What It Actually Means To Order Bourbon 'Neat' Vs. 'On The Rocks'

America's native spirit is recognized by law, and the way bourbon is produced is uniquely defined. From the type of barrels used in the aging process to the percentage of corn used to make the drink, the distillation and production of bourbon is something to appreciate — nearly as much as the smoky flavor in each poured dram. While whiskey can be made anywhere in the world, bourbon is a distinctly American spirit that must be made on U.S. soil.

With or without ice, connoisseurs disagree on the best way to sample different bourbons. Regardless of whether you're placing your first order or you are a seasoned drinker, it's good to know what your options are the next time you step up to the bar with a glass of bourbon on your mind. Whether you choose to drink bourbon "neat" or on the rocks, you'll be well-informed on what each term means.

Beverage glasses with unique effects

Some bourbon drinkers insist that the best way to taste all of the flavor notes in a poured glass is to drink it "neat." Neat means that room-temperature bourbon is poured directly into a snifter or tulip-shaped glass that allows the drinker to detect subtle aromas. Also, heat from the hand warms the bourbon, releasing more flavors. Ordering bourbon "on the rocks" order means that your drink will be poured over ice and presented in an old fashioned glass. The inclusion of ice can dilute the original spirit. However, the water from the melting ice can also help turn down any elements that might be too strong or overbearing.

Because neat and on-the-rocks orders are served in different glasses, consider the kind of bourbon experience you want to have. Tulip-shaped glasses like the Glencairn can help elevate the unique aromatic experience of a poured bourbon, while an old-fashioned glass can help open up the spirit.