When I first started drinking wine and decided to spend the time and money for further education and certification, I didn’t think about studying spirits as well. However, the course I wanted offered by WSET at the time, included both. (WSET stand for Wine and Spirits Education Trust. In the last few years they have split the two certifications, though they still go by the WSET name.)
It was in those classes that I got to spend time learning about a wide array of wines as well as spirits. It might have been where the bug for spirits bit me. If you were to talk to my husband he would say that his interest in single malt scotch was what swayed me. (He may be right as we cover more than one whisky event a year. That category alone includes his beloved single malt scotch as well as rye, bourbon and blended scotch whisky.)
Fast forward a few years and I found myself offered not only wine tasting opportunities but spirit tasting as well. There is one event that offers both wine and spirits, and in those my Contributing Editor Michael Perlis usually covers the wine while I do the spirits. It’s a bit different than wine tasting – the offered taste is smaller, you still sniff and taste, but spit all out as the alcohol levels are so much higher. With that said, I usually only make it halfway through a spirit tasting until my lips grow numb and I have to take a break.
From spirit tastings I moved into a little bit of mixology classes and started experimenting with making cocktails at home. We hit on a few favorites and have stuck with them over the years.
My husband, also a lover of both wine and spirits, started buying me gifts that the home bartender would need, and I returned the favor and found him some unique items as well. We now have travel kits, three or four shakers, different measures of “shot” glasses, bar spoons, single “rock” makers, simple syrup, brown sugar, sweet and dry vermouth, Amaro, Compari and other mixers, as well as a nice array of bitters, cherries, oranges, limes and lemons at any given time.
One friend, a fellow wine writer, asked me how I could like both wine and spirits. I found the question in and of itself to be peculiar, but answered anyway, I felt – and still do feel – that there are just as many discoveries in aromas and flavors in both. If you can detect things like fruit, nuts, botanicals, earth and wood in your wine you will be pleased to learn that some of the same aromas and flavors are in your spirits.
On hot days we often enjoy chilled Viognier, Chardonnay, Picpoul de Pinet, Sauvignon Blanc, sparkling…basically any white wine that we own. But, on some hot days we also have been known to enjoy a gin Martini, Moscow Mule, Aperol Spritz, Sazerac, Negroni, Margarita, Rob Roy, Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. Usually how it works is that we have a cocktail before (aperitif) or after (digestif) dinner, and a nice bottle of white wine with warm weather dishes such as salads, seafood, chicken and cheese plates. During the cooler days of fall and winter we often enjoy Rhônes and Bordeaux varietals with dinner, but still enjoy a cocktail before or after.
After our best meals, which usually means a beautiful sous vide filet and a red wine from our cellar, we often finish our evening not with a cocktail but with a nosing glass (aka a Glencairn) of one of our favorite single malt scotch whiskies. Then we linger over those flavors as well.
Now, how do you imbibe? Maybe it’s time to widen your taste profile a bit.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.