Category Archives: Rye

Cleanse me with hyssop

You might remember from my recent Amaro post that Jen and I picked up a couple of herbs at the farmer’s market–lemon balm and anise hyssop. I wanted to use both herbs in cocktails; I muddled the lemon balm, but with the anise hyssop, I chose to go a different direction.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that anise hyssop bears distinctive notes of anise in its aroma and taste. You probably also won’t be shocked to find that I chose to pair it with rye whiskey. After all, absinthe carries certain anise notes in its flavors, and absinthe pairs well with rye in such cocktails as the Sazerac. I didn’t, however, want to simply replicate the Sazerac using an infused rye.

Instead, I decided to poke around with another New Orleans classic, the Vieux Carré. This venerable cocktail calls for equal parts rye, cognac, and sweet vermouth, with a splash of Benedictine and dashes of Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters. I retained the basic flavors, but played around with the composition.

photograph by Jennifer Hess; oh, and I’m not really interested in taking the time to make my ice cubes crystal clear, so if cloudy ice offends your aesthetic sense, that’s your thing, not mine.

Neuf Carré

2 oz anise hyssop rye (recipe follows)
1 oz B&B
1 oz Carpano Antica vermouth
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Build in a double Old Fashioned glass over ice.

Anise Hyssop Rye

Wash and dry one bunch of anise hyssop. Place in a jar and add 4 oz. rye whiskey (I used Rittenhouse 100-proof). Steep for 24 hours, or until the anise-rye flavor pleases you. Strain, and discard the anise hyssop.

Tawky Tawny

Yesterday morning, Jen was catching up on her blog reading and asked me, “Have you ever heard of the Ruby Rye cocktail?” I said No, and she said one of the food bloggers she reads had a drink by that name at Gramercy Tavern or someplace. All the blogger said was that the drink had port. I googled and found next to nothing. But a drink called Ruby Rye has to also have rye in it, I’d hope, so I decided to wing it.

I have a couple of bottles of Sandeman’s port that I received last month for review. I didn’t mix with them at first because I wanted to sample them on their own. Jen and I always like to have port on hand for Christmas and New Year’s, and so the arrival of the Sandeman’s was very timely.

Anyway, I didn’t get anything together in time for the Sandeman chat at Thursday Drink Night, but I wanted to mix with it, and this was a good excuse. I figured I’d make it easy on myself, because I am at heart a lazy bastard. So I went with a Manhattan variation, swapping out the port for the vermouth. It’s tasty, although I think a spicier rye might be better in it. (I used Old Overholt.)

AnonycocktailIt’s a simple recipe, and although I haven’t named it, I’ll give it to you here anyway.

The Cocktail with No Name

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey (I used Overholt)
  • 1 oz. port (Sandeman Founders Reserve)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters (Angostura)
  • Lemon twist, for garnish (I left that out, but I think it’s the way to go)

Technique: Stir briskly over cracked ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

As if it matters, this photo’s actually my own. I figured I’d take a crack at the pretty picture-taking myself for once.

Ward, weren’t you a little hard on the Beaver last night?

MxMo logoIt’s time again for Mixology Monday. If you’re new to this, Mixology Monday is a thing we cocktail nerds do. Every month, a different blogger volunteers to host, picks a theme, and posts a round-up after everyone has weighed in. (My previous MxMo posts live here.)

Anyway, for installment 34, Craig, from Tiki Drinks & Indigo Firmaments has chosen the theme Spice. I’ll let Craig describe what he’s going for:

Spice should give you plenty of room to play – from the winter warmers of egg nog, wassail and mulled products to the strange and interesting infusions of pepper, ceubub, grains of paradise, nutmeg — what have you! I would like to stretch the traditional meanings of spice (as the bark, seed, nut or flowering part of a plant used for seasoning) to basically anything used for flavoring that isn’t an herb. Salt? Go for it. Paprika? I’d love to see you try. I hear that cardamom is hot right now.

So, there ya go.

I thought about this one a lot. Mrs. Bitters and I do a lot of home cooking–well, she does most of it, but I get a few things in from time to time. And we use a lot of spices in our cooking. Last night, we were talking about this challenge. Jen suggested that I should flip through some of her cookbooks to find spice combos that might work with booze. She also reminded me that we had a pomegranate in our fridge. This led us to one of her Middle Eastern books, since pom is a staple in some Middle Eastern cuisines.

I found a recipe for cooking duck with walnuts, pomegranate, cinnamon, and a few other spices. The recipe reminded me of a drink I had at Hearth, in New York’s East Village earlier this year. The drink was called the Jim Hogg, and it featured a pecan-infused rye. I’ve wanted to infuse nuts into whiskey since tasting that drink, and this recipe got my wheels turning.

I grabbed a bag of walnuts from the fridge, tossed a handful in a Mason jar, and threw in a couple of sticks of cinnamon. I added some whole rainbow and white peppercorns, not too many. Obviously, you need to finesse the pepper. I used whole corns; if you crush or grind them, you’ll have an entirely too peppery drink. Finally, I added a strip of lemon peel. Zest would have been better, but I was winging all of this. Call it the mania of inspiration.

I poured five ounces of Old Overholt rye whiskey over this mess, sealed the jar, and shook it well. I stored it in the coldest, darkest place in the apartment and agitated it several times over the course of the 24 hours.

After infusing this stuff for 24 hours (probably too little time), I strained it. I decided to mix it with grenadine and lemon juice, and then realized this was a Ward Eight variation. Why not just go with that? A lot of drinks are nothing more than subtle variations of other drinks.

The results were fine, although probably underinfused. The drink carried hints of walnuts, cinnamon, and pepper, but only very vague hints. I think 48 – 72 hours of infusion would have been better.

Nevertheless, I present the Ward Cleaver, with the caveat that it needs tweaking. I’m working on a longer infusion with the same spices but in 101 proof Wild Turkey bourbon. The higher proof will draw out more of the flavor, and I’m going to let it go a little longer. Anyway, enough gab. Recipe follows.

Ward Cleaver

  • 2 oz. rye, infused with walnuts, cinnamon, peppercorns, and lemon zest.
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. grenadine
  • Dash Fee Brother’s Barrel Aged Bitters

Shake ingredients over cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish? You could go decorative with a cinnamon stick or a bit of walnut, or you could go for flavor by twisting on lemon peel. You could also get crazy! Pulverize a couple of walnuts, mix them with sugar, moisten the rim of your glass, and dip the rim in the walnut-sugar mixture. I would never do that, but maybe you’ll want to.

MxMo in the Crescent City

Mixology Monday logoFor this month’s Mixology Monday, which has a New Orleans theme, I’m going with a couple of drinks, both inspired by panels that I attended at Tales of the Cocktail.

The first drink is the Sloppy Joe’s Mojito, inspired obliquely by the To Have and Have Another panel, on the drinking life of Ernest Hemingway. Whether Hemingway actually drank Mojitos appears to be in some dispute. The eminent Eric Felten argues persuasively that he probably did not, but it is clear that old Papa frequented the Havana bar that originated this version of the classic rum drink. He even apparently persuaded the proprietor of a Key West saloon to rip off the Havana original’s name. So, who knows?

Charles Baker, writing in The Gentleman’s Companion, describes the drink thus:

Put several lumps of ice into a 16 oz collins glass, toss in 1 tsp sugar or gomme, insinuate a spiral green lime peel about the ice, turn in 1-1/2 jiggers of Bacardi; white, or Gold Seal, and the strained juice of 1 small green lime–not a lemon. Stir once, fill with really good club soda and garnish with a bunch of fresh mint.

What I love about this variant is that a) it’s not too sweet, and b) it’s not too minty. I don’t feel like I’m chewing rum-spiked Doublemint gum.

The second drink comes straight from the Beefeater reception at Palace Cafe and also the Juniperlooza session. I had heard of this drink prior to Tales, but I had never tried it. It’s the Jasmine cocktail, devised by architect and booze writer Paul Harrington. It tastes remarkably like grapefruit juice even though it contains no grapefruit whatsoever. Honestly, this is one of those drinks that I often post where I’m sure the majority of my single-digit readership is thinking, “What! New to the Jasmine? He needs to crawl out from under Plymouth Rock or wherever the hell he lives and actually drink from time to time!”

No argument here, Skippy. I will say this, though. I’ve mixed a lot of cocktails at home, and I’ve had many others out. It’s a rare treat when something passes my lips and earns a spot in my regular drinks rotation. The Jasmine is right there. Jen and I both adore it. It tastes like an old-school cocktail, even though it’s not old enough to drive, let alone drink, and the ingredients are perfectly balanced. A new favorite.

Jasmine

  • 1-1/2 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz Cointreau
  • 1/4 oz Campari
  • lemon twist for garnish

Technique: Shake, strain, add garnish, sip, and smile.

Many thanks to Paulernum Clarke for hosting.

Photos by Jennifer Hess.

MxMo: Limit One

For this month’s Mixology Monday, I decided to highlight a cocktail called the Diamondback, which I first saw in the September/October 2007 issue of Imbibe magazine.

Our taskmaster, Rick, demands we tax our livers with drinks that “contain at least 3oz of 80-proof spirit or have less than 1/2oz of non-spiritness.” No Rick! Don’t throw me in the briar patch! Anything but the briar patch!

The recipe in Imbibe credited the Diamondback as Murray Stenson’s variant of a recipe that first appeared in the book Bottom’s Up, by Ted Saucier. Saucier’s volume calls the drink the Diamondback Lounge and credits it to the Lord Baltimore Hotel, in Baltimore, Md. The hotel itself is still around, but I see nothing about the Diamondback Lounge.

Saucier’s original calls for rye, applejack, and yellow Chartreuse. Stenson’s says rye, applejack, and green Chartreuse. (Don’t worry; I’ll list both recipes at the end.) You might see where I’m going with this. I chose bonded rye (100 proof), bonded applejack (100 proof), and green Chartreuse (110 proof).

That’s a lotta proof.

When I first mixed this drink, I realized immediately that it had a strong bite and so I understandably assumed that both the drink and the lounge were named after this charming critter:

Turns out, I was probably wrong.

As I was researching this post, I learned that an animal called the diamondback terrapin is the state reptile of Maryland. Sports fans should recognize the terrapin as the mascot of the University of Maryland, and college-journo geeks (I know you’re out there) will remember that the U of M student publication is the Diamondback. So, the real culprit for my achin’ head? This beast:

Man, I thought it was a snake fucking me up. Turns out it was a freakin’ turtle. I’m so embarrassed.

Diamondback Lounge, Bottom’s Up

  • 1 jigger rye whiskey (I used Rittenhouse bonded)
  • 1/2 jigger applejack (Laird’s bonded)
  • 1/2 jigger yellow chartreuse
  • Ice

Technique: Shake well. Serve over ice in old-fashioned glass. Decorate with sprig of fresh mint.

This is okay, although it’s a little mild, and I don’t think the mint adds anything.

Diamondback, from Imbibe

  • 1-1/2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. applejack
  • 3/4 oz. green Chartreuse
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: Cherry

Technique: Stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish.

Diamondback

photo by Jennifer Hess

You’ll note from the photo above that I forgot the garnish. A cherry makes more sense to me here than mint does, anyway. This is a better drink than the version with yellow Chartreuse, since the green has more backbone and brings more botanical notes to the drink. Still, I think equal parts applejack and Chartreuse result in a drink that’s a tad too sweet for my tastes.

Hence, if you’ll forgive me…

Diamondback Terrapin

  • 1-1/2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. applejack
  • 1/2 oz. green Chartreuse

Build in an old-fashioned glass over ice. Stir until chilled. Garnish with your own best wishes or deepest fears.

Everybody comes to Rick’s

From the why-hasn’t-anyone-thought-of-this-before department, Reuters ran a story last week about an American ex-pat entrepreneur in Casablanca who’s opened a new cafe…named Rick’s, after the gin joint in one of my favorite films, Casablanca.

I don’t know whether I’ll be in Morocco any time soon, but somewhat closer to home, anyway, is the Cocktail Film Fest in New Orleans, the weekend of March 21-22. Hosted by Cheryl Charming, the festival features three films, Casablanca, The Seven Year Itch, and Guys and Dolls, along with themed cocktails and meals. But alas, even that’s too far for me.

I had no such excuse on Monday, when Tales held a media reception at Manhattan’s Flatiron Lounge, just blocks from my office. Julie Reiner’s always graceful staff brought around several New York-themed drinks, including the Slope, the Southside Fizz, and the New York Sour. The Slope was a particular favorite of mine. Named for Park Slope (my first landing strip when I arrived in NYC in 2002), it’s a derivative of the Brooklyn cocktail. Jen and I couldn’t stay long, unfortunately, but we both thank Ann Tuennerman for the invitation.

I’ve made my hotel reservations for Tales of the Cocktail. Have you?

The Slope

  • 2 ounces Rittenhouse Rye (preferably bonded)
  • 3/4 ounce Punt Y Mes
  • 1/4 ounce Bols Apricot liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Garnish: cherries

Technique: Stir and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.

Texas Jim

Mrs. Bitters and I had dinner last night at Hearth, in the East Village, and as we normally do, we started with cocktails. I got the Jim Hogg, named after an old-time Texas governor. Delicious, well-balanced drink. I don’t have proportions, but the ingredients are pecan-infused rye, sweet vermouth, and maple syrup. The spicy rye carries the drink, but the herbal notes from the vermouth marry well with the pecan. With sweet vermouth, you don’t need much added sweetener, and the bartender rightly keeps a light hand–the maple is present, but more as flavoring than as sweetener.

I don’t know where the pecan-infused rye came from, but I should note a couple of similar drinks that have graced local bars. A Holy Roller was on the menu for a time at Pegu Club–with pecan-infused bourbon and Demerara simple syrup, it appears to be the same drink that’s on the Death & Co. menu as the Buffalo Soldier. I might be wrong, but the mention of “Brian” in the eG post makes me think that both drinks are Brian Miller’s.

Because I enjoy the simplicity of an Old Fashioned, I love the idea of a drink that’s just whiskey and Demerara syrup. Pecan-infused whiskey might be worth playing with at home.

Did I do something wrong?

I thought I’d fix up a couple of Prince of Wales cocktails tonight, a fizzy drink for a fizzy evening. I followed Wondrich’s recipe to the letter, using bonded Rittenhouse for the rye. My pineapple was a couple squares of thawed frozen pineapple from Whole Foods. Maybe it’s the pineapple, but…

I don’t get it. This drink just doesn’t hit it for me.

If we all liked the same things, it would be a very boring world.

Happy New Year!

Party time bottled cocktails!

On Sunday, I wrote up my agua fresca recipe while it was still fresh. My other big hits were my bottled cocktails and rum punch. I’ll get to the rum punch in my next post, but for now I want to concentrate on bottled cocktails.

Last year, when Jen and I hosted a party, I made a couple of bottled drinks–a Manhattan and a vodka martini–but I mostly shook drinks for a crowd of 25. From 2 until 10, I shook drinks. At the same time I was mixing drinks, I was manning the grill because we had 10 pounds of chicken wings to cook on the same day our oven died.

Yeah, that was a bad day.

Jen changed up her menu this year to rely less on the oven, and I switched up my cocktail menu to have more things premade. One of those was rum punch, but I again had bottled cocktails on hand. On this front, I owe a lot to Brad Ellis, from the site The Bar Mix Master Has Spoken. I know he’s not updating often these days, but he’s got a couple of great posts on planning a party and prepping bottled cocktails. He’s got a great formula for determining the ratios of spirit to mixer to water. And yes, you do want water–unless you plan to shake your premix over ice right at serving time, you won’t get any of the water that shaking over ice imparts.

My “bottles” were actually 60-oz. pitchers, so I had to scale his 25-oz. recipe up. Again, I did Manhattans, which were very popular–for the pitcher, I used Rittenhouse bonded rye and Cinzano sweet vermouth with Angostura bitters. And water, of course, to about 25-30%. The martinis this year were gin–Plymouth, to be exact, with Noilly Prat dry, a very light hand of Regan’s orange bitters, and again about 25-30% water.

I wound up shaking nothing this year and I’m not ashamed. You shouldn’t be either. Next time you have a party, make sure you’ve got some bottled drinks on hand and you’ll be able to spend more time with your guests.