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“I’ll have a scotch on the rocks”. It’s a phrase that has been uttered by countless characters in movies and customers at bars. It’s certainly a common order but what exactly is it?

A scotch or whisky on the rocks is a straight pour of scotch whisky served only over ice. It’s an extremely popular way of drinking whisky, with many saying it’s the best, as there are no other ingredients to affect the taste of the liquid. The ice acts as a chilling agent, gently diluting the whisky to soften the burn. Simple, sophisticated, and timeless.

However, drinking scotch on the rocks still takes effort to get right. So, we’re here to help make sure you get it spot on, serve after serve. After explaining this much-loved way to drink whisky in a little more detail, we’ll try to settle the ice or no ice debate. Then, we’ve got some handy advice on how to drink scotch on the rocks in a way that will ensure you enjoy every second of this classic tumbler drink, from the first pour to the final sip.

What is scotch on the rocks?

Scotch on the rocks is a popular alcoholic drink made with scotch whisky served over ice cubes. Scotch is a type of whisky that is produced in the whisky regions of Scotland and has specific regulations for its production. It is known for its rich, complex flavours, which are derived from the grain used in its production and the process of ageing in casks.

‘On the rocks’ refers to the addition of ice to the drink, however, the origins of the term are shaky. Some believe ‘on the rocks’ dates back to when Scottish drinkers used to cool their whisky down by using actual rocks taken from the nearest riverbed. Others theorise that it was used to describe how chunks of ice looked when chipped from a large block before ice cube trays became commonplace. Nowadays, the term has become synonymous with a spirit served neat over ice cubes in a glass.

Is scotch better straight up or on the rocks?

The question of how to drink whisky – served straight up or on the rocks – is largely subjective and depends on personal preference. Both serving methods offer different experiences and can enhance or alter the flavours and characteristics of the whisky.

Drinking Scotch whisky neat allows you to fully experience the whisky’s undiluted flavours and aromas. It can showcase the whisky’s complexity, intensity, and the full range of characteristics. Some whisky purists will argue that serving scotch neat is the best way to appreciate the craftsmanship and nuances of an expression.

However, serving scotch on the rocks has its own merits. The addition of ice cubes can lower the temperature of the whisky, making it more refreshing and providing a different sensory experience. The ice can also dilute the whisky slightly, which may mellow some of the flavours and make it smoother on the palate. This can be appealing to those who prefer a less intense drinking experience.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to what you enjoy. Some people like trying different serving methods to see how the flavours evolve and others switch it up depending on the occasion. It’s worth experimenting with both options to determine which one you prefer, and you can even experiment with whisky types from around the world to see how the addition of ice impacts the taste.

How do you drink scotch whisky on the rocks?

Serving scotch on the rocks is pretty straightforward; it’s scotch and ice after all. However, to get the most out of the experience and the flavours of the whisky, there are still some things worth keeping in mind. To that end, here are our top tips for how to drink scotch on the rocks:

Quality matters: Choose a high-quality Scotch whisky that suits your taste preferences. Different brands and expressions offer unique flavour profiles, so explore and experiment to find the one you enjoy the most. The Glenlivet rare whiskies have unique and exciting characteristics if you are looking for something new to try.

Ice matters too: Consider the size and quality of the ice cubes you use. Smaller cubes will be quicker to melt, so may water down the whisky too much. Larger ice cubes melt more slowly, resulting in a more controlled dilution. If you want to get creative, you can even use ice spheres.

Let it breathe: After pouring your Scotch whisky over the rocks, allow it to sit for a few moments. This allows the whisky to gradually reach its optimal temperature and lets the flavours open up a bit before you start sipping.

Sip slowly: Take your time to savour the flavours and aromas. Scotch whisky is meant to be enjoyed slowly, so sip it and let it coat your palate, allowing you to fully appreciate the nuances and complexity of the spirit.

Experiment with ratios: The ratio of whisky to ice can greatly impact the taste of your drink. Feel free to change the amount of ice you use to find the balance that suits your preferences. You may want to start with a smaller amount of ice and gradually add more if desired.

You can also add a few drops of water to scotch instead of ice to mellow the whisky without cooling it down. Doing so lowers the alcohol’s ABV and mildly affects the flavour.

Glassware for drinking scotch on the rocks

When it comes to how to drink scotch on the rocks, the glass you use is important. A classic rocks glass, also known as an Old Fashioned glass, is a short, wide tumbler with a thick base. It is a popular choice for serving scotch whisky on the rocks as the wide opening allows you to appreciate the aromas while the heavy base provides stability for muddling and swirling the ice cubes. Alternatively, you can use a tumbler. It’s like a rocks glass but is slightly taller and narrower. It’s wide enough to add ice but still perfect for keeping your whisky chilled while you sip away.

How to make a scotch on the rocks

By now, we hope we’ve given you all the info you need on how to drink scotch on the rocks. However, just like how our scotch is made, we like to focus on the details at every stage, so here’s a succinct 5-step summary to scotch on the rock success:

  1. Select your preferred type of scotch and your favourite glass.
  2. Pour a measure (about 50ml) of scotch into the glass.
  3. Add 2-3 large ice cubes and give the liquid a gentle stir.
  4. Leave it to sit for a few moments so that the scotch and ice can mingle.
  5. Sit back, take a swig, and enjoy.


The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve on the rocks

The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve smooth scotch whisky is a great option whether you are new to drinking scotch sans mixer or you’re an on the rocks aficionado. It boasts the classic flavours that The Glenlivet is known for and a creamy smooth mouthfeel.


The Glenlivet 12 Year Old on the rocks

If you’re looking for something delicate yet complex to serve over ice, you won’t go far wrong with The Glenlivet 12-year single malt. It’s well-balanced, bright and features strong pineapple notes. Delightful when served chilled.

If you are looking for other drinks where the scotch is the star of the show, take a look at our whisky cocktail recipes for inspiration. There are Old Fashioned variations, 2-ingredient whisky drinks, and short and strong cocktails that we are sure you’ll love.