New Year’s Resolution: try something new

Expand your horizons, I tell myself. Take a leap into the not-so-known (the unknown is a little too scary for me).

In the world of wine, spirits, and beers, that’s actually fairly easy to do. Many spirits are available in small (single-shot, or 50ml “miniature”) bottles—just right for trying a new flavor or brand without spending a lot of money.

Even those that don’t come in small bottles can be not-so-scary if you start with what you like, ask some questions, and remember to drink “up” if you aren’t sure.

First, what’s your goal? To find something that’s a better value than what you’ve been drinking? In that case, asking a few questions can go a long way. Let the associate helping you know what you like to drink: there are a lot more options for vodka to put in a screwdriver than, perhaps, in a martini, where every nuance of flavor is going to come through.

If you want to explore different flavors and styles, shopping “up” whenever possible is a good idea, because that’s where you’re more likely to find the interesting variations. Take rum or bourbon, for example. Small batch productions will be pricier, but they’re also going to have more character—they’re less “mixing spirits” than “sippin’ whiskey,” as my grandfather would put it.

If you’re a Scotch drinker, perhaps this is the year to break into single malts. Or do a Scotch club with friends and taste across the regions (just how does Islay Scotch differ from, say, a Highland malt? Not in theory, but in your mouth?), or even compare within a region. Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain are both from Islay; do they taste the same? What about Speyside Scotches Macallan and Glenlivet?

It’s a new year: make a resolution to try something new.

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