Richmond Rye Manhattan

So, a new month, a new spirit, and a new world of cocktails to try. Last month, I focused on gin, a spirit I was well-acquainted with. So this month, I wanted to work with a spirit I haven’t had any experience with: rye.


Rye is a traditionally American whiskey made, you guessed it, primarily from rye. Contrasted with bourbon, another American whiskey, rye is generally less sweet and usually has spicier notes. It’s also drier than it’s corn-based cousin, and, in my opinion, that makes it better suited for more cocktails. Instead of having to fight with the sweetness of a bourbon, it’s much easier to compliment the rye and really let it shine.

Rye was also the whiskey of choice for many classic cocktails before Prohibition. For a while, using rye in cocktails was forgotten; bourbon was used instead. But relatively recently there’s been a resurgence, and rye is once again the spirit of choice for Old Fashioneds, Whiskey Sours, and this week’s cocktail: the timeless Manhattan.

Cocktail!

The Manhattan is a very simple cocktail with plenty of room for variation. The base recipe contains nothing more than rye, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. The amounts may vary, but I stick to the most common 2:1 rye to vermouth. And I enjoy adding a little orange bitters for some extra complexity.

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts rye (I used New Richmond Rye, a delicious local rye made by 45th Parallel Distillery)
  • 1 part sweet vermouth
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Take your ingredients and build them in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir, then strain into a glass.

I was working fast to try and catch the last of the evening’s light, so no building pictures this time.

Some quick notes on stirring: it’s different than stirring any other kind of drink. You want to combine and chill the ingredients with some, but mostly minimal dilution from the ice. To do this, take something long and thin (like a chopstick, as pictured), insert it into the glass along the edge, then spin the ice to form a little whirlpool or vortex in the middle. Here’s a video showing how to properly do it. He goes into more detail than the average home mixologist will need to, but it’s a helpful guide nonetheless. Anyway, back to the drink.

Garnish your Manhattan with a twist of either lemon or orange, or with a cherry. Or with both, like I have below.

Probably the prettiest drink picture I’ve ever taken.

The first taste experienced is a little sweet from the vermouth, but that quickly dissipates into the spice and the wood of the rye. The Angostura bitters help make it a Manhattan: they keep the sweet from the vermouth from taking over the rye, and they accent the rye helping bring out notes of fruit and the barrel to the forefront. The orange bitters help round this out, adding an additional layer to the drink and softening the bite of the rye a little, but not so much that you can’t tell exactly what you’re drinking.

This is a drink you could have ordered with confidence and received before the turn of the 20th century. Over 100 years later, this drink is still relevant, still appealing to (at least) my palate, and most importantly, still delicious.

Do you have a favorite variation on the Manhattan? Is there a particular rye or vermouth you prefer? Let me know in the comments below, at alex@stagandotter.com, or you can find me on twitter at @larix_laricina. Thanks for reading, and cheers!

Excitement – the Halifax Spring

Folks, good news!  On a whim, I entered a giveaway for a small batch seasonal spiced rum from Lyon Distillery in Maryland, hosted by a cool blogger at www.behindthecraft.com. All you needed to enter was a cocktail that featured spiced rum! Since they were still accepting entries, I decided to give it a shot. The requirements were rather simple: it must include spiced rum, it should represent the season in some way, and it must be either an original creation or a twist on a classic.  Lucky for me, I’ve just spend the last month modifying or creating drinks! The first thing I tried was to modify the drink I had just made for The Stag and Otter: the Promise of Spring.  Here’s what I ended up with:


Halifax Spring:

2 parts spiced rum

1 part fresh grapefruit juice

1/2 part simple syrup*

Drizzle of pure maple syrup

1/4 ripe pear

The only changes between Halifax and The Promise are switching out the gin for spiced rum (of course) and reducing the amount of simple syrup, both directly added to the drink and by not poaching the pears in syrup. Since rum is inherently much more sweet than gin, I felt safe moving away from some of the added sweet. Even though this was the first thing I tried, this was so pleasant and drinkable that I didn’t go any further. The only addition I made to this recipe after the first tasting was to add a thick garnish of lemon. Without it, this drink can be a little too sweet, at least for my taste. Though slight, the freshness and tang of the lemon peel helps keep this drink balanced.

There were plenty of other good drinks entered into this contest already when I submitted the Halifax Spring, so I didn’t think my chances were good. But then, after a long day knowing I was in the top three entries, Halifax Spring was declared the winner! And I have to admit, it feels pretty good. I’ve only been exploring the world of craft cocktails for a little over a month. I’ve barely begun to learn how to make different things and what flavor profiles different spirits, bitters, and ingredients have and how they interact with each other. But it’s good to know that I’m on the right track with some stuff. I feel much more motivated now, and let’s see if I can crank out more than just one post per week from here on. And I’ll have some amazing spiced rum to work with as well.

Thank you all, dear readers, for your support so far. I know this blog is still rather sparse and plain, and I have a lot of content to add still. But we’re growing, and this is an excellent sign that I’m moving in the right direction.

Follow the blog that hosted the contest on twitter  @BehindTheCraft or at their website, www.behindthecraft.com. As for the distiller, follow them on their facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LyonDistilling or on their twitter @LYONDISTILLING .

Thanks for reading, and cheers!

*: In the future, I think some sort of spiced syrup (ginger, clove, or cinnamon, depending on the inherent flavors in your rum of choice) would add a little more complexity to this cocktail.

Cucumber Gin & Tonic

Alas, it’s the end of this gin month. And what better drink to finish of the month than the classic, the drink that made an empire: the Gin and Tonic. It’s a simple cocktail, but it’s incredibly refreshing and open to lots of variation.


The Gin and Tonic was instituted by the East India Trading Company’s occupation in India. Malaria prevented the British from really gaining a stronghold in tropical regions. Quinine, a compound found in the bark of the cinchona tree, was found to have anti-malarial attributes, and so was quickly made into a consumable substance. Quinine is inherently very bitter, so soldiers mixed it, dissolved in water, with gin, lime, and sugar. As the British Empire spread, so did the Gin and Tonic. Now it can be found just about everywhere, and is one of the quintessential spring and summer drinks.

I decided to take the classic and riff on it a bit by adding the freshness and herbal notes of cucumber.

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts gin
  • 3/4 part cucumber syrup
  • Dash of lime
  • Tonic water

It’s simple: fill a tall glass with ice.  Build the drink in the glass by first putting in the gin, then the cucumber syrup, then the lime. Be very careful with the lime – you only want a little bit of juice, or the lime will quickly overpower the cucumber. Then top off the glass with tonic water and stir.

Garnish with some cucumber slices, and you have yourself one classy drink.

Ignore the snow on the ground, goodness knows I’m trying to.

There is nothing more refreshing than a good Gin and Tonic, and this is no exception. The cucumber syrup adds both sweet and a subtle herbal taste that augments the natural herbal characteristics of the gin. The bitterness of the tonic keeps the finish dry, and the lime adds a hint of freshness that puts the drink over the top. And hey, you get the added benefit of protection from malaria. It’s hard to go wrong with a classic like the Gin and Tonic. And feel free to try your own spin! If you come up with fun flavors or variants on this or any other drink featured here, or you have a drink you want me to make, or you just want to talk, leave a comment below or send me an email at alex@stagandotter.com.

My wonderful photographer and wife, and Griffin, our gigantic puppy! Thanks for your help!

Next month we’ll be moving on to our next spirit of the month. I don’t know what that will be yet, so if you have any requests, feel free to leave them in the comments.  Thanks for reading!

Promise of Spring

This week’s cocktail was originally going to be the White Lady, which is 2 parts gin, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part orange liqueur, and optional egg white. But, since it’s basically the same thing as the Pegu Club I made in my first post, I decided to nix that and experiment a little. Don’t get me wrong, the White Lady is amazing. I think the lemon blends with the orange liqueur better than the lime, but that’s purely personal preference. So, be sure to try the White Lady and the Pegu Club and let me know which one you think is better!


Cocktail!

All right, onward to this week’s feature drink: the Promise of Spring!  …okay, so that name’s a little pretentious, but it was the first I could think of, and I couldn’t find this cocktail anywhere else. With spring (hopefully) coming soon, maple trees being tapped all around me, and a little tropical fruit to remind me that warmer months are ahead, I thought the name was apt. If you’ve got a better one, leave it in the comments. I’d love to hear it!

Most sour drinks are made with either lemon juice or lime juice. I know, however, that they aren’t the only sour flavors at my disposal. Grapefruit juice is the first alternative sour that came to mind, so I decided to experiment. After polling my friends on Facebook, tasting some grapefruit juice, and looking up other grapefruit-based drinks, I found that I needed a strong, yet subtle sweet to cut the acidity of the grapefruit and balance its signature tartness. With that in mind, I came up with this:

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts gin
  • 1 part grapefruit juice
  • 0.5 part simple syrup
  • Spoonful of cooked pears
  • Dash of maple syrup

The first step is to cook the pears. I cooked one diced pear in 1.5 parts water and 1 part sugar. If your pear is extremely ripe, you may not need to cook it, but this way you get a delicious pear simple syrup for use in future dishes and drinks, so I recommend it.  Once the pear is cooked and subsequently cooled, place a spoonful (fine, if you want a slightly more accurate measure, about 1/4 of a pear) in your shaker and add the 0.5 part simple syrup. Now, we muddle.

I’ll write a separate article on muddling in the future, but I’ll sum it up here: muddling is pulverizing an ingredient in a liquid to release the flavors. After muddling, the solid ingredient is usually shaken with the rest of the cocktail, then strained (unless you’re going for the rustic aesthetic). In this case, make sure you pummel the pear good, but you don’t need to actually puree it by hand.

 Next, add the grapefruit juice, gin, and a dash (i.e. a few drops) of maple syrup. Be careful with the maple syrup – it’s a very overpowering flavor, and unless you plan on eating pancakes with this, a few drops are enough.

 Then shake. I’ll do an article or video on how to properly shake a cocktail in the future as well, but to quickly sum it up: you’re shaking the drink to mix the ingredients, cool the drink, and slightly dilute the drink. As you shake the drink, the ice will both lower the liquid’s temperature and chip, putting more water into the drink. This is a variable that can be manipulated to change the consistency of a drink. But as a general rule, you only need to shake a drink for 5 seconds or so.

Don’t forget to glare at the drink while shaking it.

When you’re done shaking, strain the cocktail into your glass of choice.

Garnish with a few pieces of your cooked pear, and enjoy!

The Promise of Spring exceeded my expectations in every way. Each flavor makes itself known, but none of them overpower any of the others. While very sour, the grapefruit is complimented well by the more neutral sweet of the pear, allowing the other flavors inherent in the grapefruit to come through, along with the herbal notes of the gin. The maple syrup binds everything together and gives it depth.  This cocktail is, overall, slightly more sweet than sour. But, because the sweet enhances the sour rather than extinguishes the sour, I don’t mind it at all.

If you make a Promise of Spring for yourself and/or a friend or two, let me know what you think of it either in the comments or at alex@stagandotter.com!

Heimdall insists you try this drink for yourself!

Spiced Honey Vodka

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups vodka
  • 1 large tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Allspice
  • Cloves
  • Candied Ginger

After letting the honey and spices infuse for five days, I strained the vodka and was left with a creamy, flavorful vodka that tasted like Christmas and home. The cloves, allspice, and cinnamon are mainstays of mulling and pies, and the ginger adds a sweet and clean layer to the rich honey. Mixing one part of this with one part Irish whiskey makes a delicious and cheaper stand-in for a Rusty Nail in a pinch.

The one change I would make when making this in the future is to use real honeycomb instead of raw honey; while flavorful, most of the honey flavor is from actual honey suspended in the vodka. This makes the infusion almost too sweet. Using true honeycomb should lend a more subtle and complex honey flavor to the vodka. Note that honeycomb will most likely take longer than five days to fully infuse.


If you make any of the cocktails or infusions mentioned in this blog, or if there’s anything else that you’d like me to know about, feel free to send me an email at alex@stagandotter.com or leave a comment below.

The Pegu Club

The Pegu Club cocktail originated in Burma as a slice of British imperialism: something served to colonial businessmen and military officers at the Pegu Club on the outskirts of Rangoon. The original recipe called for 2 ounces London dry gin, 3/4 ounce orange curacao, 3/4 ounce lime juice, 1 dash Angostura bitters, and 1 dash orange bitters. Since I don’t have the orange bitters yet, I decided to cut the lime and gin with egg white instead. Much like the foam on top of your cappuccino, egg whites in cocktails add volume to the drink, creating a creamy texture that helps cut the acidity of the lime by incorporating that acid into it’s foam structure. For more on the science behind this, read this article.



Ingredients:

  • 2 parts gin

  • 1 part orange liqueur

  • 1 part lime juice

  • 1 egg white

  • Ice

Our cat, Heimdall, decided he wanted to join us. Do not add cat to the drink.

Combine all ingredients except the ice in a shaker. Shake vigorously for a few seconds until a nice froth forms. Add ice and shake again, but gently this time to preserve the foam, until a little condensation begins to form on the outside of the shaker. 


Strain into a glass and garnish with a lime twist.

Voila!

This Pegu Club variant is very tasty. Lime and gin is a classic combination, and it doesn’t disappoint here. The acidity of the lime brings out the herbal notes in the gin, and the addition of the egg white cuts the acidity and gives the Pegu Club a smooth texture.  

This cocktail evokes the warm clime of Yangon (f/k/a Rangoon) where it was developed, even though it’s a frozen wasteland here in Wisconsin. Since I made this drink, the temperatures here have been on the rise, and the Pegu Club may very well be the reason. There you have it, folks.  Beat the polar vortex; make yourself a Pegu Club.

I can feel the snow melting already!


If you make any of the cocktails or infusions mentioned in this blog, or if there’s anything else that you’d like me to know about, feel free to send me an email at alex@stagandotter.com or leave a comment below.

Next week: the White Lady and a Tropical Anise Infusion!

New look!

Looks like things may be changing a bit here. With my new-found desire to post more consistently, I wanted to update the look of the site, and I couldn’t do that on Blogger. So we’ll give WordPress a whirl.

A new platform brings new challenges. Over the next few weeks, everything should continue to work. But it may not. If it’s not working, feel free to leave a comment or, if you can’t, shoot me an email at alex@stagandotter.com, and I’ll try to fix it right away. I’ll also be moving previous posts, and some of the old formatting may temporarily be messed up. Thanks for your patience as I settle into the new platform, and here’s to a year filled with tasty drinks and new experiences.

Zum wohl!