I was trying yet another spin-off of the Old Fashioned, this time using the lovely and potent Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and Angostura orange bitters to complement the rye. Not bad, as these riffs go, with some nice lathework by the maraschino and bitters smoothing the rye’s rough edges.
Sipping, I was moved to contemplation.
Say, [I mused], hadn’t I bought a bottle of unaged rye not long ago? And wouldn’t it be odd and [maybe] wonderful to use that clear liquor with the translucent Luxardo and the colorless orange bitters to make … a perfectly transparent Old Fashioned?
I had turned yet another suspect idea into a fool’s errand.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear
I was working with a bottle of High West Silver Whiskey OMG Pure Rye. It is not aged. Hell, it’s not even barrelled. In the bottle it is as clear as Fiji water.
I was encouraged by the prose on the label, which promised I could coax a range of aromas and flavors from the stuff: plum, Meyer lemon, clove, rosemary, and berries to name a few.
Easy to write on a label, not so easy for a middle-aged, hard working palate to sense. If there even was much to sense, as anyone who’s read a few yards of labelese should doubt.
Citrus? Easy, if slight. Cloves? Actually, maybe. Rosemary? Vanilla? Um, maybe a tiny bit? Geez, now I was talking myself into tasting this stuff.
Anyhow, the most distinctive thing about this silver whiskey was its rye bite, as strong as a Doberman’s. [The “OMG” in the product’s name supposedly refers to “Old Monongahela,” a wayback type of rye dating from the Whiskey Rebellion. It could easily apply to the rye’s teeth.]
Which would make sense. The mash is 80% rye, the High West label avers. And, as an overproof bottling, OMG drinks hot with ethyl.
So anyway I now had the bite and some of the flavor details of a decent rye.
I added a half ounce of Luxardo and some orange bitters, stirred, and expressed some lemon oil from a lip of garnish, which I promptly tossed out.
Regarding the bitters: Angostura orange bitters are completely clear. Those who think I’m cheating with the see-thru thing should toss a few dashes onto a crisp white shirt. No stain!
Full transparency: Tasting notes
So did I have a new-to-the-world Old Fashioned?
I did have something, however: A cocktail with the edginess of rye, the fragrant cherry of the Luxardo, the cheerful touch of orange.
This took a while to perfect. No, scratch that. It took a while to make it enjoyable.
The beauty of a traditional Old Fashioned is that backbone of mellow wood, strong enough to stand up to nearly anying a cocktaileur might throw at it.
The silver stuff is tougher to negotiate, more dependent on its modifiers to make it drinkable.
What the drinks needs is some wood. I suppose I could barrel it in one of those football-sized casks, but that would I think defeat the purpose here.
Fact is [repeat after me: “duh”] anything that’s unaged has no solid brown flavors, nothing nailing it to the floor.
The clear winner
Here was the best I could do. I consider it a work-in-progress.
- 2 oz High West Silver Whiskey OMG Rye
- 1/8 to 1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
- 3 dashes Angostura orange bitters
- Other brands of orange bitters are orange-brown and, strictly speaking, cheating.
Put it all in a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice.
Stir 50 times. I’m serious. Dilution was the only way with this limited ingredient list to de-burr the high-proof rye without risking a gooey Luxardo overload.
Express the oil from an inch of lemon peel, run it around the rim, and toss it.
Savor the delicate pomelo, the sage, the green apple notes, the graham…OMG WTF, just drink the thing. It’s not bad and kind of interesting. It looks cool.
If I can say that about myself on any given weeknight, I’d be proud.
nb After all this tweakery, I decided to dash the recipe above with Fee Bros. Barrel Aged Bitters instead of orange. Strictly speaking, a big cheat. But: Boom. There was my wood. The drink took on only the slightest dusky hue. And it’s way better than the orange version. You can still fool others, if not yourself, with this deceitful variation. You can still see right through it. You still look cool.