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.

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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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Drink of the Week: The Chicago Sour

The Chicago SourI’ve confessed here before to the fact that even a pretty well made classic whiskey sour is not exactly my favorite concoction. Still, I’m starting to think that maybe the fault is with the particular recipes I’ve been sampling and that it is possible to make an entirely delightful standard whiskey sour…or maybe you need a little something extra. That’s the approach of this really kind of beautiful creation crafted for the high end bourbon, Angel’s Envy, by noted bartender Freddie Sarkis of Chicago gastropub Sable Kitchen and Bar.

As I noted in an earlier post, Angel’s Envy is bourbon for serious bourbon lovers that is finished in port wine caskets, and the fact that they sent me a free bottle hardly influences my opinion at all! This creation, which uses just a bit of plain old red wine, instead of the port featured in other Angel’s Envy recipes, is also delicious enough to make me forget the fact that I took myself off red wine several years back. It’s really, really good.

The Chicago Sour

2 ounces Angel’s Envy bourbon
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
Red wine

Combine bourbon, lemon juice, egg white and simple syrup in cocktail shaker. Before adding ice, shake the contents vigorously to fully emulsify the egg white. Make sure your shaker is well sealed because egg tends to make plastic cocktail shakers want to pop open for some reason that a chemist or physicist could probably explain. Now add ice and shake again even more vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail/martini/champagne glass. “Float” — which I think means “lightly pour” — a very small amount of red table wine. Drink and toast Mr. Sarkis, who has come up with one mean cocktail.

***

The Chicago Sour made with Angel's EnvyThe recipe as promoted by Angel’s Envy doesn’t specify the type of red wine or the size of the egg — I used the white of a medium egg because medium eggs were on sale at my local supermarket a few days before along with an extremely cheap Cabernet that’s probably slightly below the quality of ordinary two buck Chuck and and exactly the same price. The result, nevertheless, was pretty magnificent. (Please note the usual raw egg caveats apply — the risk of contamination is very low, but people with certain health issues should use pasteurized eggs.)

Regular readers will also note that I departed from my prior habit of using superfine sugar and water in preference to simple syrup because I’m feeling lazy and I found some for an acceptable price that was actually made with cane sugar. Still, I imagine you could substitute about a tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 an ounce of water and it would likely come out as tasty as anything else from our nation’s former second city, as saluted below by two Italian-American lounge singers of some note.

  

Drink of the Week: The Whiskey Smash

The Whiskey SmashThe Whiskey Smash is probably one of the clearest examples of a drink rescued from complete obscurity by the ongoing classic cocktail revival. Although the modern version featured in a growing number of retro-friendly bars differs enough from the recipe written up by cocktail pioneer Jerry Thomas in 1862 to be an entirely different cocktail, the more polished and slightly more elaborate version below is certainly a classic of sorts.

As it stands, the Whiskey Smash is a close relative of the Mojito and the (I swear upcoming) Mint Julep. It’s outstanding for a warm day or in a bar so crowded if feels like a warm day. Certainly if you’re a fan of whiskey, lemon, mint,  and heavy muddling, this is your drink.

The Whiskey Smash

2-3 ounces whiskey (bourbon, rye, Canadian, etc.)
1 quarter lemon, cut into four or more pieces
5 or more mint leaves
2-3 teaspoons superfine sugar
3 dashes of bitters
1/2-3/4 ounce water (optional)
1 mint sprig (semi-optional garnish)
1 maraschino cherry (very optional garnish)

Combine your whiskey, lemon pieces, superfine sugar, mint leaves and, if you like, splash of water in a cocktail shaker. (The water is really only there to approximate the 1/2 to 3/4 ounces of simple syrup most recipes call for instead of sugar, but I found the results about the same whether or not I included it.)

Muddle it all rather intensely, paying special attention to give a good mushing to the lemon pieces — this is a “smash” after all. You can take it a bit easier on the mint if you like. Make sure, however, that your sugar is dissolved in the liquid, which should happen without too much effort if you’re using superfine sugar and not cheating with ordinary table sugar.

Add lots of ice — cracked or crushed ice is probably better — and shake vigorously. Strain into a well chilled old fashioned glass with a few ice cubes in it. Because of all the lemon, mint, and crushed ice you may have to exercise a bit more patience at the straining stage, but your forebearance will shortly be rewarded. If you’d like an extra dash of sweetness and color, add a maraschino cherry along with the semi-obligatory mint-spring.

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I found the results remarkably consistent regardless of which whiskey I used, though I found using Buffalo Trace bourbon resulted in a slightly more mellow and interesting smash than the super-reasonably priced Evan Williams I picked up for a ten spot. 100 proof whiskeys seem to work well here, and I had good luck using my standby Rittenhouse Rye as well as the hard to find 100 proof Canadian Club I’m lucky enough to have. (You can buy it online here.) I also found that this one drink that worked very nicely not only with traditional aromatic bitters like Angostura, but also with the bottle of Fee Brothers Celery Bitters I recently picked up. (Speaking of revived classics, as I understand it, celery bitters pretty much disappeared between sometime in the middle of prohibition and, believe it or not, 2008.)

I’ve also noticed there’s something of a fetish among bartenders not to end up with bits of mint in the final, strained drink. It happened to me a lot of the time, and it wasn’t a problem  either in terms of taste or aesthetics, in my view.

And just a reminder that you will really need a good, solid muddler suitable for lemon smashing as described so long ago in our guide to bar implements. If you don’t have one, you can improvise but you want something solid. A freshly washed hammer used with extreme caution, perhaps.

 

  

Drink of the Week: The Meyer-Canadian Semi-Sour

The Meyer-Canadian Semi-SourYou’ve never heard of the today’s Drink of the Week for a very good reason. The Meyer-Canadian Semi Sour, as I’ve named it (any other suggestions?) is the first DOTW that is pretty much entirely my own variation on a cocktail classic.  While I wouldn’t say this was a great invention that happened by accident, I did sort of stumble over it.

As I hinted at in my post on the whiskey sour some time ago, I find that particular cocktail staple to be extremely sour. Truth in advertising, I guess, but while many love it, for me it’s a drink for which I feel more respect than affection. Then, one day last week, I saw a small sack of Meyer Lemons on sale for a reasonable price at my local branch of the newish Southwestern grocery chain, Fresh and Easy. If you’re a foodie, you may know this seasonal citrus as an ingredient favored by such culinary legends as Alice Waters. I just like the idea of a lemon that’s partly an orange.

Searching around for cocktails made with the juice of the crossbreed fruit, I tried one drink which I may return to if I can find another bag. On a whim, I then decided to try out my own version of a whiskey sour, using the juice of this decidedly sweeter lemon which, unlike the fruit that Trini Lopez sang about, is entirely possible to eat. For some reason I decided to use slightly less juice than most recipes call for, slightly more sugar and about double the egg white.  Since I’d already had one drink, I decided to steer away from the hundred proof boozes I’ve been leaning toward and just go with good old 80 proof Canadian Club. The result was, for me, a small slice of near paradise.

The Meyer-Canadian Semi-Sour

2 ounces Canadian Club whisky
3/4 ounce (or slightly less) freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar
1 large egg white
1 maraschino cherry (garnish)

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake vigorously to ensure that the egg white is fully emulsified — you should have a nice yellow froth going. Add ice and shake again, even more vigorously and longer. Pour into a chilled martini, wine, or rocks glass with a maraschino cherry for color and an added dash of sweetness. Try not to drink it all it once.

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I also sampled the then unnamed Meyer-Canadian Semi-Sour with both 100 proof Canadian Club and Rittenhouse Rye, a personal favorite, but the stronger flavor of the 100 proof stuff overwhelmed it in both cases. 80 proof Canadian Club seems to be the perfect thing here, and I suspect this would work almost as well with one of CC’s competitors. I even more strongly suspect it would be outstanding with Crown Royal, if you’ve got that kind of money to throw around. It’s a shame I can’t try it with the 86 proof Canadian Club that my grandma used to drink back in the last century and which presumably was closer to whatever Don Draper was swigging decades prior, but the contemporary version works so nicely that I have a hard time complaining very much.

Of course, since this drink uses raw egg whites, the usual provisos apply that I covered in the whiskey sour post. There’s very, very, very little too worry about for most people though I know there’s tons of raw egg phobes out there. On the other hand, if you have a significantly compromised immune system or are pregnant or otherwise very touchy healthwise, you may want to either use pasteurized egg whites or simply avoid this drink. (Actually, if you’re pregnant, I’m not sure you’re even allowed to read this.)

By the way, if you can’t find Meyer Lemons in your area at the moment and are suddenly determined to try them, you can order a very large quantity here.

  

Drink of the Week: The Canadian Cocktail

the Canadian CocktailLike the nation for which it is named and the spirit with which it is made, this week’s selection is often overlooked and highly underrated. Indeed, at least on the web, it’s almost unheralded among cocktails, classic or otherwise. Still, it’s a pretty delightful variation — I’d say improvement — on a whiskey sour with a bit of classic margarita thrown in.

As the name would indicate, the Canadian Cocktail is definitely an enjoyable way to enjoy Don Draper and Nucky Thompson’s underrated favorite, Canadian Club, or, if you’re feeling like something a bit more complex, the new Canadian Club Classic 12 (as in 12 years-old). It’s part of a new wave of high end Canadian whisky and a beverage we’ll be returning to elsewhere.

The Canadian Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces Canadian whisky
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce orange curacao or triple sec
1-2 dash bitters (Angostura or orange)
1 teaspoon superfine sugar (highly optional)
1 maraschino cherry (garnish, fairly optional)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. If you’re adding sugar dissolve it. Add ice, shake like the dickens and strain into a chilled and preferably smallish rocks/old fashioned glass, perhaps one in which you’ve already tossed a maraschino cheery if you’ve skipped the sugar. Sip in a leisurely manner while watching a “Kids in the Hall” rerun or a Guy Maddin flick.

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There are other versions of this drink floating around the net. Some dispense with the lemon juice, which might work if you’re using a really good triple sec or a very small quantity of it. Some call for you to peel an entire orange rind to make a gigantic orange twist. I’m sure it’s a fine touch, but I haven’t learned to do that yet without threatening myself with major harm. I would, however, counsel cocktail cheapskates to use orange curacao, which should have a slight edge of bitterness. On the inexpensive end of the liqueur landscape, it brings a much more interesting and less insipid flavor to the drink.

  

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