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Drink of the Week: The Rye Ball

the Rye Ball.I often praise simplicity in cocktails. This is partly because my mission in these posts is to show you how, taking very little time, you can make drinks that taste at least 100 percent better than what you’re likely to get at your typical bar. That’s because, unlike the staff of your standard dive or chain bar, you won’t use sour mix and you will have enough time to actually measure your ingredients.

The other reason I like simple cocktails is that I’m lazy! I have a day job and, while bellyaching about getting free booze in the mail and making mostly very good cocktails would be unseemly, doing the stuff that’s necessary for these posts does take a bit of time. So, especially during a week when I was recuperating from a cold I picked up on the way to Comic-Con, and then Comic-Con itself, and then the Dracula-like return of my cold, the simplest possible drink was bordering on a necessity.

Moreover, with a brand new bottle of very good Alberta Rye Dark Batch on hand after my earlier uncorking misadventure, the cleverly named Rye Ball pitched at me by the Alberta PR team seemed like the perfect beverage. It is, in fact, basically a highball (any hard liquor and any beverage, i.e., Scotch and soda, 7 and 7, rum and Coke, etc.) but with hard cider providing the fizz. A dash of bitters gives the thing some cocktailing respectability. See what you think.

The Rye Ball

1 ounce Alberta Rye Dark Batch
4-5 ounces hard cider
1 dash aromatic bitters

Build in a highball or collins glass with ice. Stir. See, I said this was simple!
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Considering the high proportion of hard cider here, your choice in this regard is obviously going to make an enormous difference. The Rye Ball is still something of a work in progress in that I have yet to find perfect pairing. Still, with a growing number of hard ciders on the market, the sky is pretty much the limit and I encourage folks to experiment with this refreshing cocktail concept.

I happen to enjoy hard ciders quite a bit, and I definitely dig them on the drier side. Still, to stand up to the whiskey and bitters, I definitely leaned towards the sweeter brews for a Rye Ball. Smith and Forge Hard Cider produced a full bodied blend, though I also enjoyed using the even sweeter Strong Bow Honey and Apple Hard Cider almost as much. No offense to the bottle of Henry Hotspur’s Hard Pressed for Cider I picked up at Trader Joe’s, but I was less partial to the result. It wasn’t bad, just a bit overly sophisticated and boozy tasting for my mood that night. I guess some part of me still expects cider to taste a little bit like apple juice.

The one thing I will say is that I strongly suggest going with four ounces of cider rather than five. I have no idea why this should be, but using more cider somehow resulted in a more medicinal flavor.

I should add, by the way, that the recipe doesn’t specify an apple cider, so feel free to try this with pear cider or whatever else you can find. While I still think Albert Rye makes a truly outstanding Old Fashioned, the Rye Ball is something of an unexplored drinking frontier, so there’s no need to be overly cautious.