Rye whiskey is not a spirit that I have much experience with, especially not mixing myself.  But it has crossed my path a number of times over the last week , so I thought I should take a hint and try out a couple whiskey recipes.  This also gave me an excuse to use some of the new cocktail “toys” (new juicers and strainers) that I got for Christmas.  The two drinks I made both came from the New York Times (I’ve included the article links below).

For the last few months, I have been slowly making my way through The History of the World in Six Glasses (Tom Standage, 2005) and I just finished the section on whiskey.  Here are the highlights of what I learned. As our nation expanded westward in the late 18th century, Scottish and Irish settlers started making spirits from cereal grains like rye, wheat, corn or barley.  Whiskey quickly overtook rum which had dominated as the most popular booze in the colonial period.  Whiskey became such an important part of American life that it even caused a military skirmish in 1794.  Problems started when Alexander Hamilton thought it would be a good idea to tax whiskey production, even for private consumption, to raise money to pay off the debt from the American Revolution.  A small band of farmers in Pennsylvania fought against the whiskey tax collectors sparking the Whiskey Rebellion.  President George Washington brought together federal troops to handle the situation, but not before deaths on both sides.  The rebels were weakened and eventually the excise was repealed.  Interesting this moment in American history also contributed to the development of another spirit—as rebels moved farther west into Kentucky, in particular Bourbon County, where they took advantage of corn, an indigenous group, making a drink we now call bourbon.

Now that we’ve had our history lesson, onto the drinks…

The Red Hook

My first cocktail, the Red Hook, was inspired by an article in today’s New York Times (Thanks for the article, Jeff!).  The drink features rye whiskey (2 oz), Punt de Mes, or sweet vermouth (½ oz) and maraschino liqueur (½ oz).  It’s pretty heavy on the whiskey, so if I make this again, I might amp up the maraschino a bit to try and mellow out the whiskey.  I guess I need a little something to cut my whiskey.

The Monte Cassino

For my second drink, I made a Monte Cassino, another drink recipe I found in the NY Times in an article about the 500th anniversary of Benedictine.  This cocktail is spectacular!  Developed by Damon Dyer of Louis 649 in NYC, it follows the formula of The Last Word (and I have yet to meet a variation of this drink that I did not like)—equal parts of 4 ingredients that combine bitter, herbal, sweet and sour.  The Monte Cassino is ¾ ounce each of rye (the recipe called for Rittenhouse 100-proof, but I used Old Overholt), yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, and lemon juice.  The Chartreuse and Benedictine both add a fabulous herbaliness and spiciness (between these two liqueurs there are almost 160 herbs and spices in this cocktail!), while the rye brings in a slight bitterness and the tart lemon rounds the whole thing out.  I love the complexity of the disparate flavors, and the way they come surprising come together in perfect harmony.  Spectacular!

Salute!

Advertisements