As with anything involved with the murky science behind alcohol and drinking, whether to add water to your whiskey has long been a contentious topic. Some people swear by drinks on the rocks, others won’t touch anything that’s not neat.
But one group of scientists have now published a paper that lends some reasoning to adding at least a few drops of water to your whiskey. According to their paper, diluting the whiskey and lowering the alcohol content enhances the smell and taste, which — assuming you’re sipping and not taking shots — is good news.
The research, published in Scientific Reports, focused on the interaction of one molecule, guaiacol, which is responsible for whiskey’s smokey taste. The research found that due to the interaction between water, ethanol, and guaiacol, diluting your whiskey with water pushes more of the guaiacol molecules to the surface. That means they’ll hit your tongue and nose first, enhancing the taste and smell.
How much water should you add? Whiskey preferences are personal, paper co-author Bjorn Karlsson told NPR. It’s “very hard to say something in general.” Conventional wisdom would say somewhere between a few drops and one ice cube is a good place to start, but you’ll have to fine-tune your own personal preferences.