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  1. #1
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    Bourbon/Rye Cocktails

    Having amassed a ridiculous supply of bourbon and rye, an extensive library of cocktail books, and a deep bench of liqueurs and mixers, I'm starting this thread to centralize discussion of cocktails built on the bourbon and rye foundation and on the outside chance that a Great American Whiskey Cocktail remains to be discovered.

    Up front, I'll suggest that there are five classic whiskey cocktails: the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned, the Sour, the Sazerac and the Julep. Within these five, the variations are endless when you consider the differences among individual whiskies, vermouths, bitters, etc. With the Julep even the quality of the ice becomes essential to the finished drink. Hence, my purchase of a vintage ice crusher. So...

    I'll kick things off with some observations on the Kentucky Bourbon Festival's official drink for 2007: the Fashionable Manhattan. Obviously a hybrid of the Manhattan and the Old-Fashioned, it could just as easily be labeled the Fashionable Manhazerac as the technique of coating the glass with the bitters and citrus oil is stylistically similar to coating the Sazerac glass with absinthe. I had actually first seen this cocktail demonstrated on the At Brown's Bar podcast:

    http://www.mixellany.com/podcast/NEWYORK-4.mov

    Last night, I mixed a couple of these using 8 yr. Old Fitz 1849 bourbon and Carpano Antica. In one I substituted ruby red grapefruit for the orange. I found the grapefruit variation more subtle and balanced than the orange, although both were sophisticated, complex cocktails. Given the protracted shaking time, 45 sec to 1 min, I also think a higher proof bourbon might be preferable. Something like an Old Grand-Dad Bonded to add more rye to the mix.

    Another interesting substitution would be Amer Picon for the bitters. It's distinctive citrus flavor would be a fine addition, I think. BTW, if anyone comes across any Amer Picon, buy it! Buy all of it! If you don't want it, pm me. It is a fantastic ingredient and the dearest, rarest dusty I've been lucky enough to find. Some of you guys near Bakersfield, Ca, help me out.

    All-in-all, I give my attempt at the Fashionable Manhattan, a solid B+. A cocktail worthy of the Bourbon Festival and deserving of further exploration.

    Tomorrow I'll consider David Embury's Millionaire, but for now I'll just stick with my WT Rye Manhattan.

    -Mike
    "This is the real article. It is double-rectified busthead from Madison County, aged in the keg. A little spoonful would do you a power of good."

    -True Grit by Charles Portis

  2. #2
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Re: Bourbon/Rye Cocktails

    Excellent thread and delighted to contribute my thoughts - post no. 4000 - for what they are worth.

    I think you are right in identifying the 5 main whiskey cocktails. In addition to those you mention, E. Frank Henriques identifies the Presbyterian (whiskey, ginger ale, club soda, ice, a twist). However even in the 1970's he recognised its antiquatedness, so we can safely set it aside I think (although it is an excellent drink especially in the summer - by the way while little in the bluestocking way seems evident in the drink, its name can be explained I think by substituting soda for half the ginger ale normally required).

    I do my own variations on all these drinks. Tonight I used rock and rye (largely a citrus-based cordial using some straight whiskey in the base) to fashion (ahem) a sour-type drink. I poured some Jefferson's, added some Canadian whisky to it (why not), then added a dash or two of rock and rye (Leroux'), just enough to sweeten lightly the drink. Bitters went in too (two kinds). Lots of ice. Shake it up good. A delightful summer whiskey refresher.

    If you follow the spirits/sweet/bitter/ice formula, with the sweet comprising a fruity addition, you can't go wrong.

    The more I get on with whiskey, the more I see the value and logic of the great whiskey cocktails. I'll still take some bourbon or rye neat, but more and more I am turning to a well-made cocktail as the ideal way to consume good whiskey.

    Gary

  3. #3
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    Re: Bourbon/Rye Cocktails

    Quote Originally Posted by scratchline View Post
    for now I'll just stick with my WT Rye Manhattan.
    Let me suggest a variation, and my favorite Manhattan: one ounce (30 ml) each WT rye, WT bourbon, and good vermouth, with two or three dashes Angostura bitters, shaken 45 seconds, served up in a chilled cocktail glass and garnished with a cherry.

    Even more elegant and sophisticated, to my taste, than one made with all WT bourbon or rye.

    Jeff
    "One never knows, do one?" Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943

  4. #4
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    Re: Bourbon/Rye Cocktails

    Certainly the Presbyterian deserves mention. I was thinking less in the tall drink direction and more in the classic cocktail vein, but ginger and bourbon/rye are sure two great tastes that taste great together. In looking over recipes, I was very surprised to find Dale DeGroff calling for 7-Up rather than ginger ale for his Presbyterian! And Dave Wondrich calling for blended Scotch!! Which reminds me that I picked up some Ale-8-One in Ohio and need to give that a try.

    Jeff, I'll definitely give the WT rye/WT bourbon combination a go. I recently paired Hirsch Canadian Rye and OGD in a Manhattan. I tend to find ryes or rye mash bourbons superior as Italian vermouth already brings enough sweetness to the mix and the spicy kick of rye off-sets it more effectively than most wheaters. A clear example of this was a MM Manhattan that I tried recently that was strikingly one dimensional. I'm not a big MM drinker but someone had given it to me as a gift, and both my buddy and I agreed that it just didn't make it. We added a dash of Old Bardstown, and the drink was completely transformed. I imagine someone will now inform me that OB is a wheater as well. But if it is, it's a very different one from Maker's.

    Gary, I've passed up a lot of bottles of Rock and Rye because I thought it was just rye and sugar. Now that I know there's some citrus in there, I'll pick some up.

    I'll get to the Millionaire later because I stumbled across something else that I'm really enjoying today. The Cassis:

    2 oz. bourbon
    1/2 oz dry vermouth
    1/4 oz cassis

    Stir vigorously. Strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

    I was using the Old Fitz 1849 and I think something like OGD Bonded might be even better. Even though the drink tends to the sweet side, it's not a schnappsy, syrupy deal. The Vya vermouth I used is very floral and contributes complexity that blends well with the fruit flavor. I have an unopened bottle of a French liqueur called Six that combines different berry and cherry flavors that might be an interesting alternative to the cassis.

    I'll keep tinkering with this one. Even though I used to order Manhattans "perfect", I've not been a big fan of bourbon/dry vermouth combinations in the past, but there's something about the cassis that bridges these two nicely.
    "This is the real article. It is double-rectified busthead from Madison County, aged in the keg. A little spoonful would do you a power of good."

    -True Grit by Charles Portis

  5. #5
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Bourbon/Rye Cocktails

    There are only three bourbon cocktails that I enjoy with any regularity. They are the manhattan, the sour, and bourbon & ginger.

    I'm big on easy and tasty (a morning team in Detroit, if memory serves), so there's nothing fancy here.

    My manhattans are pretty standard. I enjoy them shaken or on the rocks about equally well. Yes, I said "shaken." Experts say drinks that are mostly liquor, such as the manhattan should be stirred, not shaken. I like them shaken.

    My manhattan is roughly 4 parts whiskey to one part vermouth, with a couple dashes of bitters. I like to garnish with a cherry, just as my mom and dad did. When served up I like a chilled glass. The whiskey tends to be a high-rye bourbon or straight rye; Rittenhouse, Grand-Dad, VOB. I tend to use a BIB. I've also been known to use American Blended Whiskey, as they often do in the Northeast, or even Canadian whiskey, as they often do in the Midwest.

    My sour is more like a bourbon margarita. It's a generous pour of bourbon or rye, a little triple sec, fill with ice, top with sweet and sour mix. (I prefer Mr. & Mrs. T.) Of the three, this is the best one for using up an unpleasant whiskey less unpleasantly.

    My bourbon & ginger probably is equal parts whiskey and soda, or maybe skewed slightly in the soda's favor. I prefer Ale 8 One, which is made in Winchester, Kentucky, and seems to have a natural affinity for the state's whiskey, as seems only right. As with the manhattan, I like something very flavorful such as Rittenhouse Rye, Old Grand-Dad, Bulleit, or Very Old Barton, but really any good whiskey will do.

    Most of the time I drink my whiskey neat, but when I feel like a whiskey cocktail I usually have one of those three.

  6. #6
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    Re: Bourbon/Rye Cocktails

    I'm a Sazerac fan, particularly using half whiskey and half brandy. My current favorite is using half Laird's bonded apple brandy (comes across more like whiskey) and half OGD BIB. I use the standard method of rinsing my Old-Fashioned glass with pastis (I like Herbsaint, since it's from N.O.), then adding my chilled whiskey and bitters. I use Peychaud's, of course, and garnish with a lemon twist, but I find a dash of Fee Bros. lemon bitters improves the nose, lengthens the finish, and adds a nice bit of complexity.

    I've lately been playing with the Redhook, a Manhattan variation with Punt e Mes instead of vermouth and the addition of 1/4-1/2 oz. of maraschino liqueur (I go for the low end, as this stuff is sweet and potent in flavor). A terrific drink. I also like a Manhattan with 1/4-1/2 oz. of curacao (or my homemade tangelo liqueur) added. The drink is sweeter, but the citrus is a great match for the whiskey and the sweet vermouth.

    Going a step farther in variations on the Manhattan, I've used 1/2 oz. of Campari in place of 1/2 oz. of sweet vermouth, generally omitting the bitters when I do this. The drink can't even really be called a manhattan at this point, I guess, but it's good. The recipe usually looks like this:

    2 oz. whiskey
    1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
    1/2 oz. Campari
    orange twist for garnish

    I generally like to flame any citrus twist for a whiskey cocktail. I think the caramelized orange oils are a natural flavor match for the caramel and char in a good straight whiskey.

    Most of my whiskey cocktails are done with high-rye bourbons or straight ryes. I do love a wheater in a julep, though, and I think a good wheater can make a good, though very different, Old-Fashioned.

  7. #7
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    Re: Bourbon/Rye Cocktails

    The Red Hook is a definite favorite of mine. Another one that I really like, which in a way fuses the Manhattan and the Sazerac, is the Cocktail a la Louisane:

    3/4 oz. rye (I tend to use Rittenhouse BIB, WT, or Baby Saz)
    3/4 oz. Bénédictine
    3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
    3 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
    3 dashes pastis or absinthe

    Stir well with cracked ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a cherry.
    Oh no! You have walked into the slavering fangs of a lurking grue!

  8. #8
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    Re: Bourbon/Rye Cocktails

    When it comes to cocktails I'm a late bloomer. I've only been drinking Manhattans for a few short years and Old-fashioneds since earlier this spring. I have done a little experimenting with adding Triple Sec in place of some of the sugar. I like that. My recipe usually goes as follows: 2 oz. whiskey (usually rye), one teaspoon water, one half teaspoon Triple Sec and one half or one quarter teaspoon sugar one slightly molested (not fully muddled) orange slice and one intact maraschino cherry.

  9. #9
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    Re: Bourbon/Rye Cocktails

    On the Spirits and Cocktails forum over at eGullet, I've been reading a good bit about the Vieux Carre, a classic cocktail that's enjoying a bit of a revival. I finally got around to making some this week, and I'm really enjoying the drink. It's sort of a cross between a Sazerac and a Manhattan:

    1 oz. rye/bourbon
    1 oz. cognac
    1 oz. sweet vermouth
    1 tsp. Benedictine liqueur
    2 dashes Peychaud's
    2 dashes Angostura

    Benedictine is an herbal liqueur with a smoky character and some nicely spicy notes. The herbaceousness doesn't approach Chartreuse levels. It's a truly beautiful liqueur, and it pushes this cocktail to great heights. This is one of very few cocktails (as opposed to neat spirits) I'd consider as a cigar accompaniment.

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Bourbon/Rye Cocktails

    Here's a recipe that I haven't tried yet, but it looks kind of interesting.

    Jim Beam Bourbon Slush

    • 2 cups Jim Beam® Bourbon
    • large can frozen orange juice
    • large can frozen lemonade
    • 1-1/2 cups sugar
    • 4 tea bags
    • 8 cups water

    Take some of the heat out of summer with this refresher. Make a day ahead of time. Boil 2 cups of the water and make tea. Mix tea with all other ingredients and freeze. To serve, scoop into a glass and add a small amount of ginger ale or lemon-lime soda to make slushy. Makes 10–12 servings.

 

 

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