"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee is brought to you by Miller Brewing Company, calling Milwaukee home since 1855. For the entire month of March, we're serving up fun articles on bars, clubs and beverages – including guides, the latest trends, bar reviews, the results of our Best of Bars poll and more. Grab a designated driver and dive in!
Welcome to a four-part series called "Women of Whiskey" that will run every Wednesday during Bar Month and highlight a whiskey-loving lady in this city of beer and brandy.
Michelle Hoff, a bartender extraordinaire who currently works at Miller Time Pub, sums up her feelings about whiskey in three words.
"Whiskey is delicious," says Hoff.
OnMilwaukee: What exactly is whiskey?
Michelle Hoff: It’s distilled alcohol made from fermented grain mash and aged in wooden casks. There are so many different kinds of whiskey based on the grains used, how long it’s aged, where it’s aged and so forth.
Would you say in the past whiskey was marketed to and consumed primarily by men? Has that changed?
In general, whiskey has gotten a lot more popular with both men and women. This is only from my experience, but I think among people working in the service industry whiskey drinking is pretty equal, but in the public it’s still a male-dominated drink even though more women are drinking it or trying it for the first time.
Whiskey is one of those drinks that if someone had a horrible experience with Jack Daniels at a college party they "swear it off" and never want to drink whiskey again. But there are so many different whiskeys out there – including Jack – that just because you have a bad experience with one doesn't mean there aren’t other whiskeys that taste completely different and that you might like if you tried them. It’s a very diverse spirit with so many different flavor profiles on all of them.
Do you prefer whiskey shots? Cocktails? Neat?
All of the above.
What is your go-to whiskey shot?
Do you particularly like any local whiskeys?
Kinnickinnic Whiskey from Great Lakes Distillery is really great. I love serving it to people here – being that the bar is in a hotel and there are many people visiting from other places – and I love telling them that this excellent whiskey was made just across the bridge.
Have you or would you ever make your own whiskey?
I think it would be fun. I probably can’t afford a distillery, but I’d totally make a "bathtub whiskey."
What is the difference between Scotch and whiskey?
Scotch is a whiskey that has to be produced, distilled and aged in Scotland for a minimum of three years.
There are more rules for bourbon. It has to be produced in the United States – a lot of people think it has to made in Bourbon County in Kentucky but that’s not true. It has to be made from at least 51 percent corn mash and in new oak barrels.
What’s new in whiskey?
There are a lot of new Japanese whiskeys on the market. Unlike bourbon or Scotch, which have regulations, Japanese whiskey has none and so it includes a variety of different styles.
Is drinking whiskey neat an acquired taste? Seems most people tend to like their cocktails icy.
Yes, unless you grew up sipping your parents’ or grandparents’ cocktails – people tend to drink what their parents drank – you might not like neat cocktails at first. I drink them with a glass of ice water or Coke on the side so I still get the ice. I also like whiskey with a little bit of water in it, which opens it up to new and subtle flavors.
If someone wanted a recommendation for a whiskey cocktail, what would you say?
A Manhattan or, and I know this is Wisconsin where we drink lots of brandy, but I also might recommend a whiskey Old Fashioned.
In your experience, is whiskey a seasonal drink?
How I mix it might depend on the season. In the summer, I would make a whiskey punch, but in the winter I’d be much more likely to get a hot toddy going. But personally, I drink whiskey all the time and it doesn't matter if it’s hot or cold outside. Whiskey is delicious.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.