For many people, having liquors “on the rocks” is a sign of sophistication, class, and really knowing your stuff.
For others, the idea might be a little more controversial. Interestingly, you have a spectrum of naysayers: those who feel the “bare bones” presentation of hard liquor is too hard on the palate, and those who feel that adding ice to your cup at all waters down something that was perfect as is.
Naysayers aside, if you’d like to try a few drinks “on the rocks” to see what all the fuss is about, adding a little ice to a glass of liquor can create a whole new experience. If you do want the chilled effect without as much water melting in, go for a bigger rock of an ice cube. On the other hand, if you do think a strong liquor could do with a little water to soften the sensation, small pieces of ice will melt faster and help the drink feel smoother on your tongue.
Next, all you have to do is choose the liquor. Here are the best liquors on the rocks.
Probably to no one’s surprise at all, some whiskey classics are absolute heaven on the rocks. From spiked sweet tea to scotch and soda, whiskey is no stranger to being mixed with a non-alcoholic mixer or even with water. In a glass by itself, a few drops of water can really help to bring out some of the subtler and more hidden flavors hidden in the liquor. Our recommendation is Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey.
For this “few drops” experience, you can take your whiskey with a single, big rock. This will allow only a minimal amount of water to melt in, helping to open up some of the hidden notes. The chilling will also bring the whiskey to a lower temperature which, interestingly, can also shift the flavor profile. Completely chilling your whiskey might bring the temperature too low for any of the flavors to shine through at all, which is why a single rock can be a great option to only slightly shift the flavor profile and help you to better know your favorite blended or straight whiskey.
Speaking of liquors that are no strangers to water, the gin and tonic is one of the most iconic cocktails in recent history! Nonetheless, there is plenty to be said about gin on its own—just look at modern recipes for martinis calling for less and less vermouth every time. In all cases, the gin is best served chilled. You may try Hendrick’s Gin.
Following this trend, serving yourself a glass of gin over a few rocks can be a wonderful way to enjoy this aromatic liquor. You’ll get the chilled crispiness along with all of the forward flavors that gin can promise. Enjoying your gin on the rocks can also help you explore the different flavor profiles that the liquor takes as it goes from just under room temp to properly chilled. Don’t be afraid to add a squeeze of lime juice to really call back to the gin and tonic feel, too.
For a lot of people, when it comes to tequila, the bite really is worse than the bark. Stories of sugary, bubbly, fun tequila cocktails can really distract from the fairly challenging liquor that tequila is when it’s taken straight. The all-too-infamous tequila shots really put an emphasis on the liquor’s high alcohol volume (and not so much on enjoying the flavor profile). The best option is Patron Silver Tequila.
The truth is that many tequilas are carefully crafted spirits that deserve to be enjoyed sip by sip just like other hard liquors, and not just pounded down with a slice of lime to follow. Taking your tequila on the rocks can help to curve a bit of the bite while also delivering the cool crispness we’ve come to love and expect from the spirit. Again, a squeeze of lime straight in the glass never hurt anybody, either.
If we want to take one step further into the world of challenging liquors, let’s get to know this traditional Mexican spirit. Mezcal is similar to tequila—their production processes are very similar but branch apart in a few important steps. And naturally, like tequila, Mezcal is far from an inoffensive sipper. Traditionally, this spirit should be taken straight and accompanied with orange slices, chapulines, and sal de gusano. You may try Casamigos Mezcal Joven Espadin for this shot.
Chasing your sip with a bite of orange and a bit of salt might not be enough to take on this spirit for everyone, which is where the rocks come in. While this isn’t strictly traditional, taking your Mezcal with a large rock can help bring the bite down a bit and help you slowly get used to this flavorful drink. A chilled glass of Mezcal with orange slices to chase never fails to make for a fantastic experience.