This Is What You Should Order at Your Next Holiday Party

Hint: It has to do with scotch.

The difference between scotch and other whiskeys?Single malt?Is it smoky?Okay, what should we order?

Hear the word scotch and images of dapper mid-century ad men likely pop into your brain. But the association between this smoky whiskey and masculinity is largely a myth, says Raquel Raies, scotch pro and brand ambassador for The Macallan distillery in Scotland. We asked Raies to give us a primer.

“Scotch whiskey has to be made in Scotland and aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels. But you won’t find a single-malt scotch younger than 10 years.”

“A single-malt scotch is made from one grain only: malted barley. Each distillery makes its single malt slightly differently. At The Macallan, for example, we’re famous for aging it in sherry casks. As a result, it’s very rich, very viscous, with dried-fruit notes. Blended scotch, like Johnnie Walker, on the other hand, is made from combining several single malts and other grains. It’s much lighter and good for mixing.”

“It depends on where and how it’s made. Distilleries on the island of Islay make single malt from barley dried with peat, which does give it a very smoky flavor. Highland Park also uses peat, but it’s composed of heather, which makes it much lighter and just a little smoky.”

“Try ordering it neat with water on the side. Start with a few drops, which will open up the oils, releasing more flavor. If neat’s not your thing, traditional whiskey cocktails can be made with scotch. I like to go more unconventional: Start with an ounce of The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old,and add champagne, lemon, and honey.”