Drink of the Week: The Smokey Scotsman

the Smokey ScotsmanAnyone here remember the gag from “Risky Business” when a teenage, home alone Tom Cruise destroys his dad’s expensive Chivas Regal by polluting it with Coke? The idea of mixing a really good single malt Scotch with anything other than a smidgen of water no doubt strikes many today as nothing short of sacrilege. Indeed, classic cocktail heads will note that, like Irish whiskey, only a very select few cocktails call for Scotch. In cocktail land, the North American whiskeys tend to dominate.

Nevertheless, we are noting a contrary trend here at DOTW central. Manufacturers of single malts — presumably even more resistant to promiscuous mixing than a blend like Chivas — are letting their guard down and openly promulgating cocktail recipes via such highly praiseworthy PR strategies as sending me a free bottle of very good Scotch alongside an intriguing and surprisingly good recipe.

Lacking any added sweetness, the Smokey Scotsman is not a recipe for everyone, but what is? It certainly has its Calvinist charms to go with the very sturdy product that is the Macallan 10 Year-Old, which I’ve enjoyed imbibing in several different forms over the last couple of weeks. I had some issues understanding the recipe at first, but now that I do, I’m ready to declare this cocktail to be of the elect. (Yes, this is your comparative religions edition of DOTW.) It helps to really like Scotch and sage, though.

The Smokey Scotsman

2 ounces Scotch whisky (very preferably The Macallan 10 year-old single malt, of course)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
3-5 sage leaves

Pour Scotch over sage leaves and muddle the leaves into the booze and lemon juice. Add ice, shake like crazy and pour — do not strain, unless you like your drinks as severe as the most hellfire and brimstone Scottish preacher — into an old fashioned glass, preferably chilled.

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Since this is, as far as I can tell, a rather new beverage, I don’t know of many alternative versions. I did try this myself adding a teaspoon of sugar to the mix. The result was less forbidding but also less interesting

  

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Drink of the Week: Highballs

Because it’s the start of the Memorial Day Weekend, traditionally a big time for picnics and barbecues, we’re going to keep it extra simple this week. So simple a “recipe” in the usual sense isn’t even required.

highball gin and tonicHighballs are not any one particular drink but any cocktail comprised of an alcoholic base and a much larger proportion of some non-alcoholic beverage. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t bother with a lot of highballs because there’s not much point in giving you a recipe for, say, rum and coke or a 7 and 7 (just in case you’re extremely new to booze, that’s 7-Up and Seagram’s 7 whiskey).  Your basic highball is 1-2 ounces of booze, a mixer to taste — about five or six ounces, maybe, and some ice. You can throw in a garnish of your preference, like a lime or lemon wedge, if you want to get fancy.

We’re making an exception this weekend because highballs really are the easiest cocktails to make if you’re going to be outdoors and away from the conveniences of home. Yes, it’s possible to drag your cocktail shaker, measuring shot glass, plenty of ice cubes (which you’ll be quickly tossing), assorted bitters, garnishes, and — most tricky of all– the appropriate type of glasses with you on a picnic. However, we’ve tried it and had fun with it, but it was no picnic. Yes, you can use plastic champagne glasses in place of martini glasses and it won’t be bad, but it’s still a lot of work, those plastic champagne glasses cost a few bucks, and they will never be the same as an actual chilled glass right out of  your freezer.

Of course, cocktail snobs look a bit downward on many of the most popular highballs — you’ll never see James Bond ordering a Jack Daniels and Coke, but then again you’ll never see him gnoshing on a Hoffy’s or Hebrew National at a picnic, either. Nevertheless, there are many beverages in the highball family with a degree of nobility that Bond and even snootier folks have been known to favor. For starters, no one should look down on you for your Scotch or bourbon and soda. (Depending on liquor laws and enforcement in your community, however, police officers may feel otherwise.)

If you really want to kick it old-old-old school, try taking some ginger ale along with the usual cola and lemon lime sodas. Dry ginger ale (not too heavy on the ginger) was the mixer of choice during prohibition, when most liquor was not of high quality; it still works very nicely. Canada Dry and Canadian whiskey was our grandmother’s beverage of choice and we think the old lady kind of knew what she was doing. (We love heavier, more gingeriffic, ginger ales like Vernor’s and ginger beers, and they are frequent cocktail ingredients, but they might not be as reliable mixers in a simple picnic setting.)

Better yet, the immortal gin and tonic is one highball you can knock back with pride, and not just because it’s a favorite of English aristocracy, as seen on “Masterpiece Theater.” Even back when we were young and foolish and appreciated neither gin nor tonic water, somehow the combination of the two of them made one of the delightful warm weather alcoholic beverages we’d fall back on, and we still love them. An especially good version of this uses Hendrick’s Gin, a terrific mid-priced premium gin made in Scotland — most gins are strictly English — that uses a cucumber infusion. As for garnishes, the usual lime wedge will work just fine, but a slice of cucumber stolen from whoever’s making salad really kicks this drink to life. Vodka and tonic is obviously another popular choice here.

Screwdrivers — orange juice and vodka or gin — are impossible to mess up — unless you put in more than 1-2 ounces of  booze, in which you case you probably don’t really care what it tastes like anyway. And while a gin or vodka and tonic won’t actually cure malaria with the tiny amount of quinine that it contains, we are fairly certain the vitamin C in the orange juice will be sufficient to ward off scurvy. Trust us, nothing can ruin a picnic faster than a bad case of scurvy.

  

Everyone loves Johnnie Walker Scotch

The gang at Johnnie Walker was kind enough to send us some samples of each of the scotch bottles above. Needless to say, productivity at Bullz-Eye headquarters immediately plummeted.

It did, however, give us another great idea for a Father’s day gift. Booze may not be the most creative gift, but it’s usually a winner with most fathers, particularly when it involves great Scotch.

You see above that you can choose among five different “labels” for Johnnie Walker, each with a different color. Check out the web site and you can choose the best one for you or the lucky gift recipient. After extensive taste testing, we’re partial to Johnnie Walker Black Label and Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

Two hundred years in the making, Black Label is the signature blend from the House of Walker. Big whisky flavors with hints of rich fruit and smoke make this Scotch whisky the perfect gift for the father who stands strong as the cornerstone of his family. You can’t lose with this one, and at a retail price of around $34 it won’t break the bank.

If you’re looking to spend a tad bit more, try the Blue Label which runs around $220. This is the rarest, most exceptional whisky from Johnnie Walker, and it’s a good choice if you’re looking for a more memorable gift. Just make sure you’re around when he opens the damn thing!

  

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