When I moved to Scotland over two years ago, one of the things I purchased on my very first trip to the grocery store was a bottle of Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky, aged 12 years. The handsome green bottle was encased in a tall, serious, emblazoned tin, with the prestigious history of the whisky detailed in gold lettering on the back (for quickie course of the proud tradition of whisky/whiskey, the Wikipedia entry is as good as any a place to start).
I stocked up on a number of basic necessities that initial trip – it was a new home, never mind a new country! – but the bottle of whisky still made the list of must-haves. I was already entertaining fantasies of newfound friends, colleagues, and yes, gentleman callers, popping round for a chat, a smoke, and a civilized drink. I was ready to embrace Scotland, and if Scotland would embrace me, I would greet it with a glass of decent Scotch and amusing banter! I was ready for this new life, and eager to partake in the cultural mores of my new home.
Ignoring the fact that I was never actually swept up in my envisioned social whirlwind (due to my inherent loner tendencies and the reality that it was so freezing cold six months out of the year that I left my apartment only to go to work and Blockbuster), the whisky did not go down as smashing a treat as I had imagined. Oh, I did have people over, but I quickly discovered that the offer of whisky was far less compelling than the offer of beer, wine, or a vodka mixer (all of which I fortunately kept on hand). It turned out to be a good thing I never sprung for a proper whisky tumbler, after all, as I couldn’t convince anyone to drink the stuff.
And why not? Because, well, it’s the province of actual sophisticates and hardcore alcoholics, as far as I can tell, with little room in between for the unprofessional drinker. Whisky is one of the many things (see also: marijuana, Tolstoy, skiing, tea, hillwalking, vegetarian cuisine, live jazz, manga) that I like in theory but don’t enjoy in practice. A good friend from high school and college, Mazy, had a head of wild, dark curls and a gorgeous smoky voice; Mazy would pull up to the bar, sweep grandly onto a seat, and order a whiskey, neat, when we used to go out. And people would swoon, rightly! She had noir femme fatale down to the overflowing milky cleavage. In contrast, I would edge up, tripping and dragging a three-legged barstool behind me, and ask for a Long Island Iced Tea, or a Cosmo if I was feeling ritzy. Sophistication: Fail.
So this whisky bottle, purchased in the best of faith, sat within the cupboard, neglected and slowly collecting dust. Tragic. I was prepared to hand it over to a street person, who would surely give it the reverence it deserved, when a miraculous thing happened: I learned how to make whisky palatable.
Considered consumers of whisky/whiskey will want to avert their eyes at this point, because what I am going to detail will be akin to a crime scene. The rest of you may find it heartening that there’s a solution to the problem of your own untouched, dusty bottle of premium Scotch. And this solution? Was discovered in Spain.
Some months later, I attended the Corrida de Toros in Valencia with a dashing Spanish friend. Before the fight, we went to one of the many cafes surrounding the bullring to indulge in a splendid snack of wine, jamón, and some customary rabo del toro (bull’s tail). I ended up in a broken-Spanish discussion with a few merry gentlemen at the bar who were clearly enjoying their drinks, and I was eventually coaxed to try a sip.
“Delicioso!” I proclaimed. “Qué es esto?”
“Whisky Limón!” was the enthusiastic reply. Whisky, really? How interesting! It tasted of whisky, certainly, now that I thought about it, but it was so surprisingly… pleasant! Even summery! That settled it for me. When we went into the bullfight stadium, very much like any American sports stadium except hugely historical and featuring the brutal slaughter of grand animals (another story), I was resolute. “Order me a Whisky Limón!” I told my companion.
A small word of warning: the drink I received in turn was akin to the Hurricanes I’ve had before in New Orleans, in that it appeared in a Big-Gulp-sized styrofoam cup, and, as I sucked it down enthusiastically (tasty!), proceeded to fuck me up (I was very nearly forcefully ejected from the fight on account of sobbing and noisily rooting for the bull, but again, another story).
Once recovered, a few weeks later, I introduced my concontion to the Scots: Whisky and Fanta Lemon was the name of the game, and since my dusty bottle was polished off, I’ve yet to hear a complaint from the many people to whom I’ve served it.
Genuine Scotch drinkers will find this horrifying, so know your audience, and, like many good liquors, it is about 40 proof, so don’t let the tastiness fool you (still-blushing voice of experience on that one). All that said, I highly recommend a bottle of decent Scotch Whisky and a few cans of Lemon Fanta for your next social gathering – you can thank me two days after.