Recently, I had someone approach me saying they bought a whiskey they didn’t like and asked if I could recommend a good cocktail they could make with it. This is more common of a question than you’d imagine. I believe it stems not just from buyer’s remorse but also that money was spent, and indeed there must be a way to salvage it.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: There is a big difference between a whiskey that is slated to be a “mixer” and one that is just not palatable.
My skills don’t lay in making cocktails. In fact, I’m a bit of a cocktail idiot. If you want a good cocktail coach, I’d recommend speaking to Erin Petrey, Bourbon & Banter's Cocktail Editor. (Check out her video cocktail series.) I can, however, still give some sound advice. To do that, we have to step away from the whiskey world a bit and go into the more general culinary field.
I have a handful of friends who are chefs. Some do it professionally; some are just damned good with a stove and whatever ingredients they have around. But, when it comes to booze, they all have one universal rule. If you don’t enjoy drinking the wine or spirit you have, don’t use it as an ingredient in food because you’re not going to like it that way, either.
One thing I excel at is occasionally ignoring the advice of people I trust. I believe I get that from my mother. I love my mother dearly, but when she asks for my opinion on something, it is like the wedding scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the King of the Swamp Castle gives his guards instructions to confine the prince to his room and not let anyone in.
Okay, in reality, she’s not as bad as that, but she’ll ask for opinions and either tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about or worse, she’ll do the exact opposite of what you just recommended. I don’t do the former. I will do the latter every so often.
Another talent I lack is putting together a complicated meal. I can make certain things like, say chili or a stew. I can also tell you that I’ve ruined those simple dishes using whiskey I wasn’t a fan of, and the truth is the only thing I ever tasted in those meals was the flavor of the whiskey I didn’t like, just like my chef friends suggested.
Now come full circle back to what to do with whiskey you don’t like. Don’t try to hide it in a cocktail unless your planned cocktail is whiskey and Coke, because nothing else you do will mask the taste of the whiskey you already don’t like, which means you’re not going to enjoy your cocktail, either.
Life is too short to try to salvage a whiskey you don’t want to drink. So, don’t. Give it away to a friend who might like it, or if you can’t, pour it down the drain. But, don’t punish yourself simply because you spent money on something you don’t like. Cheers!