential scotch cocktail makes good use of whisky and lemon as a dynamic duo. Fresh citrus flavours pair beautifully with rich and earthy tones of quality scotch.

On the other end of the spectrum are vibrant and modern scotch cocktails such as Paper Plane, a bittersweet whisky drink made with Aperol, and Coco Lime Smash, a totally tropical concoction with the leading role taken by The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, a single malt scotch finished in barrels previously home to Caribbean rum.


As classic as they come. The Glenlivet Whisky Sour.


ml oz
Ingredients Unit
The Glenlivet 12 Year Old
50 ml
Lemon Juice
25 ml
Simple Syrup
12 ml
Egg White or Aquafaba (Optional)
12 ml


  1. Build in shaker.
  2. Add ice and shake again until well-chilled.
  3. Strain into glass.

After you’ve tried some whisky cocktails, why not use your flavour findings to create your own? Remember, there’s no rules on the bar cart.

We’re sure you’re itching to crack open the whisky and savour some scotch sensations now you’ve reached the end of our guide on how to drink scotch for beginners. 

Get started with our huge selection of whisky cocktails recipes, and feel free to brush up on your knowledge of how scotch is made, and what whisky drinks to order at the bar

Be playful and have fun figuring out what your way looks like – cheers!