When I was young, at the various functions (marriages, bar mitzvahs, engagements, etc.) in Montreal where I grew up the sine qua non of the bar was the Whisky Sour. It was mixed in situ by the bartender and poured into those shallow stemmed glasses and served en masse on trays. The glass was the kind used until about the 1960's for Champagne said to be based on the size of Marie Antoinette's breast. Anyway, the whisky sours were made with Canadian blended whisky (erroneously but ancestrally called "rye"), bar mix (no doubt) which had a lemon taste and sugar of some kind (I think the powdered type). The drinks were good but recently I've been researching this cocktail and made it with better ingredients and it can be really good. It is a type of Old Fashioned, in fact. I used one of my complex blends of straight whiskies for the spirit element, a mix of Grenadine and Rock and Rye for the sweet, and a slice of lime which was squeezed first into the drink. Lots of cubes, mix well. The result is just great. The sweetish-yet-tart undertone carries the complex whiskey flavours to perfection. Sometimes you want a fillip, pick-me-up, and this is just ideal.
I remember the bartender who used to work at functions my family organised or attended. His name was Wally. He must have been at the time about 40 years old (this is 35 years ago). He had dark hair combed back and a nice smile and was friendly and an expert at his trade. Even then when I must have been around 20 I was interested in spirits and I asked him what rye he used and he said, "Schenley whiskies only". He must have worked for a branch of the company or someone that was tied in some way to them, I now realise. Wally did not drink, he told me he had seen too many problems in people who drank and he decided it was not for him and not compatible with his work. Today if living Wally would be in his 80's. He was a great bartender and stimulated some of my early interest in the subject. I've made a mental note to write my mom (78) and ask her if Wally is living. Since he was a man of sober habits his chances surely were greater of attaining to a good age. He'd have been quizzical about my attempt to best his effort at a Whisky Sour and could not in any case have tested my essay at same due to his abstemiousness, but I'd like to think he would be interested that I kept up my amateur interest in things ethanolic all these years. And Schenley's plant in Valleyfield, Quebec which made the whisky he served is still going strong, owned now by Barton's of Kentucky: the circle is complete.
Here's to you, Wally.