Category Archives: rye whiskey

Boulevardier

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OK, fine, it’s not cool to admit this, but I hate olives and I do not like Campari, and that’s an understatement. It’s also a statement that makes it exceptionally difficult to proclaim my love of gin, since most people associate gin with martinis and martinis so often contain olives  – and, to be honest, I’m still not even sure I like martinis without olives – and since apparently, if you like gin, not liking Negronis – which contain gin, vermouth and Campari – makes you a Bad Gin Drinker. Sigh.

It’s not like I haven’t tried. Every now and then I pluck up the courage to eat the salted bit of disgusting briny rubber that is an olive, or take a sip of something containing Campari without making a face in the process, convinced that one day, one bright, shining, magical day, I will find an olive – or, better, a Campari-based drink – that I don’t hate.

I had hoped the Boulevardier – basically a Negroni with rye whiskey instead of gin – would fall into the latter category, but on the first sip I really wasn’t sold on it (the deliciously subtle rye whiskey was almost entirely eclipsed by the ‘Pay attention to me!’ Campari) and by the end of the drink I was too far gone to tell. I will say this for it: I don’t hate it the way I hate the waste of good gin that is a Negroni (though I’d rather enjoy my rye without cramping its style, thanks all the same), and it’s an enjoyable enough way to get hammered while still impressing the bartender by ordering a reasonably ‘cool’ drink – these things are strong!

In short, if you like Campari, you will probably like this drink. If you don’t, I salute you.

INGREDIENTS

60ml rye whiskey

30ml Campari

30ml sweet vermouth

orange slice, to garnish

GLASS

Tumbler

METHOD

Add liquid ingredients to an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir until well chilled, then strain into a tumbler that’s half-full of ice. Garnish with the orange slice.

RECIPE BY

The Boulevardier is thought to have originated in 1920s Paris, but this particular recipe comes from a 2016 Dan Murphy’s catalogue.

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Deshler Cocktail

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You can imagine the Deshler got its name when someone slurred their third order of this booze bonanza at the bar. Or you can read about its true history here. Either way, you should make yourself a Deshler right now.

INGREDIENTS

45 ml (1 1/2 oz) Red Dubbonet

45 ml (1 1/2 oz) rye whiskey

7ml (1/4 oz) Cointreau

Dash of Angostura bitters

Orange peel, for garnish

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Add all ingredients (except the orange peel) to a shaker that’s half-full of ice. Shake it hard, then strain into the glass. Garnish with the orange peel.

TASTES LIKE

It’s the cocktail equivalent of feeling completely welcome in a room full of strangers. The Deshler is immediately inviting, a convivial mix of savoury, earthy flavours lifted by notes of baking spice and citrus with just enough sweetness to balance it all out. This one’s a winner.

RECIPE BY

The fabulous Dale De Groff published this version of the Deshler in his book The Craft of the Cocktail (Clarkson Potter, 2002).

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Spiced Agave Old Fashioned

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This is such a modern version of an Old Fashioned that it should probably have another name, but apart from that I can’t fault it. And, like a traditional Old Fashioned, it lends itself to lots of variations. Use reposado (aged for at least two months) or añejo (aged for at least 12 months) tequila and you’ll get a light, flavoursome cocktail that conjures up images of autumn bonfires at sunset; there’s a bit of baking spice in there, some smokiness, and a sweetness that verges on burnt caramel but is balanced out by earthy overtones. Use whisky instead of tequila for a more straightforward, wintery drink, or go with rye whisky for a gingerbready flavour hit that’ll become your new go-to drink before you’ve got halfway through it.

COCKTAIL INGREDIENTS 

60ml tequila, whisky or rye whisky

10ml spiced agave syrup (recipe follows)

2 dashes Angostura bitters

orange peel twist, to garnish (optional)

cinnamon stick, to garnish (optional)

GLASS

Old-fashioned or tumbler

METHOD

First, make the spiced agave syrup (recipe below).

Next, measure 10ml spiced agave syrup into a heatproof cup. Add about 10-20ml boiling water and stir to dissolve the syrup. You’re doing this because agave syrup tends to form a clump and not mix well when you add it to ice and spirits; but if you dilute it just a bit, it works fine. Wait for it to cool a bit before using it in the cocktail – otherwise it’ll just melt the ice.

Add the cooled and dissolved syrup, spirit of choice and bitters to a mixing glass that’s half-full of ice. Stir well, then strain into an old-fashioned glass that’s half-full of ice. Garnish with the orange peel twist and cinnamon stick, if desired.

SPICED AGAVE SYRUP INGREDIENTS

200ml agave syrup (there are two kinds available, light and dark. I used light. According to the label on the bottle, the dark kind has a ‘wilder, earthier’ flavour.)

2 cinnamon quills

2 star anise

pinch of freshly ground white pepper

METHOD

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Infuse for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick. Allow to cool, then remove star anise and cinnamon and pour into a sterilised glass jar or bottle. According to the recipe book, it should keep in the fridge for about two weeks, but I’ve kept mine in the pantry for about that long with no problems. I also left the cinnamon sticks in the jar, in the hope they’d balance out the slightly-too-strong star anise flavour – which they did.

RECIPE BY

Both these recipes are in a little booklet called Simply Perfect Cocktails by Gee David. I’m not sure if it’s available for sale, sorry – my copy was included as a freebie as part of an order of spirits and syrups from Barware.

 

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Whisky Sour

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For years I’ve been making whisky sours ‘the wrong way,’ using a bastardised version of a recipe from Shaken: 250 Very Sexy Cocktails (Murdoch Books, 2004) and not really caring because the people who matter most (ie my drinking buddies) love it. For the record, the recipe in the book is:

INGREDIENTS

45ml rye whiskey

15ml Cointreau

15ml lemon juice

15ml sugar syrup

maraschino cherry

GLASS

Tumbler

METHOD

Shake all ingredients (except the cherry) in a cocktail shaker that’s half-full of ice. Strain into the glass and garnish with the cherry.

I’ve always omitted the cherry (it’s odd how as soon as I buy a jar they, er, disappear) and used bourbon instead of rye, for reasons that are lost to the mists of time but basically involve a combination of ignorance (‘Is rye whiskey the same thing as bourbon?’) and convenience (‘I don’t know but we have bourbon so let’s use that instead’) that, fortunately, had a good result (‘Oh, this? This is a house whisky sour. You can only get this at 52 Cocktails HQ…largely because no-one with half a brain would ever confuse rye and bourbon.’*). It’s a jelly-bean-sweet concoction that bourbon-lovers love, even if it is a bit unorthodox. I’ve been making it for so long now that it deserves its own name – Bourbon Sour would be the logical choice, especially now that I’ve finally got around to making an actual whisky sour with actual whisky. Logic would dictate that to do so, I’d simply use the recipe above, but hey, logic has never been my strong point – especially after a few Bourbon Sours. And so I used a recipe from a Dan Murphy’s** catalogue to make my first Whisky Sour using, well, whisky. As you’ll see, the recipe is quite different to what I usually make – here it is.

WHISKY SOUR

INGREDIENTS

60ml whisky (I used Johnnie Walker red label)

15ml sugar syrup

25ml lemon juice

20ml egg white

maraschino cherry, to garnish

GLASS

Old-fashioned/tumbler

METHOD

Add all ingredients except the cherry to a shaker, and shake until the egg white is frothy. (This is often called ‘dry-shaking’ because, unlike most cocktail recipes, it does not involve ice. Not yet, anyway. Dry-shaking helps the egg white to go frothy. But how does the drink end up cold, you ask – read on.) Add a good scoop of ice and shake well. Strain into a glass that’s half-full of ice, garnish with the cherry and serve.

THE VERDICT

This is completely different to the Whisky – OK, Bourbon – Sour that I usually make. It’s light and fluffy, nowhere near as sweet and, curiously, lacks the punch of flavour I’m used to. It’s still a damn good drink, though, with a cloud-like texture that makes it more of a dessert cocktail than a pre-dinner drink.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE…

Naturally I couldn’t help but make this cocktail with bourbon instead of whisky, just to see what would happen. And what happened was, I ended up drinking two cocktails that were pretty good, all the while thinking how much I preferred a good old House Bourbon Sour. Lesson learnt: when in doubt, er… make lots of cocktails.

*Don’t fret – this was a long time ago and I have since learnt the error of my ways. If you’re not sure what’s what, there’s a good article here that explains the difference between scotch, whisk(e)y, bourbon and rye.

**Dan Murphy’s is an Australian chain of alcohol stores, aka my second home.

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Dandy

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You know that life is fine and dandy when you come across a quirky little cocktail book – such as the one pictured above – for a few dollars in an op shop. And you know it’s a good purchase when the first drink you flick to is, in fact, the Dandy.

The book suggests it’s what to drink when you want to channel Oscar Wilde; I’d say it’s one for when you’re feeling quite self-assured and want something whisky-based that will help you win that age-old game of ‘stump the bartender’.

This is a dry-ish, savoury cocktail with subtle notes of orange and cinnamon, perhaps even gingerbread – now that’s just dandy.

INGREDIENTS

1 ounce (30ml) rye whisky

1 ounce (30ml) Dubonnet

1 teaspoon (5ml) Cointreau

1 dash Angostura bitters

Twist of lemon peel and/or orange peel, to garnish

GLASS

Cocktail or coupe

METHOD

Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker that’s half full of ice and stir until cold. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with the citrus peel.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Way easier than trying to think up an Oscar Wilde quote to use here.

RECIPE BY

The Dandy is in Let’s Bring Back: The Cocktail Edition by Lesley M M Blume (Chronicle Books, 2012).

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The Interchange

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‘You’ve just been poisoned’ might well be the best tagline I’ve ever seen on a cocktail bar’s website, and it belongs to Bangkok’s Sugar Ray. I stumbled across it after reading about the bar in Lonely Planet’s Bangkok guidebook, which describes it as the kind of funky, hidden place that makes Old Fashioneds with aged rum, cardamom syrup and orange (you can read the full review here). Naturally this got me thinking two things:

1) I really, REALLY want to go to that bar (and a bunch of other Bangkok hotspots too!), and

2) Could I create something similar?

And so the experimenting began. Ages ago I made some cardamom-infused vodka by crushing 3 cardamom pods and leaving them in about half a cup of vodka for a few days before straining them out. I had some Angostura Orange Bitters. I figured those two ingredients would provide the necessary flavours even if they weren’t in syrup form. I didn’t have any aged rum but I did have some good old Johnnie Walker Red, which is the whisky I always use in Old Fashioneds because it’s relatively cheap and so am I, and so all I had to do was add the cardamom vodka and orange bitters to my normal Old Fashioned recipe and I’d be onto a surefire hit, right?

Here is the bit where, ordinarily, something goes horrifically wrong. Something spontaneously combusts, or my eyebrows catch on fire, or – worse still – I end up with something completely undrinkable. I am used to this. Hell, I was prepared for it. So I was almost disappointed when…nothing happened. And my taste testers agreed I’d made something sophisticated ‘that you’d get in a real bar’.

I tried again, this time using rye whisky, and got an even better result: the kind of cocktail that would be at home in a gentleman’s club, smooth, deep and full of intriguing flavours that border on the exotic.

All that was left to do was think of a name. Even that was easy; I’d used rye and whisky interchangeably, and thus The Interchange was born. As far as creating my own cocktails goes, I’d say this is one of the most successful – indeed, no one got poisoned…

INGREDIENTS

60ml rye or regular whisky

15ml sugar syrup

10-15ml cardamom vodka (you can use more or less to taste)

3-6 dashes orange bitters

GLASS

Old-fashioned

METHOD

Quarter-fill an old-fashioned glass with ice. Add half the whisky and stir until the glass is frosty. Add a few more ice cubes and the remaining ingredients and stir  until the glass is frosty again.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

So easy you’ll think something’s gone terribly, terribly wrong.

RECIPE BY

This one’s by the 52 Cocktails crew, with thanks to Sugar Ray and Lonely Planet for the inspiration.

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New 1920 Cocktail

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I’ve often thought it would be great to travel back to the 1920s. All those glamorous cocktail parties! Flapper dresses! Racy new dances! Men in dapper suits! Sneaking into speakeasies past midnight! It’d be absolutely copacetic!

At least, that’s what history’s rose-tinted glasses would have you believe. And yet the 1920s were also when Prohibition kicked in and the Wall Street crash led to the Great Depression.

Maybe it’s best to revisit the past via a cocktail book instead; it’s cheaper, and doesn’t rely on having a time machine, for a start. Plus, it gives me a great excuse to show off one of my best-ever op shop finds: a copy of The Savoy Cocktail Book, bought for $2 in near-mint condition and now very much a prized possession. I’ve read so much about this book in other cocktail books, and now that I have a copy (and did I mention it was only $2?) I can see why. It’s beautifully illustrated, many of the recipes are classics that bars are still serving today (though I do wonder about some of the measurements, as some recipes call for ‘a glass of gin’), and the writing is refreshing and lively, just as a good cocktail should be. In short, if you ever see a copy, BUY IT – especially if it’s only $2 – and let it transport you to another era.

NEW 1920 COCKTAIL

Presumably this cocktail, which is basically a riff on a Manhattan with rye and orange bitters, was created in the 1920s; there’s no preamble to the recipe in The Savoy Cocktail Book. And yet, here in Australia, orange bitters have only become widely available in the past few years, as far as I know. Interesting, thinking a recipe that was served at the Savoy Hotel in London in the 1920s could only be easily made in Australia post-2000. What the hell else has the land Down Under been missing out on for all these years?! It’s enough to drive me to drink! Luckily, the New 1920 Cocktail is at hand…

The Savoy Cocktail Book lists the recipe as follows:

1 dash orange bitters

1/4 French vermouth

1/4 Italian Vermouth

1/2 Canadian Club whisky

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze lemon peel on top.

52 Cocktails interpreted this as:

INGREDIENTS

1 dash orange bitters (we used Angostura orange bitters)

15ml Noilly Prat

15ml Cinzano Rosso

30ml Wild Turkey Rye whisky (as we didn’t have any Canadian Club, and they’re both rye-based so we figured it’d be OK)

GLASS

Cocktail

METHOD

Half-fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake it, hard. As The Savoy Cocktail Book‘s author Harry Craddock says in the foreword, ‘Shake the shaker as hard as you can: don’t just rock it: you are trying to wake it up, not send it to sleep!’

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

Now that Angostura Orange Bitters are stocked at most Dan Murphy’s stores, this one’s a doozy.

RECIPE BY

This recipe is from The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock (first published 1930 by Constable & Co; this edition published 1987 by Spring Books)

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Old Pal

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‘I say, Old Pal, how about a cocktail?’

‘Why certainly, but don’t Hogg the recipe book – pass it to Maureen so she can fix us a drink, quicksticks!’

Hello and welcome to the 1950s, when men chortled down the phone while secretaries made them such drinks as the Old Pal and workplaces, as a result, were almost enjoyable places. That’s the vibe I got when I tried the Old Pal, anyhow – with its rye whiskey kick and the bitter orange overtones of Campari, it seemed like the kind of old-school drink Don Draper would have for breakfast. Then again there are plenty of things Don Draper would have for breakfast, including his secretaries, so maybe that’s not the best way to judge a cocktail…

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Although I’m not a Campari fan I am determined to work out why other people are, and when I stumbled across this drink in a vintage cocktail book I thought it’d be worth a go. Containing rye whiskey, dry vermouth and Campari, the Old Pal is a perverted version of the Negroni, which contains gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. And that’s what it tastes like, too; like a watered-down version of a Negroni, even though you’d think the rye whiskey in the Old Pal would have a stronger flavour than the gin in a Negroni. It’s kind of boring, the sort of thing you drink just to get drunk. It’s the kind of drink that makes you realise why Negronis are still popular when Old Pals have fallen out of favour. It’s the kind of drink that could almost – almost – make me appreciate a Negroni, and that’s saying something.

‘I suppose it’s all about the delights of subtlety and nuance in a Negroni, as opposed to the straight-shooting ‘down the hatch, that’s the stuff’ of an Old Pal, Old Pal.’

‘Damn straight. Now let’s visit the Members Club and see if someone wants to taste your Old Pal, you don’t get much more subtle than that.’

Chortle.

OLD PAL

INGREDIENTS

Equal parts rye whiskey, dry vermouth and Campari. We used:

30ml Wild Turkey rye whiskey

30ml Noilly Prat

30ml Campari

GLASS

Old-fashioned

METHOD

Stir all ingredients together in a mixing glass that’s half-full of ice. When it’s ice-cold (place the inside of your wrist on the outside of the glass to check, or just taste-test), strain into the old-fashioned glass and serve.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

How would I know, I got the secretary to make it.

RECIPE BY

This version appears in Cocktails and Mixed Drinks by Anthony Hogg (Optimum Books, 1981).

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Rye and Prejudice

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After the success of last week’s Brown Derby, the 52 Cocktails team decided to explore what else can be made with grapefruit juice and brown liquor, partly because the combination worked so well in the aforementioned cocktail and mostly because we had bought a shiteload of grapefruits and had no other good ideas about how to use them. (Turns out they do not make a good substitute for bowling balls. Who knew?) And so we turned to a cute little book called Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle (Running Press, 2013). As you might have guessed, each cocktail’s name is a clever word-play on a novel’s title, such as Gin Eyre, Romeo and Julep and A Rum of One’s Own. Cute, hey? There’s a snappy summary of each novel, too, so you can fudge your way through a conversation about literature’s bigwigs without having to read the classics first. We’ll drink to that. What we probably won’t be drinking to, though, is the recipe for a Rye and Prejudice. Containing only grapefruit juice and rye whiskey, it’s not an Austen-tacious drink, but nor is it a classic; it’s too sour and not nuanced enough for our proud palates. With a couple of modifications (see below) it’s drinkable, but not the kind of thing we’d want to guzzle. Oh well – if we don’t drink many of them, at least we won’t end up with a rip-roaring Northangover Abbey.

RYE AND PREJUDICE

This is a little like one of Pride and Prejudice’s most irritating characters, the busybody Mrs Bennet: sour and boring. See the notes below for how to pep it up a bit.

INGREDIENTS

90ml grapefruit juice

45ml rye whiskey (we used Wild Turkey)

GLASS

Rocks

METHOD

Half-fill a rocks glass with ice. Add ingredients and stir well.

MODIFICATIONS

Ooh, is this drink sour. Unless you feel like re-enacting Pride and Puckeredlips, we suggest you modify it by adding 15 ml sugar syrup and 3 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec chocolate bitters (available here). It’s sweeter, and the bitters add some earthy depth and interest to the drink. I guess we’ll call it Emma.

You could also try Emma served tall on crushed ice, topped with soda, though we confess we haven’t tried it that way yet – it might take some Persuasion for us to waste good rye on such an experiment.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY

You don’t need much sense or sensibility to make this one.

RECIPE BY

This recipe appears in Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle (Running Press, 2013). Modifications by 52 Cocktails.

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