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!
****

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.

  

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Drink of the Week: The Diamondback

The Diamondback. It’s named for a terrapin turtle, not a rattlesnake, but this is a drink with a bite. Make no mistake about that.

Showing up in print first in Ted Saucier’s 1951 cocktail guide, Bottom’s Up, the Diamondback comes from the post-war boom in cocktail culture. That’s the one that inspired people to buy those cocktail sets that were handed down to some of us by our parents, grandparents,or great-grandparents. Nevertheless, as any true cocktail snob will tell you, that was a far cry from the highpoint of pre-prohibition cocktail creativity, despite the era’s booze-loving trappings. By the 1950s, cocktails were a pretty basic matter for the most part. In a funny way, the ingredients in a Diamondback feel almost like a throwback to a much earlier time in tippling history since both rye and apple brandies became increasingly rare in U.S. stores in the second half of the 20th century. Indeed, it was apparently the house drink at a venerable East coast bar, and it’s possible it’s history actually goes back a bit further than I know.

So, yes, the makings here are bit old school for the cast of “Mad Men” but not hard to find these days,though also not exactly inexpensive; the Diamondback contains chartreuse, an herbaceous and powerful product that a bunch of monks have a monopoly on; I hope they’re doing good works with the $50.00 or so you typically have to spend on one of their bottlings. Also, being comprised of three very potent brews, one a bit outre, this is a drink that Roger Sterling, at least, might have appreciated.

The Diamondback

1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
3/4 ounce applejack (i.e., American apple brandy)
3/4 green chartreuse
1 cocktail cherry (garnish)

Combine your ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with plenty of ice. You can stir this one if you like, but it will come out very, very strong. I shake it. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, add your cocktail cherry. You may toast our amphibian friend, the diamondback terrapin. More than one of these drinks and you won’t be moving much faster than one.

****
According to cocktail blogger Doug Ford, the Diamondback was originally the Diamondback Lounge Cocktail and was the house beverage of the Lord Baltimore Hotel bar in guess-what-southeastern city? Originally, it was made with yellow chartreuse, which is milder, but most modern recipes call for the green variant. And let’s be clear, by “milder” we mean 80 proof. Green chartreuse clocks in at a stunning 110.

It gets worse, or perhaps better, because most of the people making this drink at various Internet locales are using 100 proof ryes like Rittenhouse and Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy, which is also bottled in bond, i.e., 100 proof. My gut reaction is to think that this might be a little too much of a good thing. In any case, the reality is that most of the boozes I actually had on hand this week were very slightly milder, which I thought might compensate to some degree for using the oh-so strong, but admittedly flavorful, green chartreuse.

The first time I made a Diamondback, I frankly found it a too strong. I used the last of the only 100 proof rye I had, 1776, but compensated for its strength via that fact that I’m too cheap to own a bottle of Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy at present; I went with Laird’s somewhat maligned  80 proof Applejack. (It’s blended with neutral spirits for a lighter taste which I think is very pleasant.) Then, I realized that, contrary to the cocktail snob’s dictum that drinks without juices should be always be stirred, the Diamondback was originally shaken. Especially as I don’t buy that particular dogma one little bit, I thought that made for a major improvement.

I also tried the Diamondback with 90 proof Bulleit Rye and Alberta Dark Rye. Both were just fine, but I give the slight edge to the one named after a Canadian province. It wasn’t the fact that it’s makers finally decided to send me a replacement bottle after the incident of the torn off plastic thingy, at least I don’t think it was. It’s just the gentler, sweeter flavor seemed to mellow out this fire-breathing turtle of a concoction.

  

Drink of the Week: The Algonquin

the Algonquin.As a teenager, I found myself seriously infatuated with an older women. So great was the age difference that she had actually been dead since I was in kindergarten.

Legendary wit and poet laureate of dissipated enlightenment, Dorothy Parker was probably the most interesting of the literary lights that graced New York’s Algonquin Hotel’s famed round table of notable quipsters. The informal gang o’ pals also included humorist Robert Benchley (Parker’s platonic bff), and critic Alexander Wolcott. Another great wit in the group, Harpo Marx, like Teller after him, never said a word when the cameras and microphones were on, but apparently could chat up a storm on his own time.

Now, to be honest, while the Algonquin crew and especially the wondrous Ms. Parker definitely enjoyed more than their share of cocktails, there’s no evidence they actually ever sipped a single Algonquin. Still, they should have. It’s a dry, sophisticated drink, a fruity twist on the Perfect Manhattan that’s a really solid addition to the cannon of Prohibition-era beverages.

Yes, we have no indication that they ever had the drink, but also no proof that they didn’t. I chose, therefore, to print the legend. Let’s just assume that the woman who we are told said ““If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised” and the man who opined that “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker” enjoyed an Algonquin together. It’ll taste better that way.

The Algonquin

2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce pineapple juice
1 ounce dry vermouth
1 maraschino cherry (desirable garnish)
1 mint leaf (optional, but intriguing, garnish)

Combine your whiskey, juice, and vermouth in a mixing vessel with the usual ton of ice. Some think you should stir it, but I say they’re wrong. Shake the dang thing vigorously and strain into a large, chilled cocktail glass. If you want smaller portions, or have small cocktail glasses, simply use 1 1/2 ounces whiskey to 3/4 ounce each pineapple juice and vermouth. Toast which ever Algonquin Round Table member you choose, but I choose the amazing Dorothy.

****
The particular example of an Algonquin pictured above was not crafted by your humble boozescribe, but comes courtesy of ace mixologist, Ian, at my neighborhood watering hole, Tonga Hut. Following my instructions, Ian added a high-end Luxardo maraschino cherry and threw on a mint leaf on top, departing from the classic recipe with a Tonga Hut trademark.

Making the drink at home, I had good luck with a number of different brands. Like Ian, I found that using 100 proof Rittenhouse Rye yielded an excellent result. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Old Overholt — increasingly the default rye at craft bars nevertheless — but it still yielded a decent, if slightly more astringent, beverage. I also enjoyed killing my bottle of sweet Redemption Rye for an Algonquin’s sake.

As for vermouths, I vacillated between your basic Martini and the fancier Dolin’s. The former was smooth and relaxed while the latter added a bit of spice. Oddly enough, I think I lean towards a simpler, dryer rye for an Algonquin.

The most dramatic difference, oddly enough, was between two different brands of canned pineapple juice. (It’s against my religion, Lazy Bumism, to actually cut up and juice an whole pineapple.) There was a fairly precipitous drop in the quality of my drinks when I switched from Trader Joe’s shockingly delicious not-from-concentrate, which brags that it tastes like it would if you squeezed it yourself, to your basic Dole’s. I’m not an expert on the finer points of pineapple juice but I can tell you that the better tasting pineapple juice resulted in the better tasting Algonquin.

  

Drink of the Week: The Rye Sierra

The Great Unnamed Beer and Rye Cocktail. It’s just possible that it has escaped your attention up to this moment, but today is International Beer Day. Of course, for many people, truly every day is International Beer Day, or at least every Sunday during football season.

The ironic thing is that beer, which was once just about the least respected of alcoholic brews in the United States, has achieved more of its props with the rise of craft beer, microbrews and what not. These days, many people who wouldn’t know the first thing about a genuine Old Fashioned or Sazerac and who might freak out if confronted with the ultra-bitter/ultra-sweet flavor of Campari, included in this week’s DOTW, have no problem with the more familiar but no less bitter flavors of some dark beers.

Be calm, however. There’s no need for conflict as I’m happy to say that beer and cocktails are proving to be two great things that, if handled properly, can go great together. Today’s beverage is a delightfully refreshing case in point.

Though it came to me without a name, like the good native son of the West that I am, I have christened today’s beverage the Rye Sierra, after its two main ingredients. It comes courtesy of a mysterious benefactor connected to the makers of the very excellent Templeton Rye Whiskey. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale gets a plug, too — even if I had to spring for my own bottle.

My first attempt at this drink was a true delight, but you’ve got to be certain you don’t fall from a great height with this one. Just make sure you bring plenty of ice and don’t overuse the swizzle stick.

The Rye Sierra

1 ounce Templeton Rye Whiskey
4 ounces Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
1/2 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

Combine the rye, lemon juice, and Campari in a double rocks glass (i.e., like a regular Old Fashioned tumbler, but about twice as big). Stir, and add plenty of ice. Top off with four ounces of the very lovely Sierra Nevada Pale Ale — resist any urges to stir it again at this point. Just let the brew site on top of the summit where it belongs. Salute the mountain range of your choice.

****

If ever there was a drink perfect for a hot day where you’re allowed to eat nothing but popcorn, salted nuts, and wasabi peas, this might well be it. Still, I must reiterate that you are to use plenty of ice and zero stirring is allowed after you have added the beer. Much in the way an Irish Coffee must only be enjoyed through its cap of heavy cream, the rye, Campari, and lemony goodness must only be enjoyed through the ale.

Finally, I realize that a lot of you out there don’t have any double rocks glasses. I actually ran out and bought a couple myself for $3.99 each. That’s because I’m a professional. You amateurs out there can simply cut the proportions in half and drink this out of a regular rocks glass, even if you’re buzz will take twice as long that way.

Also, you have my permission to try this with other brands of rye. I did — and I bet it would have worked great too if I didn’t find out too late someone in my house had Bogarted most of the ice.

  

Drink of the Week: The Jupiter

the Jupiter. Sometimes the hardest thing about writing and preparing for DOTW is simply picking out the drink. I can spend, it seems, many hours online trolling for a cocktail that won’t take hours to make and where I won’t have to spend an arm and a leg buying several expensive ingredients I barely have room for at stately DOTW Manor.

So, I alway love it when some cool person suggests a possible mixed drink or cocktail (people I read keep telling me there’s a difference) for me to try. In fact, if anybody would like to  come up with a suggestion for a drink that hasn’t been featured before in comments or e-mail, I promise to give it a fair hearing.

In this case, the cool person suggesting the drink was the highly esteemed Christopher Tafoya, Facebook friend, mutual real life friend with other real life friends, and cocktail enthusiast. Christopher provided an interesting find that’s forcing me to diverge from orthodoxy just a bit, while only forcing me to purchase one very interesting and odd new ingredient. It’s also got a name with just enough of a touch of science fiction to it to make it semi-appropriate for the week of Comic-Con. That’s where I’ll be by the time you read this, and also the reason this series will be taking a break next week. Anyhow, here’s this week’s cosmic selection.

The Jupiter

1 1/2 ounces dry gin
1/2-3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon parfait amour

This one’s as easy to make as they come. Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake. Strain into a cocktail glass. Sip, preferably while listening to the music of the spheres or at least Richard or Johan Strauss.

****

Remember when I implied my take was a bit heretical? Well, credit for the revival of the Jupiter in recent years goes mainly to the revered Ted Haigh, author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, who picked the drink out from a number of older tomes. He, however, declared that it was the one drink in his entire book requiring the most precision. Depart by even the difference between a measuring teaspoon and a dining teaspoon and, as far as Haigh is concerned, the drink is mostly done for.

Part of the reason for that is Parfait Amour. This somewhat obscure and not too easily found liqueur, extracted from exotic oranges and vanilla pods, is both very sweet and very purple. It also gives the Jupiter it’s slightly grey, otherworldly hue. I can’t disagree with Haigh that a little goes a long way, but I’d like just a little more, proportionally speaking.

So, when Mr. Tafoya let me know that a slightly different recipe existed — I’d looked in a number of places and had seen exactly the same recipe he first gave me — I had to give the alternative version a try. What a shock that it turned out to be, to my taste buds, quite a bit better. Basically, I found that a quarter of an ounce less vermouth made for what I found to be a brighter, more enjoyable beverage.

So, dear readers, I’m giving you a choice: 1/2 or 3/4 ounce of dry vermouth. Which drink would the evolved Dave Bowman choose?

See you in two weeks, star children.

  

Related Posts