This Is How Whiskey Was Served In The 18th Century

These days, we enjoy our whiskey in Old Fashioned glasses, also known as whiskey tumblers or rock or lowball glasses. And there's a reason why Old Fashioned glasses are pivotal to our enjoyment of whiskey. The bottoms of Old Fashioned glasses are usually heavy and are meant to muddle cocktail sugars and ingredients. Their design is simple, so the drink itself remains the focal point and shines.  Around the early 19th century, Old Fashioned glasses surged in popularity and were gradually mass produced and made to be versatile and durable. 

But did you know in the 18th century, people enjoyed whiskey in a starkly different way? Because if you were living in the 17th to 18th centuries, chances were you'd be served whiskey in something called a quaich, a traditional drinking vessel invented centuries ago in Scotland, meant for enjoying special drinks like brandy or whiskey. Unlike modern glasses and cups of today, quaichs have two handles or lugs (the Scottish word for ears). 

In the past, you would share a quaich of whiskey or brandy with a friend or a Scottish clansman. The communal aspect of drinking from a quaich added social enjoyment. As both hands were needed to hold a quaich and drink from it, this vessel built trust and comradery. After all, no one could attack someone else with a weapon when each hand held a lug of the quaich. (Unless, of course, one used the quaich itself as a weapon.)

From ritual and ceremonial enjoyment of whiskey to practicality

Rich in history and tradition, quaichs of the olden days were made of wood, leather, horn, or silver. They were shallow and broad compared to Old Fashioned glasses. With more surface area for the alcohol to evaporate, quaichs likely enhanced the nosing experience of the drinks they held. And since they were made from materials that have natural fragrances and aroma, like woodsy and leather smells, quaichs also likely influenced the flavor of the whiskey they held.

Going to a bar these days, you probably won't be able to find a bartender to serve you whiskey in a quaich. However, despite their rarity in everyday use, quaichs have not faded into obscurity. They aren't ancient relics you can only find in museums now. These days, quaichs find use during wedding ceremonies, baptisms, and christening rituals. Scottish rugby and dancing competitions also use quaichs as trophies. 

While bars of today serve whiskey in Old Fashioned glasses for contemporary glassware's practicality, versatility, and durability, the quaich remains a poignant reminder of whiskey enjoyment's rich culture, history, depth, and diversity.