Rye Feed

So Good It's A Crime -- The Racketeer

A lot of colorful people, both real and fictional, have been and are racketeers.  The word (it means someone who's engaged in an illegal business) isn't used much anymore (it dates to the 1920s) and usually refers to someone in organized crime.  Even Bugs Bunny posed as one in the 1946 cartoon Racketeer Rabbit.  The Racketeer cocktail isn't nearly as old as the word, as it seems Stephen Cole created it no later than 2009.  Thanks to the Floppy Disk Repair Company (part of the Stranger Things in Austin) for introducing me to the Racketeer.

Racketeer1 ounce rye
1 ounce mezcal
.5 ounces sweet vermouth
.5 ounces Benedictine DOM
.25 ounces yellow Chartreuse
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Rinse the inside of a chilled glass with a smoky Scotch (I used Laphroaig).  Combine the ingredients in a shaker with ice, stir with the intense purpose of an aspiring you know what, and strain into the chilled glass.

The Racketeer is a very strong drink.  It contains rye (like the Scofflaw, another criminal themed cocktail), mezcal (tequila's smokier cousin) and two herbal liqueurs -- none of which are even remotely weak.  Fortunately the Benedictine DOM and sweet vermouth keep the Racketeer from fitting you with cement shoes ..... alcoholically speaking. The many ingredients may seem exotic, but you can find them at most liquor stores.  Like most tricky scores, the payoff is worth it.

So what can you do as you have a Racketeer? If you film tastes run towards something more serious than Bugs Bunny (I love classic Warner Brothers cartoons), I suggest a classic like The Godfather (my favorite movie and the inspiration for the Lupara) or The Sting.  Depending on what music you like, you can listen to songs such as Bad To The Bone by George Thorogood or Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson.

Don't have too many Racketeers at once.  We don't want you to have to take the Fifth (not a fifth) and need a lawyer. 


The Magnificent Seven Of Cocktails

The Magnificent Seven (the original starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen; I haven't seen the remake with Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt) is my favorite Western movie.  Everyone who loves movies should know about this film.   Carrie Allan, a cocktail columnist for the Washington Post, just wrote a great article about the 7 essential cocktails every drinker should know how to make.  Carrie is smart and hilarious, and my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in 2016.  She surveyed a number of acquaintances (full disclosure -- I participated in the survey) about classic cocktails before distilling (pun intended) the responses.

So what are these Magnificent Seven cocktails?  The Martini, Manhattan, Negroni, Old-Fashioned, Daiquiri, Margarita, and Gin and Tonic.   In addition, the article has links to related cocktails, e.g. the Sazerac and Hemingway Daiquiri.

All of these drinks are classics for good reason.  That doesn't mean you have to like all of them.  But if you're not familiar with some of them, try them.  You might be in for a pleasant surprise.       

To paraphrase Steve McQueen's character in The Magnificent Seven -- we deal in cocktails friend.


Unsung Cocktail Heroes -- Bitters, Vermouth, and Liqueurs

Reading about unsung cocktail heroes is good, but why read when you can listen?  Eric Kozlik, the CEO of Modern Bar Cart, interviewed me for his podcast.  It was a great experience. Here's our conversation about bitters, vermouth, and liqueurs (it's episode #8).        

Modern Bar Cart podcast 2Eric has interviewed a lot of really interesting people about some great cocktail subjects, so I encourage you to listen to the other episodes. I've learned a lot by listening to them. You probably will, too.  The podcast is a wonderful example of connecting over cocktails.  Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I met Eric at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans, and we reconnected at an event in Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

Our podcast episode (you can listen below) covers a lot of topics such as how James Bond disrupted the Martini, and what I would order if I could drink with my late grandfathers. We also discussed general cocktail categories such as amari (bitter liqueurs), and specific cocktails like the Manhattan, the Ward 8, and the Derby.

If you listen to the episode, keep this in mind -- I wasn't kidding.  I have walked alone through the yard of a maximum security federal prison.  No, I was not incarcerated. Want to the hear the story? Buy me a good cocktail.


Cold as Iceland -- The Icelandic Sour

The wonderful country of Iceland is the polar opposite of the person who's the subject of the Foreigner tune Cold As Ice.  As foreigners who recently traveled to Iceland, Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I had a great time seeing the sights and meeting people. The Icelandic Sour is my adaptation of the Whiskey Sour served at Loftid in Reykjavik.

With vitamin C and protein, the Icelandic Sour is a relatively healthy cocktail.
Containing Vitamin C and protein, the Icelandic Sour is a relatively healthy cocktail.

2.5 ounces rye
1 ounce super simple syrup
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 egg white
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash aromatic or Angostura bitters

Combine everything except the egg white into a shaker, add ice, shake with the force of water cascading over the majestic Gulfoss falls in Iceland, strain everything into a glass, toss the ice from the shaker, pour the contents of the glass back into the shaker, add the egg white, shake as if you're hustling to make your connection in Keflavik airport (don't ask), and strain into a separate chilled glass.

Why the complicated preparation? The reverse dry shaking process described above works really well for any drink with egg whites, e.g. the Pisco Sour (click on the Protein category for other examples) because it enhances the flavor and results in more foam.  If you don't want to reverse dry shake, just put all of the ingredients and ice into a shaker and shake away.

The Icelandic Sour is another example of the Whiskey Sour's versatility.  Other variations include cocktails such as the Midnight Train. All of the ingredients for the Icelandic Sour are easy to obtain, and you end up with a tasty and balanced drink. 

If you want paradise, pay the price with an Icelandic Sour.


Eyes and Cars -- The Blinker

Your eyes and the turn signal in your car are blinkers.  The Blinker probably has nothing to do with either of them, as the cocktail's origins are unknown.  Patrick Gavin Duffy, a New York City bartender in the late 19th century and pre-Prohibition 20th century, mentioned the Blinker in his 1934 book The Official Mixer's Manual. 75 years later Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh resurrected the Blinker and put his own spin on it.

Blinker2 ounces rye (Bulleit or Rittenhouse won't make you blink)
Juice from 1/8 grapefruit 
.25 ounces glorious grenadine or raspberry syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice, be like the Cars and Shake It Up (1980s music fans like me get it), and strain into a chilled glass.  Lemon peel garnish optional.

The sweetener is the real variable.  The original Blinker uses grenadine, and Haigh's version uses raspberry syrup. I tried the Blinker both ways, and I preferred it with grenadine.  It's simply a matter of taste.  If you want to make your own raspberry syrup, start by making a batch of super simple syrup.  Mash raspberries into the mixture when you remove it from the heat source, then strain the solids out after the mixture cools down. 

The Blinker is a little spicy (because of the rye and grapefruit juice) yet refreshing. The result is very drinkable. If you have too many you'll channel some Blink-182 tunes, forget All The Small Things, and ask What's My Age Again.  If you have one or two you'll channel the Cars tune and let the Good Times Roll.  Blink-182 makes good music, but I grew up with the Cars. Regardless of your taste in rock n'roll, you'll enjoy the Blinker for much longer than a _____ of an eye.


To E Or Not To E -- Spelling Whisky/Whiskey

Whisky or whiskey?  Which spelling is correct?  Both.  In honor of International Whisk(e)y Day, I figured I would clear up this issue.  Spelling the word is a matter of geography.  It generally corresponds to where one distills the spirit.  Thanks to Jeff Cioletti and his wonderful book The Year of Drinking Adventurously for this concise summary:

Whisk(e)yWhisky -- Scotland, Japan, Canada
Whiskey -- United States of America, Ireland

Let's move from spelling to etymology (a fancy term for a word's origin).  What does whisk(e)y mean? It comes from an Irish Gaelic or Scottish word that means "water of life."

Celebrate International Whisk(e)y Day by incorporating the spirit into a cocktail, whether it's a classic such as a Manhattan or Whiskey Sour, an underrated drink such as a Derby or Fireside Chat, or an original creation such as a Cancer Killer #1 or Whiskey Queen. Cheers!


Day Drinking For Witty People -- The Algonquin

The Algonquin Round Table was not a table. It was a rotating group of clever people in the literary and acting worlds who met for lunch at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City.  I didn't recognize the names of most of the people in the group. The only person I immediately knew was Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers (their movies are dated but hilarious).  The vast majority of the Algonquin Round Table's activities occurred during Prohibition, so there wasn't any (official) drinking.  That didn't stop someone at the hotel from creating this cocktail.

Algonquin1.5 ounces rye (hello Willett or Bulleit)
.75 ounces dry vermouth (bonjour Noilly Prat)
.75 ounces fresh pineapple juice

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake as if you're sparring (verbally) with a famous writer or actor, and strain into a chilled martini glass.

These seemingly disparate ingredients result in an oddly tasty and bracing cocktail. Some people like to add a dash or two of orange bitters.  On its own the Algonquin is pleasantly bitter.  Rye and dry vermouth certainly aren't sweet, and fresh pineapple juice isn't really sweet.  I mention all of this because adding too many dashes of orange bitters, or adding an inherently tart orange bitter, could make the Algonquin a harsh drinking experience.

The best comment about the Algonquin came from Harpo Marx, who declared this: "                               "   (if you don't get the joke, Google his character in the movies).


How About Them Apples -- The American Apple

Apples, cinnamon, and whiskey.  Any one of those flavors can evoke the autumn season.  Combine them into a drink, and you'll definitely fall (pun intended) for the result. You don't hear the phrase "how about them apples" much anymore (to my non-American readers -- it's an expression that means "what do you think about that?"), but as Matt Damon showed us in this scene from Good Will Hunting, sometimes it really hits the right note.

The American Apple is my variation on a Canadian whiskey based cocktail recipe that I saw on the barnonedrinks.com website.

American Apple2 ounces bourbon or rye (I like Bulleit and Willett)
.5 ounces apple brandy (Laird's is American)
Juice from 1/4 lemon
.5 ounces super simple syrup
2 dashes cinnamon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with Will's swagger, and strain into a chilled glass. Apple slice garnish optional.

Apple brandy also plays a prominent role in cocktails such as Antoine's Smile and the Corpse Reviver #1.  It is similar to applejack, but they're not the same. I mention this because Laird's, which I used in the American Apple, makes both kinds of spirits.  The American Apple will taste a little different depending on whether you use bourbon or rye.  Bourbon is a liquid example of American exceptionalism, and rye is a liquid example of an American comeback kid.

So how about them American apples?


NYC Sicilian Style -- The Sicilian Manhattan

Sicilian (Black) ManhattanWhat makes a Manhattan Sicilian?  It's not The Godfather, which is a great book and my favorite movie. The answer is Averna. This Sicilian amaro replaces the sweet vermouth in a traditional Manhattan.  I simply renamed the Black Manhattan.  Thanks to Imbibe magazine for publishing the recipe, my friend Chuck for mentioning it to me, and my friend (and fellow Godfather fanatic) Paul for advising me that Sicilians are the black sheep of Italy.

2 ounces rye (I like Willett or Bulleit)
1 ounce Averna
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir, and strain into a glass as cold as Michael Corleone's glare when he finds out in the second Godfather movie that his wife did not have a miscarriage.

Averna is more potent and complex than sweet vermouth, but it is sweet enough to balance out the rye.  It's becoming easier to acquire Averna, so when you have the opportunity to get a bottle, seize it. Averna is a key ingredient in other Den cocktails such as A Thief In The Night or a Midnight Train.

Sharp eyed readers will notice the Sicilian Manhattan isn't far removed from the Lupara, a Godfather themed original creation.  If you like one you'll like the other. It's an offer you can't refuse.


Drink More Whiskey? The Answer Is Yes.

There have been many elegant odes to whiskey.  This video from BuzzFeed isn't one of them.  But it is funny as hell.  One of my personal favorite lines -- "Whiskey is nobody's bitch."

 

Thanks to my wife, aka Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den, for seeing this on YouTube.  If (when) the video inspires you to have a whiskey based cocktail, click on the Bourbon, Rye, and Scotch links on the right.  You'll have plenty of options from which to choose.

Now that you've finished reading this, it's time to drink some whiskey.  Right?