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Archive for April, 2011

“The cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and he kept on walking next to the curb and singing ‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’ It made me feel better.”

You know what makes me feel better? [hint, it’s in the picture above, and it’s not citrus fruit]. A co-worker of mine pounded the pavement in Iowa to track me down a bottle of Templeton Rye.  I would normally call out a whiskey whose trademark phrase is “The Good Stuff”, except Templeton is categorically the best Rye Whiskey I’ve ever tasted.  I even had to go buy a sweet vermouth that’s worthy of mingling with it in a Manhattan [Noilly Prat, just cause I didn’t want to splurge on Punt e Mes, I’m not a millionaire].  All I can say is, wow. Can’t wait for production to ramp up so we can get it in Minnesota. 

My favorite whiskey cocktail is the Old Fashioned.  There’s something elegant about them – based on the simplest of cocktail formulae, and producing a result far greater than the sum of its parts. [Read Nick Kosevich’s history of the Old-Fashioned at the Heavy Table]. 

My Old Fashioned must have Rye Whiskey – the cheaper, the better [Old Overholt is my go-to.] Though Bourbon is perfectly acceptable, I love that spicier edge that most Ryes give the drink. The sugar is the other consideration. Many Bourbons already have a sweeter, oaky, vanilla-like hint to the aftertaste. Ryes make the drink a bit more distinctive.  Either way, I don’t think there’s a reason to use good whiskey in a drink that contains sugar.  I won’t use Templeton in one, just like I wouldn’t mix a Presbyterian with Macallan 15.

I’ve been previously content to fix Old Fashioneds thusly: in a lowball, mixing together a good bar-spoon of simple syrup with a few dashes of Angostura bitters and a small squeeze of citrus (lemon or orange).  Then add ice to the top, then 2 oz. of Rye, stir and drop in a citrus rind.  It’s a fine recipe, but it’s nothing special.

Then, the other night, my conception of a successful Old Fashioned was reborn at Rinata [Italophonic pun intended].  Munching on their late-night happy hour duck confit crostini [which are criminally delicious], I asked for an Old Fashioned and was upsold to their classy version.  The key ingredient is Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur – which is a terrific replacement for the maraschino cherry.*

[*Side Gripe: I can’t stand those little gelatinous red orbs. They’re a dinosaur of the cocktail scene – something that should have been phased out of taste along with half-gin, half-vermouth Martinis and electric blue frozen “Daiquiris.”  They have the texture of and old tire and don’t taste much better.  What’s worse is bars that muddle maraschino cherries into the drink Wisconsin-style (I’m looking at you, Nye’s Polonaise). At least if it’s on a toothpick I can get rid of it.]

But a good cherry taste is quite successful in the drink – the Luxardo creates a perfect bridge between the sweet syrup and the more bitter rye.  It’s an expensive bottle, but you’ll probably only need to buy one for the rest of your cocktail drinking life. I’ve had one for two years and haven’t made much more than a couple ounces worth of a dent.  Not many drinks use it, and the ones that do, use it quite sparingly (no more than 1/2 oz at a time.) In fact, other than the Papa Doble and the Aviation, I can’t think of another I use it for until now.

GOOD bitters in this drink are key – I splurged on Fee Bros Whiskey Barrel-Aged, and they’re terrific.  And you’ll definitely need to have a small mesh strainer on hand for this one to catch the pulp and seeds of the citrus.

The Rinata Old-Fashioned: Muddle a wedge of orange and lemon in a pint glass, add to it 2 oz cheap Rye Whiskey, 1/3 oz Luxardo, 1/2 oz simple syrup, and two good dashes Bitters. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Double strain (both a Hawthorne and mesh strainer, to catch the seeds and larger pieces of pulp) into a lowball with fresh ice. Garnish with a wide swath of citrus zest.

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