Monday, April 4, 2011

How to Build Your Cocktail Bar, Part 5: Whisk(e)y

A return to whiskey has been one of the hallmarks of the classic drinks revival of recent years. Either neat or mixed, and in the forms of Bourbon, rye, Scotch, or any other number of iterations, this category has gone from historical relic to modern favorite. And as whiskey serves as the base spirit for a sprawling number of classic cocktails, its popularity has only increased accordingly.

Whereas 20 years ago rye was collecting dust on the few shelves that stocked it, it’s now almost impossible for distillers to make enough. With its peppery, assertive profile, rye makes for an incredible mixing spirit that lends depth and satisfying bite to the drinks that include it. So, in assembling your home bar, at least a basic rye whiskey is an absolute must-have. While you may have gotten comfortable with Manhattans made with Bourbon--perhaps bartenders’ concession to rye’s total lack of popularity years back--I’d urge you to make your next one with a rye; while bourbon’s brown sugary flavors can compete with the already-sweet red vermouth, rye’s dry, snappy character melds harmoniously.

Bourbon, America’s trademark whiskey, is another staple in classic mixology. Made from a mash bill of at least 51% corn and aged in new charred barrels, this is a spirit that’s unabashedly bold. This loud personality left it with a bit of a reputation problem as well for many years, but it too has been recently rediscovered as a spirit that can be utterly refined. You’ll want to make sure to stock at least one; in the summer months, there are few cocktails more satisfying than a cold Mint Julep, and with fresh lemon juice rather than a mix, you’ll want to rediscover the Whiskey Sour.

While Scotch whisky may most often be served straight, it is still an indispensable component in mixology. You’ll most often see blended Scotch used in cocktails--a single malt would be a bit assertive and rather pricey to mix into a Rusty Nail--but a bold malt from Islay fits the bill for drinks like a Smoky Martini.


1 3/4 oz. Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz. Red Vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 splash of maraschino cherry juice (optional)

Stir with ice in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Happy Mixing from DrinkUpNY!

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