Drink of the Week: The PAMA & Rye

The PAMA & Rye

I’m of the opinion that no two sets of taste buds are precisely the same. For example, to me, saccharin-derived artificial sweeteners (the ones in the pink packages) have a disgusting, nastily bitter aftertaste, but I’ve talked to any number of people to whom the stuff tastes okay in a cup of coffee. On the other hand, I kind of love the harsh bitter edge of Campari, especially as it follows a burst of real sugary sweetness. All some folks can seem to taste is the bitterness and they don’t like it one bit.

On yet another hand, I think tartness might hit my tongue a bit harder than some folks. Long time readers will note my very mild, yet  incessant, whinging about alleged over-tartness on a number of cocktail classics we’ve covered — the Whiskey Sour comes to mind. Therefore, I guess it’s no surprise that — while I always love getting a free bottle of anything non-explosive in the mail — I’m okay with but not quite a sucker for the extra-large bottle of PAMA Pomegranate Flavored Liqueur that a kind soul sent my way.

I like pomegranates and I’m sure those who enjoy tartness may thoroughly enjoy this relatively low-alcohol product straight up on the rocks. Another product from the fine, Kentucky-based Heaven Hill family of beverages, PAMA is what it is, as the annoying saying goes. Not too gussied up and entirely respectable, but not quite my personal thing.

On the other hand, the magic of cocktails being what it is, I’m sure there’s more than one drink in which I’d truly enjoy using PAMA in all its all caps glory. I had to alter this one slightly to make it work for me, but I do dig it. I’ll give you the scoop on the original version, developed by New York mixologist Eben Freeman, after my very slightly adulterated take.

The PAMA & Rye

1 once PAMA Pomegranite Liqueur
1 ounce high proof rye whiskey
1 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 orange wheel (i.e. thin slice of orange) as garnish, desirable but not essential

Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker, without ice. Add the superfine sugar and stir to quickly dissolve. Now, add plenty of ice and shake vigorously. Pour over new ice and your orange wheel garnish into a rocks/old fashioned glass. Sip with an open mind.


For my rye, I used the recently featured new Knob Creek 100 proof, but I’d be shocked if the similarly strong, very good, and significantly cheaper Rittenhouse Rye didn’t work about as well or maybe even better. I’m not as sure whether a mere 90 proofer, like Sazerac, would work as well, but I certainly wouldn’t blame you for trying it.

Now, Eben Freeman’s original version of this drink featured half an ounce of simple syrup instead of the three teaspons/one tablespoon of superfine sugar I suggested. Although I often substitute the cheaper/easier and more or less identical — minus the water, of course — superfine sugar for syrup, I happened to have some cane syrup I bought on sale on hand, so I made my first version of this drink as directed. For me, it was, well, too tart — though, I add, no more tart than a typical whiskey sour you’d get from a good bartender.

The good news for me was that upping the sugar proportion very slightly really did the trick. Half an ounce of the syrup I was using contained 40 calories, and a tablespoon of sugar contains 48 calories. So, subtracting a tiny amount of water and adding only eight calories worth of sugar really made all the difference for me. Still, if you love tartness, you’ll definitely want to go the Freeman way. (And you’ll need to buy a bottle of PAMA, too.)


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