What A Down Cocktail Really Means

You've probably ordered a classic cocktail on the rocks in an old-fashioned or lowball glass. But have you ever ordered a down cocktail? This rebel is different from your typical whiskey smash or trendy paloma. A down cocktail is served in a rocks glass but it has no ice. A seeming anomaly — but with a purpose. And while you might think it is the same as serving a drink neat, it isn't. A neat drink doesn't have ice, but it must only be a single ingredient. Mixed drinks cannot be neat.  

Why no ice? This chilly ingredient dilutes alcohol as it slowly melts, but some cocktails are better when they are unencumbered and their flavor profile is allowed to take center stage. The sazerac, which is a combination of rye whiskey, absinthe, bitters, and sugar, is a great example of a down cocktail that has no ice but is served in a rocks glass. However, don't be deceived by its simplicity. This sophisticated drink is about savoring its curated blend. Ice would prohibit your mouth from having the true experience that this drink offers.

Room temperature vs. chilled

Regardless of what type of glass a drink is poured into, why are some cocktails served at room temperature while others need to be strained over ice? It might seem random, but it is far from it. There are boozy drinks that need their harsh nature to be tamed, and ice does just that. On the other hand, serving a drink at room temperature gives you the opportunity to experience those nuanced notes that you otherwise would not. Bourbon and brandy drinkers tend to like their drinks neat (aka sans ice) so they can feel all the floral, woodsy, sweet, and spicy notes at their optimal.

But some drinks require a cooler environment. Vodka and gin are good examples of this. Not only does their consistency change to something that is a little more syrupy than liquid when you place these bottles in your freezer, so does the temperament of their taste. They are less sharp to the taste buds.